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Annual Gardening

Geraniums

Geraniums are one of the most popular bedding plants in the world. Their array of flower colours and growth habits allows them to be planted in almost any garden. Four common types of geraniums are:

Zonal (Bedding)

These are the geraniums typically seen in summer beds and window boxes. The nearly circular leaves have a broad band of dark green which gives the Zonal geranium its name. They produce small petals in numerous large clusters, giving the appearance of large, ruffled blooms. Plants are multi-branched, compact and very bushy. Zonal geraniums include the variegated leaf or Brocade geranium. In this case, the traditional green foliage of the geranium is speckled with white, lending a soft appearance to any landscape.

Ivy Leaf

In favorable environments, Ivy Leaf geraniums can be enticed to bloom throughout the year. Traditional use of this variety has been limited to hanging baskets but, with a bit of imagination, Ivy geraniums can also be used as a groundcover or in accent plantings.

Martha Washington

Martha Washington geraniums come in a wide range of colors. Their pansy-like flowers are frequently blotched with dark hues. Foliage is toothed, unlike that of the Zonal geranium. Plants are stiffly branched and compact.

Scented

Scented geraniums are available in a wide range of appealing fragrances. Their scent, discernable only after brushing or rubbing the foliage, is generally distinctive and easily recognized. Some popular scents include rose, lemon and chocolate

Plant Care

Pre-planting Care

Evenings or cloudy days are the preferred times to plant geraniums. If planting cannot be performed on the day of purchase, water the geraniums thoroughly and place them in the shade.

Soil Preparation

All gardens benefit from the incorporation of organic matter to help improve soil texture, tilth, aeration and drainage. Adding 3-4 inches of organic material, such as peat, compost and manure, tilled into the top 6-8 inches of soil, will produce a sturdy soil that will sustain the plants over the growing season. After thoroughly working all of the material into the bed, rake the area level and you are ready to plant.

Transplanting

Transplanting can be done one week after the average last spring frost. It is always a good idea to “harden off” young geraniums before planting directly into the soil. Remove each geranium from its container and plant the root ball slightly below the soil line. Space Scented and Ivy types 8 inches apart and Zonal and Martha Washington varieties 10-12 inches apart.

Growing Tips

Geraniums prefer a sunny location with ~6 hours of sun each day. However, all varieties, especially Martha Washington and Ivy geraniums, will tolerate partial shade.
Water thoroughly immediately after planting, and ensure plants are watered when the soil begins to dry. Try to water early in the day around the base of the plant. In the intense heat of summer, watering may be needed twice daily depending on temperature and soil conditions.
Cutting off faded blooms and pinching off the long stems will encourage blooming and keep the plant bushy and compact. Fertilize biweekly with a water soluble fertilizer such as Plant Prod’s Flowering Plant Fertilizer 15-30-15.

Overwintering Geraniums

Most geraniums can be brought indoors in the fall and treated as houseplants that require a bright sunny location. Due to the low light levels in the home, the plants will retain their blooms and vigorous foliage for only a short while. After blooming has finished, trim the plants back and store as directed below.

Storage

Once plants have stop blooming, cut away half of the growth with sharp scissors. Store in a cool, dark area, at 7-10°C (45-50°F) such as a heated garage or unfinished basement. Water only enough to keep the soil from becoming completely dry. All the leaves will fall off and the stem will become woody.

Early Spring Care

In February, trim the stems to one third of their original height and place the pots in direct sunlight. Temperatures of 21-23°C (70-75°F) encourage rapid growth. Water enough to moisten the soil and allow the top two thirds of the soil to dry out between watering. Fertilize with Plant Prod’s All Purpose Fertilizer 20-20-20.

New Growth

When new growth appears, remove the plant from its pot and shake off the old soil. Repot using Sunnyside’s All Purpose Potting Soil into a pot just large enough to contain the roots. Fertilize every two weeks with Plant Prod’s All Purpose Fertilizer 20-20-20. Once shoots are 3-4 inches long, take leaf cuttings from the old plant.

Cuttings

Cut new leaves off cleanly at the base with a sharp knife. Dip the cut end into a rooting compound such as Plant Prod’s Stim-Root Number 1 and plant in Schultz’s Seed Starter mix. Place plants in a sunny window and keep evenly moist. Fertilize every second week with Plant Prod’s Plant Starter Fertilizer 10-52-10 at half strength.

Note: Cuttings can also be taken in early fall and once cuttings have rooted (6-10 weeks), they can be placed in a sunny south or west facing window. After cuttings are established, keep the soil on the dry side and pinch off the growing tip to keep the plants compact and bushy.