February 2018

Old-fashion geraniums earn high marks

Summer cooler - Vining geraniums, such as Pink Blizzard, thrive in hanging baskets. (Photo courtesy Fischer USA)

Summer cooler - Vining geraniums, such as 'Pink Blizzard,' thrive in hanging baskets. (Photo courtesy Fischer USA)

Sometimes I think we’re plant snobs.

Geraniums (Pelargonium) seem to be at the bottom of the wish list for many gardeners because, well, they are geraniums — ordinary, old fashion, boring. Throw in reliable, easy and rewarding and you wonder why they are shunned.

For the common geranium, sometimes called zonal, you can buy plants grown from seed or made from cuttings. I opt for the more expensive cutting geraniums because they are so much showier that their seed-grown siblings. Seed geranium flowers are loose and a bit spindly, but work well in a mass planting.

Zonal geraniums are tough and do fine in full to part sun. Drought tolerant, they prefer good drainage, whether planted in the ground or in containers. Water when the first inch of soil feels dry to the touch.

Remove spent flowers, called deadheading, to keep geraniums blooming. They do best with regular applications of a balanced liquid fertilizer. Follow the label directions.

One of the best plants for containers is the under used ivy or vining geranium (P. peltatum). This plant has waxy leaves and the flowers tend to be a bit looser than zonals. Vining geraniums do best in part shade. They tolerate full sun.

Martha Washington geraniums (P. x domesticum), with their large, frequently frilly flowers, are popular in spring here in Indiana, but they tend to wimp out when it starts to heat up.

Scented geraniums are used as herbs and for their oils. Their foliage is aromatic, ranging in scents from rose, peppermint, apple, lemon and more. These do not have showy flowers. Plant where you brush against their leaves when you walk.

For more information about growing geraniums and their uses, Fishers USA, a hybridizer and breeder of pelargonium, has this pamphlet.

1 comment to Old-fashion geraniums earn high marks

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