Geranium plants are easy-care abundant bloomers with bright, colorful flowers that blossom from spring to fall. They add lovely color and texture to any garden and are unfussy about care.
They’re pretty popular bedding plants but will still do well indoors and outside in hanging baskets.
And though commonly called geraniums, these gardener-favorite picks are Pelargonium. Most zones grow as annuals, except for zones 10 and 11, where they tend to be evergreen perennials.
Four Primary Types of Geraniums
Various types of geraniums are further classified into sub-types depending on the flower and leaf size, shape, scent, veining, and growth habit.
The most popular varieties you’ll find in nurseries include Ivy-leaved, zonal, regal, and scented geraniums.
Commonly referred to as Martha Washington geraniums, this variety features large multi-colored flowers, often heavily veined.
Regal geraniums grow best in plant hardiness zones 5-10, blooming when the night temperatures get to around 50-60℉.
Plant them in the spring, when the nights are cool and the days warm.
Regal will shut down blooming in sweltering weather but bloom continuously in milder temperatures.
2 – Ivy geraniums
These plants bloom with shiny Ivy-like leaves in shades of red, pink, white, and purple.
The blooms will set in early in the spring all through to fall (the first frost of fall), creating mounds of cascading flowers—perfect for container gardens.
For abundant blooms, try Contessa, Summer Showers, or White mesh cultivars.
Grow in zones 10-11 or colder climates as an annual.
3 – Scented geraniums
They feature scented velvety leaves and are a favorite of most gardeners despite not blooming as profusely as the other geranium varieties.
There are endless variations of scented geraniums, with the most popular ones being apricots, mint, apple, and roses.
The cultivar name often denotes geranium’s scent, including ginger, chocolate mint, lime, and lemon balm.
The plants bloom in the summer with pink and white flowers.
Growing zones: 10-11.
4 – Zonal geraniums
They’re easy to grow, are heat tolerant, and will resist drought.
They’re mostly grown for their colorful, varied flowers and rounded velvety leaves that feature color bands arranged in zones (the reason for the name).
Whatever the hybrid or variety you grow, all geranium plants require protection from the summer heat, winter freezes, and soggy soil often caused by overwatering.
Provided you supply their needs—which may vary depending on how and where you grow them—, geraniums are among the easiest (requiring very little attention) and most prolific flowers to grow.
Geranium Growing Needs
- Indoors, these plants require lots of light for a perfect blooming process; however, they’ll still tolerate moderate light conditions with a temperature of between 65-70℉ during the day and 13℃ (55℉) at night.
- Ensure the potting soil drains well and that your pot(s) features drainage holes to prevent root rot.
- Outdoor growing also requires well-draining, loose, moist potting soil with balanced portions of peat, soil, and perlite—similar to that used in indoor growing.
- The location should allow for at least six to eight hours of plants’ exposure to sunlight.
- Geraniums need protection from cold, and so, delay planting until your area’s threat of frost has passed—when your soil gets to 60℉.
- Ensure you leave eight to twelve inches spacing with a similar depth as the plants’ original planting pots. Appropriate spacing helps reduce the risk of diseases.
- Remember that the healthier your geraniums are at the point of planting, the higher your chances of success with the plant.
Selecting the Best Geraniums at Your Garden Center
- When buying geranium plants, pay close attention to the size and color and any signs of pests. The most common problems here include whiteflies, mealybugs, greenflies, Sciarid flies, and spider mites.
- Healthy geraniums have sturdy stems with non-discolored leaves—either on or below them.
Whether planted outdoors or indoors, geranium care is quite basic that even total beginners can manage.
- Geraniums require moisture but will likely rot if the potting mix remains wet for too long. And so, water thoroughly only once the soil’s top inch feels dry.
- Ensure your pot has holes at the base to allow the excess moisture to drain away quickly.
- Geraniums are somehow light feeders. If you feed them heavily, it’s the foliage that will flourish instead of the blooms.
- And you don’t necessarily need to buy a specialty geranium fertilizer. In a gallon of water, add in two tablespoons of a 20-20-20 water-soluble fertilizer. Then mix thoroughly.
- Feed the plants with the solution every three weeks all through the growing season.
