Want a little carefree beauty in your life? Try planting geraniums. Attractive and easy to care for, geraniums deserve a place in containers, planting beds, and perennial borders.
There are two main groups of geraniums. Annual geraniums (Pelargonium species), which usually only last for a year, include zonal, fancy-leaf, ivy, scented, and Martha Washington (or regal) types. Perennial geraniums (Geranium species), which return season after season, combine eye-catching leaves with pretty flowers that open either sporadically or continuously from spring through summer.
Here is everything you need to know to grow geraniums.
For success with geraniums, you need to know what kind you have so you can choose the best spot for planting. Most annual geraniums need a spot in full sun, except for the ivy geranium, which grows best in light shade. Perennial geraniums, on the other hand, grow in either sun or shade, depending on the type. Both types benefit from protection from sun during the hottest part of the day in southern and western regions of the country.
The best soil for both perennial and annual geraniums is one that is both fertile and well-draining. If you're growing geraniums in planting beds, improve soil drainage and quality by mixing 3 inches of Miracle-Gro® Garden Soil for Flowers into the top 6 to 8 inches of native soil. For best results when growing geraniums in containers, fill pots with light and fluffy Miracle-Gro® Potting Mix. When planting geraniums in raised beds, mix equal parts garden soil and potting mix for just the right medium, or fill beds with Miracle-Gro® Raised Bed Soil.
It's best (and easiest) to start with young plants. Both annual and perennial geraniums thrive in warmth, so wait to plant in spring until after all danger of frost has passed. You can also plant perennial geraniums in the fall, as soon as the summer heat breaks. In regions with mild winters, try planting perennial geraniums from late fall to early spring.
Plant size for geraniums varies by type, with plants growing from 4 to 48 inches tall and 6 to 36 inches wide. Check plant tags to determine the proper spacing for your geranium type. If you're planting geraniums into containers, use a pot that's at least 10 inches across for annual geraniums, or at least 12 inches across for perennial geraniums.
After planting geraniums, water plants well, taking time to soak the root ball and surrounding soil.
With annual geraniums, check soil weekly, and water when the top inch is dry. Keep newly planted perennial geraniums in consistently moist soil during the first growing season. Once perennial geraniums are established, they can usually survive on rainfall, except during severe drought.
Apply a 2- to 3-inch mulch layer around (but not on) geraniums after planting, to help keep soil moist and suppress weeds by blocking weed growth and access to the sun. Use Scotts® bagged mulch, shredded leaves, pine straw, or some other locally available material.