Native to South Africa, the gorgeous geranium is as well known for its luscious beauty as it is for its powerfully fragrant foliage. That’s right, you read that well. Contrary to popular belief, when it comes to geraniums, it’s not the flowers you’re smelling, but the foliage.
Geraniums are easy to grow, very tolerant when it comes to droughts, and entirely edible. As a result, there is absolutely no reason you shouldn’t try your green thumb at growing geraniums this year. Here is your exhaustive guide on how to plant geraniums, care for them, deadhead geraniums, what are the easiest types to grow in your garden, and much more!
Geranium Flower Card
Origin: South Africa
Common name: Geranium
Scientific name: Pelargonium
Rank / Species: Genus
Height: 6 to 12 inches 1 to 3 feet
Blooms: The blooms vary according to type of geranium and they can reach between 6 and 36 inches in diameter.
Colors: They come in all colors which include the common white, pink, red, and mixed but also the rarer orange and purple.
Foliage: they are circular and broad and are often very scented.
Where Do Geraniums Come From?
It is widely believed that some of the first and early forms of geraniums arrived by sea from The Cape of Good Hope to England a few centuries ago. In 1841, after the Napoleonic Wars, the English took control of the Cape of Good Hope and the beautiful flowers found their way back to Britain. A British botanical magazine recorded them under the name ‘Sweet Geraniaceae.’
However, because the weather conditions in England differed vastly from those in The Cape of Good Hope, geraniums were mostly grown in greenhouses. Otherwise, they were seen as annual plants which only grew in the summertime.
From England, geraniums spread to America as many migrants moved there. The flowers found a welcoming home in the hot sun of California, where they thrive to this day. The same scenario repeated itself as migrants from England took geraniums to Australia as well, were the flower blossomed.
In fact, the number of geraniums rapidly grew in Australia after the Second World War. Not only that, but new types were grown and invented and annual shows were organised to display them.
Another interesting thing happened in the history of geraniums in England after the 1950s. People fell in love with their foliage rather than the actual flowers. Discovering how fancy and sweet smelling they can be, growers started to remove the flowers to allow the leaves to develop better. In this way, they created new and more colorful types of geraniums that still exist today.
How to Grow Geraniums
The good news for every gardening enthusiast out there, but mostly for beginners is that geraniums are very easy to grow. It doesn’t matter what type you are planning on planting or whether you choose pots, containers, or to plant them straight into the ground. Geraniums won’t be a bother! Here are some useful tips.
Growing Geraniums from Seed
The major advantage of growing geraniums from seed is that they have a higher resistance to diseases as well as a better tolerance to heat. Plus, they yield more flowers.
However, on the down side, you will notice that they are somewhat smaller. Apart from that, you need to arm yourself with as much patience as you can muster.
On average, it will take some 16 weeks for a geranium to go from seed to flower.
Here are the steps you need to follow to plant geraniums from seed:
- Germinate the seeds using starting mix.
- If you have used your flats or containers before, disinfect them before starting this process. This will ensure they will not mold.
- Fill your trays using a moistened medium.
- Sow the geraniums seeds as evenly as you can.
- Add a layer of medium on top of the geranium seeds.
- Cover your tray or flat with some clear plastic film wrap.
- Place your tray in bright light as geranium seeds require a temperature of at least 72 F so that the germination process can start.
- Remove the plastic cover every single day to allow moisture to escape.
- You can move the geranium seedlings to a larger container once you notice two sets of leaves growing on them.
- Water them only when the surface of the soil feels dry upon touching it.
Best Geranium Seeds
As mentioned earlier, all geraniums are quite easy to grow. This means that, when you go about choosing which types are best suited for your own garden, you can rely entirely on esthetics. Here are some tips.
- Maverick Appleblossoms – called thus because they produce beautiful white blooms with soft, pink centers which look exactly like apple blossoms. Perfect if you also have apple trees in your garden for a mirror theme.
- Maverick Coral – they come in a rare tropical shade of coral orange that will add a splash of happiness to your garden.
- Maverick Quicksilver – contrary to their name, these beauties are not silver. In fact, they are very similar to lilac, but they bloom for far longer.
- Moulin Rouge – you can guess what color they come in based on the name alone. Rich, red velvet flowers that create an outstanding landscape.
- Divas Star – very weather tolerant, these geraniums come in a brilliant flamingo pink that will liven up any garden
Geranium Care – How to Overwinter Geraniums
As we’ve already seen, because they come from such a hot climate, geraniums thrive mostly in summertime. As a result, when the cold season comes, you will have to pay special attention to them. This is what we call overwintering geraniums.
- Check the weather forecast for the area you live in. Start this process before the first frost falls. Lift the geraniums. Using a short and very sharp knife, cut the stems until they are 6 or 8 inches tall. Make the cut as fashionable as you can. The reason for this cut is that geraniums do not have the power to support massive foliage in a low sunlight environment and when they can’t get enough heat.
