All over the country, geraniums flaunt their red and scarlet, rose, pink, and
white blooms with a gay abandon that few other plants can rival. In boxes on
city fire escapes and rooftops, in window boxes on suburban and country houses,
in tubs and pots on terraces and patios, and in hanging baskets of the porches
of summer cottages, they are beloved and cherished plants
It needs sun to bloom; it tolerates shade, where it is usually handled as a
foliage plant. What it resents is too much moisture and a rich diet. Kept too
wet, the leaves turn yellow; given a heavy soil, one high in nitrogen plants go
to foliage and flower sparingly.
Even if you choose no other plants, you could have a varied potted garden of
single and double zonal, fancy-leaved or variegated, scented-leaved, ivy and
Lady or Martha Washington geraniums (also called show or fancy geraniums), not
to mention a few oddities of cactus and climbing types.
The zonal geranium is characterized by dark circular markings on the rounded
green leaves. Double types dominate the trade and are offered by florists in the
spring for planting in gardens and window boxes.
Variegated geraniums, with leaves that are often brilliantly colored, are
attractive even out of bloom. Set among green-leaved geraniums and other foliage
plants, pots of the variegated plants add color and pattern.
The trailing, ivy-leaved geraniums are among the most profuse flowering when
grown under favorable conditions. They dislike shade and high humidity and
thrive best in climates with warm days and cool nights, as in California.
Lady Washington’s, considered the handsomest of geraniums, are not so easy to
grow. Like the ivy-leaved, they prefer cool nights and warm, sunny days,
preferring shelter from wind and all-day sun.
If you are a geranium gardener, you may want to spark your pot plant collection
with some cactus and climbing geraniums. They will give you bizarre and
fascinating forms and flowers and are certain to arouse comment.
Geraniums flourish and look well in pots, boxes, and planters. They thrive in
various soil mixtures if drainage is good. For abundant bloom, however, supply a
special preparation, not high in nitrogen, or lush foliage and few blooms will
result. I have success with good garden soil and a sprinkling of a 5-10-5
fertilizer and bone meal. During the growing season, plants respond to a
low-nitrogen fertilizer in liquid form.
When potting, be generous with drainage material to insure free passage of
water. As with any plant, always water with care, since too much or not enough
can be harmful. The best rule is to water when the surface of the soil feels
dry. Then soak the soil well and do not water again until plants need it. If
soil is kept too wet, leaves will turn yellow; if too dry they wilt and discolor.
To maintain even plant growth, turn containers from time to time. Remove yellow
leaves and faded blossoms which are especially distracting on plants at doorways
or any other key spots. If rain rots and disfigures the center florets of the
heads, pull them off with your fingers, leaving the unmarred outer florets and
If you want plants for next spring, take two- to four-inch cuttings in August or
early September. Look for mature stems (with leaves spaced close together) that
break easily like a snap bean. Woody growth is hard to root and succulent tips
tend to rot. Before planting spread out cuttings in a shady place for several
hours so leaves will lose excess moisture.
When ready to plant, cut off the lower leaves, allowing but two or three to each
cutting. Also pull off the little wings on the stem, since they are inclined to
rot. Dip stem ends in hydrated lime to prevent decay and then insert about
halfway, in a flat or large pot of pure sand or a mixture of sand and peat moss.
With geraniums, rooting powders are hardly necessary. When cuttings develop
inch-long roots, they are ready for spacing out in another flat or for separate
planting in 2½-inch pots. Fill with a mixture of three parts sandy loam and one
part peat moss or leaf mold. After planting, keep in the shade for the first few
days, and bring indoors before cold weather.
When the separated cuttings have developed strong root systems, shift to 3½- or
4-inch pots. Use the same potting mixture as before, with bone meal added. Later
as established plants begin to grow, feed periodically with a high phosphorous
fertilizer, as 5-10-5 or 4-12-8.
To keep plants bushy and to encourage branching, pinch while small, starting
when they are three to four inches high. Provide sunny windows, and keep turning
pots to prevent lopsided growth. Water regularly, but allow soil to dry out just
a little between applications
Plants may be wintered in cool cellars with little light. Remember only that the
less light, the cooler the temperatures should be. This is because too much
warmth and insufficient light cause lanky growth that undermines a healthy
Gardeners with cellars or sheds when temperatures remain above freezing, can
winter geraniums hanging upside down from the ceiling. The dead-looking sticks,
set out in pots or in the garden in warm weather, will astound you when they
develop into glorious flowering plants.
Copyright © 2006 Mary Hanna All Rights Reserved.
About the Author:
Mary Hanna is an aspiring herbalist who lives in Central Florida. This allows
her to grow her Gardens inside and outside year round. Visit her websites at
http://www.CruiseGold.com or contact her at