Geraniums are a colorful, hearty flowering plant often used in home gardening. They survive in the harshest of conditions with little maintenance. Geraniums come in hundreds of species and thousands of varieties. Bedding geraniums, also called zonal geraniums, are actually not true geraniums at all. They are a tender perennial from South Africa with the botanical name of Pelargonium.
Bedding geraniums are frost tolerant and prefer well-drained soil that has neutral to slight alkaline levels. They prefer sun to partial shade and thrive from early summer to fall when they can be transferred indoors. Favorite varieties are the "Elite," "Orbit" and "Summer Showers" ivy geranium and all scented-leaf geraniums. Potential problems include Geranium budworm and root rot if the soil does not dry out between waterings. Dimensions are 1- to 3-feet tall and 1-to 3-feet wide.
Bedding geraniums are often called zonal geraniums because of their ability to produce leaves with reddish, horseshoe-shaped bands or zones. These leaves most often occur in cooler climates and partial shade. Other varieties produce ornamental leaves, like the "Flowers of Spring," with leaves variegated with silver, and the "Crystal Palace Gem" with golden leaves. Other specialty geraniums boast leaves accented with several colors. The specialty varieties will bloom off and on throughout the year if planted indoors and placed in a sunny window and can only be propagated by cuttings.
Seed-sown bedding geraniums are most appropriate for outdoor planting. They will produce self-cleaning flowers in shades of white, pink, lavender, salmon, red, orange and magenta that require no grooming. Double and semi-double flowered varieties can also be propagated by cutting and produce very large blossoms.
Geraniums should be planted in late spring when frost is not an issue. Plant geraniums no deeper than they were planted in the pot in well-drained soil to avoid root rot. Once in the ground, firm the soil around the roots and water thoroughly. Geraniums can be dug up at the end of the summer and transplanted into pots for the winter. To transplant, dig up the plant and trim it to half its original height; replant in a pot, and place in a sunny window.