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Growing geraniums – planting, care and helpful tips
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Geraniums are beautiful, simple to grow, and they produce a lovely scent to add pleasing ambience to your garden or home. They are effectively grown outdoors which and usually brought inside during the winter time if you want to overwinter them.
If trying to keep geraniums over winter isn’t for you then it’s worth noting that geraniums are very affordable and many gardeners just replace the plants every spring or take cuttings and overwinter these until spring.
In this helpful guide, we go over everything you need to know from general care to taking cutting and everything in-between.
When you start planting geraniums, if you purchase them from a nursery ahead of time it’s important to look for healthy leaves that don’t have any discolouration. The stems on the plants you are buying should be very strong. Any plant that has obvious signs of damage, weakness, or pests should absolutely be avoided, even if it’s a plant you have propagated from the season prior.
When you plant your geraniums you can choose to plant them outdoors either in the ground or in pots. Inside, of course, you can plant them in decorative pots. If you are using a container it’s important to use a soilless potting mixture and not just soil. With containers, you want to check the number of drainage holes and more than likely add a few more by simply drilling holes into the bottom.
When you go to plant your geraniums in your garden or position your containers outside or inside, it’s important to verify how much sunlight that area gets. They need between four and six hours of sunlight every day in order to maximize the blooms that you receive, in general, the more sun the better.
Geraniums need some time to dry in between waterings after which they need to be watered thoroughly. The key here is not to let the roots dry out. During winter, for example, they will need less water compared to summer but in any case, you want to make sure you aren’t letting the roots dry out.
During the months the flowers are actively blooming you can use a fertilizer that is water soluble every two weeks. You can get a mixture that is 10-10-10 and use half the strength that’s recommended on the label. it’s important to note that you should not fertilise in the winter.
During the growing season, you can actually encourage a more floriferous geranium by deadheading the spent flowers regularly. This is a process whereby you simply remove flowers that have reached their maturity to make way for new flowers. Concurrently if you want to grow a larger bush form and rejuvenate a plant that is leggy, you can pinch the stems throughout the growing season or prune them back.
If you are growing your geraniums in a pot they might need to be repotted during springtime here or there based on their growth.
Geranium winter care
When you get ready to overwinter your geraniums, you need to be aware of your local frost dates, in the UK this is not as easy to identify so watch the local weather for forecasted frost. Prior to the first frost later in the year, you need to lift your plants and cut the stems back until they are approximately 15 or 20cm above the ground. When you do this use a sharp, clean set of pruning secateurs or a knife. You don’t want to leave a lot of leaves on your geranium in the autumn because with the low amount of sunlight they receive during winter they can’t support it. If you want to propagate you can always save some of the stems as cuttings.
Take your geranium and transplanted into pots. The pot should be just big enough to fit all of the roots. Fill it in with regular potting soil and leave it in the shade for at least seven days and then move it to a sunny place where it can remain cool but get all the sunlight possible. If you have a window with a lot of morning sun this is best. If you notice new growth appearing it’s important to cut off any old leaves and keep them tidy.
Do not fertilise, as already mentioned, over the winter time. Also, cut back on watering and only water in small amounts if the leaves start to droop. Once there are no more risks of freezing temperatures you can take your plants back outside and transplant them back into their original pots or into your garden as you see fit.
Pests and diseases
Geraniums suffer most from diseases brought about by insufficient sunlight or issues be it too much water or too little water. If you are watering too much or too little the leaves of your geranium will turn yellow.
If you notice yellow leaves you should try to move your geranium someplace a bit brighter and monitor how much you are watering.
How to take cutting
If you want to propagate from cuttings, you can cut the stems you want to use as your cuttings when you are preparing your plant for winter. Most geraniums will root very easily from the stem cuttings.
You want to use your clean, sharpened knife or scissors and cuts diagonally approximately 10 centimetres below a stem right above the node where you see leaves emerging. With your cuttings, you should trim them until just below a node and remove all but two or three sets of leaves.
When you are ready, prepare containers or plug trays with moist rooting compost and place the cuttings into it by simply pushing the cutting into the centre.
Take your containers into a shady, warm area and leave them for 48 hours. At that point bring the containers into an area that gets indirect sun. You should only add water to the cutting as necessary, at the point where it’s starting to dry out. You want to try and keep the soil moist but not wet and keep them well aired to help prevent them from rotting off.
Once the young cutting have root and form a small plug you can then pot them on into larger pots or plant outdoors if the risk of frost has passes.
Some of the best varieties include the ivy leaf geraniums which are great for baskets and tubs. If you are growing in smaller containers the zonal geraniums are the recommended variety and usually work well.
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