- Note: Avoid fertilizing in winter, when the geranium should be dormant.
- Geraniums planted outdoors don’t require pruning; however, regular deadheading can help increase production and prevent diseases.
- After the flowers have faded, pinch off the whole flower stalk and remove any dry leaves from the plant.
- At times, the geranium houseplant may become long and leggy. Ensure you regularly prune by pinching the growth points—to encourage branching.
- For healthier indoor geraniums, be sure to keep the temperatures above 50℉, watch for any signs of pests or diseases, and water only when the top inch of the soil appears dry.
Protection from cold weather
- If you reside in USDA zones 8-11, you may need to just cover the plants a little bit on frosty nights, so they don’t die out. But for the rest of the zones, overwinter indoors. Bring the plants inside before your area’s first hard frost and put them near a sunny window.
- In case you lack space indoors, or your window doesn’t allow for adequate sunlight, then overwinter the geraniums in a cool, dark place with temperatures below 70℉. This could be in your basement or garage.
- Just ensure that the temperatures don’t go below freezing.
- Allow the soil to dry to a barely moist point, making sure to regularly inspect the crown and roots for signs of rot. Use a sharp, sterilized knife to remove the rotting parts, if there are any.
- Also, remove the flowers and leaves as they die off.
- You only want to begin bringing your geranium container(s) outdoors again after your last frost in spring, watering them when need be.
- Harden off the plants for a week by slowly moving them to sunny locations. That way, the leaves won’t burn in the process of adapting to the extra sun.
- Begin feeding your plants again once nighttime temperatures reach above 50℉–when the weather ceases to be too cold for the plants.
Though some geranium varieties can be started from seeds, it’s a lot easier to grow these plants from stem cuttings.
Just ensure you get the cuttings when the plant(s) is actively growing—in summer or fall.
- Armed with your sterilized scalpel or sharp knife, select a new green stem (not old and woody) and cut about 4-6 inches long—ensuring the cut falls right below a leaf node.
Your cut stem should have two healthy leaves on the upper part.
- Remove any flowers, buds, or flower stems, so the plant doesn’t direct its energy into these areas just now.
- If you can, dip the base of the stem into a rooting hormone powder, then dust off the excess. This step is optional, considering that some cuttings will root just fine without the hormone.
- Use a dibber or your finger to create a hole in your container mix, then insert the geranium stem.
- Fill the hole (loosely) with container mix—focusing on the area around the stem.
- Ensure the stem is buried deep enough that the bare leaf nodes (the points you ripped off the leaves from) are submerged; then water thoroughly.
- Remember, the container mix should stay moist and not soaking wet.
- Keep in a warm location, avoiding the full sun (for a few weeks; usually four to eight weeks) until the roots form.
- Once the roots establish, repot the cutting(s) into individual pots.
- Bring them outdoors gradually in spring after the last frost OR grow them as houseplants in winter.
Geranium Essential Oil
Other than its widespread use as a natural insect repellant and garden aesthetic enhancer, geraniums have also been praised for their medicinal property, which has led to their extensive use as a vital essential oil in aromatherapy space.
The plants produce essential oils in the small glands around the flowers and foliage, which is usually ripe for harvest when flowering sets in. Harvesting can be done two or three times a year.
When diluted with water, the oil can be used topically in a bath or for face cleaning.
The plant is also reputed to help heal cuts, bruises, and scrapes, hemorrhoids, eczema, nail fungus, as well as sunburns.
Its excellent antiseptic properties are believed to help restore the balance to oily or dry skin and hair.
Studies also suggest that geranium’s essential oil exhibits soothing properties, helpful in relieving anxiety symptoms, depression, and pain.
Though quite versatile, geranium plants are highly toxic to cats and dogs, according to the ASPCA.
Signs of exposure or ingestion of the plant by your pet may include vomiting, depression, dermatitis, and anorexia. Therefore, you must keep the plants out of the pet’s reach.
You also want to check with your doctor before using the plant or its essential oil in any way.
Geraniums give your garden vibrant, lush colors and are relatively self-sufficient. With just a little careful touch now and then, you will enjoy the lively show of vibrant they put on display for you. Give them a try. You’ll be so glad you did.