I'll admit, before I became a busy mom with a huge container garden much of which lines a public staircase and courtyard next to our hillside home, I wasn't exactly a fan of geraniums. I'm not sure why exactly but it may go back to a childhood memory of smelling some geraniums on the walk to school and discovering their pungent smell, or it may stem from some idea I picked up somewhere that geraniums are just way too commonplace for the true garden lover. Today I'm happy to say that I have changed my stance altogether, and I highly recommend geraniums for the beginner or seasoned gardener. So using some photos I took of a lovely little container garden just up the street from my home, here are my top ten reasons to love geraniums:
1. They are easy to care for. First I should mention that depending on where you live, the geraniums that are available to you will vary. There are several families of flowers that are called geraniums, and among those may be annuals and perennials, so do ask before purchasing. Geraniums are hardy and very adaptive, and some will even flower when not properly cared for! Meaning that if you forget to water them and the soil becomes totally parched, your geraniums will likely be fine.(Note: some geraniums prefer to be watered after soil has dried out, others like the trailing Ivy geranium prefer consistently wet soil.) And depending on what zone you live in, geraniums can weather frosts and even some freezing temps, just not all winter. There are geraniums that are hardy in zones 3 to 10, so do ask the nursery for those if this is relevant to you, though do keep in mind that geraniums prefer cool nights, but can likely adapt to just about anything.
2. They come in a wide variety of colors. The geranium family is quite large and varied, and while you'll likely see the same three or four types at your local nursery, there are many more out there if you search for them. The basic colors that I see around town are bright pink, vivid red, and white. And no complaints, look how amazing these flowers look especially together with those tiny purplish blue flowers, wow.
3. They come in a wide variety of types. What ever you need design-wise for your garden, geraniums can fit the bill! Looking for some height, go with pillar geraniums, (mine are now about 4 feet tall) looking for some cascading color, go with Ivy geraniums, looking for some nice filler, well those exist too, just not exactly sure what they are called!
4. They work well in window boxes. Geraniums are the perfect flower for window boxes that look great without needing too much care. Combine a few types of geraniums in one window box or go with just one kind, and you'll enjoy flowers for months on end.
5. They work well in mixed planters as filler. Because geraniums are so adaptable, they can be placed in planters with flowers that need either more or less water, and can be the perfect filler. Above you can see an Ivy geranium tucked into this planter.
6. They are adaptable to a wide variety of container sizes. Geraniums do need good drainage to prevent root rot, but other than that, height and size are really not an issue. Of course, pillar geraniums do need large containers that will enable you to support their long stems (possibly) but standard geraniums and ivy geraniums could be planted in just about anything, even some old rain boots. (been wanting to do that......and just realized I threw out the perfect pair for that during Passover cleaning, sigh.)
7. They are super easy to propogate from cuttings. All geraniums can be easily propogated from stem cuttings. One can dip the end of the stem into rooting hormone, or just stick the stem into moist soil, and most of your cuttings will form roots and thus more geranium plants! I have three pots of pillar geraniums now that all started from some cuttings I took two years ago, and I think I'll make some more soon. Oh, and of course I have shared cuttings from my pillar geraniums with at least two friends so far, and counting!
8. You can overwinter them in your cool dark garage. In zones with frosts and freezes, geraniums generally need to be moved indoors or to a sheltered location. Some gardeners actually use sunken containers that lift easily from the ground and then move them inside for the winter. One can also transplant garden-planted geraniums into containers or simply move geraniums in above-ground pots indoors. . Good drainage remains essential when they are indoors. Use a porous, fast-draining potting mix with good aeration for geranium roots, and use only containers with bottom drainage holes. No fertilizer is needed during winter. Water the plants' soil thoroughly until water runs out the pots' drainage holes, and empty excess water from the pots' saucers. The soil should be allowed to dry before it is watered again. Move the geraniums back outside after the danger of spring frost passes.
If you don't have a light, protected spot for your geraniums, they can spend the winter indoors in a dormant state. Cut the plants back to 6 inches in height, in pots or the garden. Move container-grown or transplanted plants to a cool, dark, frost-free location, or dig up the geraniums and store them bare-root for replanting in spring. Pack bare-root plants tightly in deep boxes, covering them with sawdust or a light soil layer. (Never tried this myself, but should work.) Store dormant bare-root or potted geraniums where temperatures stay 40 to 45 F. Check them occasionally, and add light moisture to them as needed to prevent the plants from shriveling. Once all danger of frost passes, pots can be moved outside, the bare-root plants replanted and their soil watered well. Plants that were dormant often flower heavily.
9. You can use them as houseplants. Given sufficient light, geraniums do well indoors all year. Nighttime temperatures between 50 and 60 F and bright south- or west-facing windows promote flowering. As in all locations, geraniums indoors need fast-draining soil, though do allow the soil to dry out before watering, and then moisten the entire root ball until water runs through the containers' drainage holes. Fertilize the plants every two weeks from spring through fall as you would for outdoor potted geraniums. Note: Houseplant geraniums are susceptible to whiteflies, aphids and spider mites. Spray infested plants with some non-toxic insecticidal soap to cover the pests thoroughly. Retreat the plants weekly as needed.
10. They'll keep your garden looking great, so you can then take a chance on some finicky annuals that you just can't resist! And just as a side note, whenever you need some flowers for a still-life floral painting, geraniums are ready to be picked! My geraniums sure have been useful for that as I'm currently on a little fine art kick......nothing to share just yet and it may be years before I do, we'll see!