Love Geraniums? Discover some facts about these popular plants and tips for growing them.
Fill your garden with the beautiful color of geranium flowers. These popular bedding plants are a go-to choice for gorgeous summer blooms. Geraniums are versatile in the landscape, gracing pots or planting beds with low-maintenance beauty. Even scented geraniums open eye-catching blooms that can splash a spot of color into outdoor living spaces.
Plants known as geraniums actually fall into two separate botanical groups. The true geraniums are the perennial types, like wild geranium, a native wildflower, and Geranium Rozanne, a newcomer to the perennial geranium scene. Rozanne is prized for her jewel-tone blooms in shades of purple-blue with a can’t-miss white center. This plant has flower power that’s tough to beat.
The geraniums that most people think of when they’re out shopping for plants are the traditional bedding types with the lollipop-like flowers: a ball of blooms on a stick stem. These bedding plants are typically zonal geraniums and fall into the botanical group Pelargonium. A host of other geraniums belong in the Pelargonium genus, too, including ivy geraniums, scented geraniums and Martha Washington geraniums.
The main difference between the true Geraniums and Pelargonium geraniums are the seed capsules. The word geranium comes from the Greek “geranos,” which means crane and refers to a narrow column that sticks up from the seed capsule. The column resembles the narrow beak of a crane. Pelargonium comes from the Greek word “pelargos,” which means stork and refers to the same column that sticks up from the seed capsule. In this case, the column is fatter and resembles the broader beak of a stork.
Of course in the garden, you aren’t thinking about Greek roots and bird beaks. To you, it’s just a geranium. For zonal, ivy, scented and Martha Washington geraniums, keeping plants in tip-top shape isn’t really difficult. Focus on providing rich, well-drained soil. In pots, if you use a soil-less mix developed for containers, plants will thrive. In planting beds, be sure to work organic matter like compost or composted manure into soil. It’s also a good idea to mix in some slow-release fertilizer. Geraniums are heavy feeders, and they benefit from a hearty and steady diet.
Don’t hesitate to use bloom booster fertilizer to get more geranium flowers. You’ll see nice results with ivy, Martha Washington and zonal geraniums in pots. Scented geraniums produce flowers, but they’re usually smaller and more delicate in nature. For the most part, gardeners raise scented geraniums for the fragrant foliage, so it’s not really necessary to ply these aromatic plants with bloom booster.
With the exception of scented geraniums, the annual Pelargonium types—ivy, zonal and Martha Washington geraniums—are susceptible to fungus diseases. Keep an eye out for botrytis, which typically appears on dead flowers first and most often during periods of rainy weather. Botrytis forms a fuzzy, mold-type growth on geranium flowers and foliage. If you see any, remove those flowers and leaves. Handle and dispose of infected geranium flowers and leaves carefully to avoid spreading the fungus to uninfected leaves.