If you want, you can save some stems as they will make it easier for you to multiply your geraniums later on.
- Take the ‘mother plant’ meaning what’s left from the cutting out of the soil and repot it in the smallest pot you can find. It should be just enough to cover its roots. You can use regular soil to fill it up.
- Keep the new geraniums thus created in a shady spot for a week. Afterward, find a sunny place for them but that is also cool. Remember that geraniums love sunlight even in winter!
- During the cold season, geraniums thrive when kept in temperatures that vary between 50° to 60°F (10° to 16°C). This is what we call night temperatures. However, they will also survive a drop in temperature down to 0 degrees should that happen. They key is to keep them as dry as possible.
- If you see any growth appearing, make sure to cut the old leaves out. During wintertime, geraniums won’t be able to support both.
How to Deadhead Geraniums
Deadheading geraniums when it comes to annual plants can encourage them to produce new flowers on a continual basis as long as you perform this task right before the seeds start to form. The reason is that the plant begins to form new flowers in an attempt to spread its seeds. As a result, deadheading at the right time encourages it to stay active and bloom continuously. Not to mention just how easy it is to do. Here is what you need to know.
- After blooming begins, check your geranium flowers for withered or faded heads. If you need to, separate all the clusters by hand to make sure you have located all the old blooms. Perform this task as carefully as you can so as not to disturb the new ones.
- Using bypass pruners, cut the stalks of the faded flowers as close to the base as possible. If you prefer it or if you don’t have a set of pruners, you can also do it by hand. Do not cut the crown of the flower so as to keep the even appearance of the cluster.
- When you’re done, feed your geraniums with a liquid fertilizer. You can do this every two weeks, but no more than that! It will encourage beautiful blooms!
You can deadhead your geraniums every time you consider it is necessary. Skilled gardeners usually stop this process when the first frost hits and resume it in summertime.
Types of Geraniums
If you want to plant geraniums in your own garden, you might be a little overwhelmed seeing as there are over 400 hundred different types available. However, to make matters a little simpler, geraniums can be divided into four main categories. For each one, you will find here some examples of the most beautiful geraniums you can enjoy in your backyard.
- Zonal geraniums or Pelargonium x hortorum
These are the common, garden geraniums that are called zonal because of the colored bands or zones you can see on their leaves. This category alone has hundreds of species of geraniums that bloom into ball-like clusters. They come in pink, white, red, salmon, orange, and lavender. One single plant is capable of producing multiple ball clusters at the same time. Some examples include:
- Maverick variety
- Orbit variety
- Regalia variety
- Bandit variety
- Black Magic variety
- Martha Washington or Pelargonium domesticum
These are the types of geraniums that produce the largest blooms of all. The flowers themselves are bi-colored, which means that the center is darker in color and it lightens as it comes to the edges. The most common color combinations you will find for your garden are red and pink, pink and white, purple and lavender, magenta and pink, as well as crimson as red.
The most interesting thing about this type of geraniums is that they love cold weather. Their blooms usually appear early in the spring and in late summer toward autumn. As a result, they are best for people who live in colder climates.
- Ivy Leaf Geraniums
Also known as Pelargonium peltatum, Ivy Leaf Geraniums are best for window boxes, planters, and hanging boxes. They have trailing stems as well as thick and glossy leaves very reminiscent of ivy, which is why allowing them to cascade from a window box or hanging planter will display these gorgeous flowers best.
However, you also have to be aware that, as beautiful as their foliage is, it’s also very thin. As a result, you will have to plant three or even more geraniums to a group to get a full planting.
When in bloom, Ivy Leaf geraniums produce purple, red, and pink blossoms that thrive all throughout summer. As opposed to other kinds of geraniums that love dry environments, this particular kind adores water and moisture. Therefore, you will need to keep their soil moist.
- Scented-leaf Geraniums
They yield the smallest flowers of all known geraniums. However, that has never been a problem for any gardener because these geraniums are grown for their foliage alone. Their leaves smell incredibly beautiful, which is why they are such a joy for every garden. Depending on the type you choose, they can smell like citrus, various spices, roses, mint, or even chocolate!
Geranium Meaning – Do My Flowers Have a Symbol?
Like most flowers, geraniums too have been given a certain meaning over time. However, seeing as there are so many types, you can expect as many meanings as there are types of geraniums.
For example, the horseshoe geranium stands for folly while the ivy geranium with its gorgeous tendrils is a symbol for favors. The lemon scented geranium stands for an unexpected meeting while the oak leaf geranium means true friendship when you gift it to someone you love.
Growing Geraniums Really Is This Easy
As we’ve seen, geraniums are, without a doubt, some of the easiest flowers to grow in your garden, in a container or a window box. They can withstand both droughts and zero temperatures, and they are very easy to care for once you know how to deadhead and overwinter them. And, in return, you get a garden full of sweet smelling flowers that look like paradise. What are you waiting for?