How to grow and care for geraniums

How to grow and care for geraniums in the garden.

Geraniums are popular flowers in the garden. They are both beautiful and easy to maintain. They do best when kept in full sun but will tolerate light shade. They are lovely companion flowers to sweet alyssum and marigold.

Geraniums range in height from ten to eighteen inches. They come in a large variety of single colors including, red, pink, orange, white, magenta, and salmon. They can be used in beds, borders, window boxes, and containers outdoors starting from early summer until the first frost.

Geraniums are considered an annual flower but are actually tender perennials and can be transplanted into a container and brought indoors to be savored all winter long. They can then be replanted outside in the spring. You can also keep them as houseplants.

There are many varieties of geranium plants. Zonal geraniums are the most widely known and planted. Ivy-leaved geraniums have cascading foliage and are used mostly in hanging baskets. Scented geraniums are considered to be herbs and come in a wide selection of fragrances that include, peppermint, chocolate, lemon, orange, nutmeg, cinnamon and rose. The scented geranium plant does not bloom as brilliantly as the other varieties. You must rub or rustle the leaves to release its fragrance and so these are best planted along a walkway for optimum enjoyment.

Geraniums are slow to bloom from seeds and require a lot of time and patience. Plant the seeds indoors ten or twelve weeks before the last frost of spring. Sprinkle the seeds on top of moist growing medium in a container and then lightly cover the seeds with more medium. After sowing the geranium seeds, use a misting bottle to dampen the soil. Keep the container moist and in a warm area until germination takes place.

Once the seedlings appear they will need approximately 12 hours of sunlight each day. Using a grow light will insure that you give them the proper amount of light. When the seedlings have developed at least two real leaves (don't count the first leaves that appeared at germination) you need to thin them out to avoid overcrowding. Thin the seedlings by using a pair of scissors and cut at the base of the soil. Leave at least an inch in between plants.

Seedlings are ready to be transplanted into the garden or larger container when they have developed at least six real leaves. Before transplanting outside, they must be hardened off. To do this you take the plants outdoors for several hours a day for about two weeks until they are acclimated to their new climate. You can start doing this after the last frost date in your area.

An easier method is to buy young geranium plants at the local gardening center in the spring. Look for strong healthy plants with buds that are intact. These will also need to be hardened off prior to planting outdoors in the garden.

Geraniums like rich, well-drained soil. Fertilize monthly using a liquid fertilizer. Geraniums need to be deadheaded periodically in order to maintain continuous bloom. To do this you simply pinch off the spent flowers. When the lower leaves of the plant turn yellow, you will need to pinch them off also. Regular watering when the soil is dry will keep your plants healthy all season.

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