Geraniums are truly an old-fashioned summer plant. But, we do enjoy these old-time favorites all year long. I often put my geraniums in a large sunny southern exposure window of our family room in the fall. Beginning around Valentine’s Day when the days get longer they bloom and bloom. I love having the color and especially like the geranium scent when I water them on a warm afternoon. Now they are just covered with blooms and outside once more. The Victorians were also fond of bringing geraniums in for winter so I can imagine that the windows of Cape May had plenty. They were always a favorite seashore plant since they do so well in the sunny climate.
Beginning with Memorial Day, red geraniums glisten in the sun, poppies blow in the breeze, and flags pop up all along the road. Many folks have childhood memories that come to mind when a holiday approaches or they see or smell a certain plant or flower. Memorial Day brings to mind red geraniums, poppies and iris or flags as my family use to call them. All three bloomed on ‘Decoration’ day the name often used for Memorial Day way back when.
In many other towns the parades are on July 4th. By then the geraniums planted in May are large, stocky and full of blooms if they have been watered twice a week. These plants are not demanding at all, but some food and water will make them spectacular.
Common Garden Geraniums or “Zonal Geraniums”
Bright red geraniums are my favorites! Pelargonium xhortorum is the botanical name for geraniums produced from cuttings – the beautiful, red, crisp bloom. Most are compact in habit and have many blooms when there is a sunny spring. The plants originated in South Africa and have now become popular all over the world. Some have fancy leaves marked by distinct bands – or zones – of darker pigments, tri-colored leaves or leaves with silver or white markings. Many can be found with all types of scents in their leaves. Although the scented geraniums, as they are often called, do not have large or showy flowers, they come in scented like rose, strawberry, apple, mint and nutmeg. I often cook with them.
Now these plants are bred to have larger shatter-resistant flower heads as well as wide variety of colors, which makes them popular with homeowners for bright plants to bloom all season in sunny gardens. They make excellent choices for plantings in flowerbeds, hanging baskets, or containers since they provide wonderful colors all season long. They look especially nice on or near Victorian porches, as they are historic. Follow these few tips suggested by growers to keep geraniums looking good all season.
Caring For Your Annual Geraniums
1. Select a sunny spot since Geraniums perform best when planted in a location with at least 6 hours of full sun per day.
2. Water the plant when the soil becomes dry. Do not let the plant wilt. Try to keep water off the blooms as they often become brown or moldy if constantly kept wet. It is better to use a hose or soaker hose to water soil than an overhead sprinkler.
3. Feed the plant with a good time-release fertilizer. To keep them blooming use 14-Photo by Denise Cashin14-14 so that they get plenty of the middle number or phosphorus, which helps to make good blooms. Geraniums are heavy feeders
4. Container planted geraniums will need more frequent watering. And also require regular fertilizer applications throughout the season to perform to their highest potential.
5. Remove all faded blooms and any brown leaves to encourage continuous flowering all season.
You can also keep them year after year. I do. The trick is to mimic the dormant season the plant would go through in its native South African environment.
In fall, before the first frost, prune potted geraniums back heavily and bring them indoors to a window in a cool room. (Many folks find a garage works well if it does not freeze) Keep the plant alive, but don’t encourage it to grow and wait until the leaves become almost droopy between watering. Step up watering the first of the year. Then from around Valentine’s Day to March, feed the plant every two weeks with a high phosphorus fertilizer (14-14-14 works for me) to encourage strong root growth and flower production. During this period also pinch the plant back slightly and bring it into a warm, sunny room. Increase watering as the plant begins to grow and you should soon have flowers.
Over-wintered geraniums that are not cut back will bloom in sunny windows, but they do tend to get tall. I had beautiful geraniums blooming in all my sunny windows again this winter. I loved them! You may also take cuttings from your plants and root them in a warm, sunny spot in a box of pro mix. After they root, pinch the cuttings back once or twice.
Add some nostalgia to your garden and plant geraniums. They will be beautiful by July 4th . You might even add a flag or two; it is that time of the year! See you at the parade!