Hardy and adaptable, perennial geraniums (Geranium spp.) are a good choice for gardeners looking for easy, reliable plants. The plants’ characteristics vary with different varieties. Cranesbill geranium (G. sanguineum) has magenta flowers all spring and summer and makes a 12-inch mound. In contrast, G. phaeum Album is a 30-inch, upright plant with white flowers. The foliage on Himalayan geraniums (G. himilayense) turns deep red in autumn, adding another season of interest to an already valuable plant. All types of perennial geraniums are easy to grow.
Things You’ll Need
- Organic matter
- Flowering plant fertilizer
- Choose a site in sun or partial shade with good drainage. Afternoon shade is best in hot areas.
- Amend the soil with organic material such as compost or humus to improve moisture retention as well as feed the plants. Incorporate flowering plant fertilizer, as well; the package will indicate the proper amount for new plantings. Geraniums are long-lived plants, so preparing the site well at planting time pays off in years of strong plant growth.
- Dig a hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. Remove the plant from its pot and examine the roots. Carefully loosen the soil with your fingers. Prune off any diseased or broken roots, then place the geranium into the hole, making sure the plant crown is at the same soil level as it was in the pot. Backfill around the plant with the amended soil. Water well. Space multiple plants as wide apart as their anticipated width, which will depend on the cultivar.
- Spread a 1- or 2-inch layer of mulch around the plants. Keep the mulch 1 inch away from the plant crown.
- Water often enough during the first year to keep the soil around the geranium moist but not wet. Most geraniums are drought-tolerant once established, so supplemental watering will be needed in following years only during extended dry periods.
- Inspect the foliage during hot, humid weather for a leaf spot infection. If found, cut the plants back to 6 to 8 inches from the ground. The geraniums will leaf out and bloom again.
- Cut back floppy or leggy plants to 6 to 8 inches from the ground. They will send up new leaves and flowers.
- Fertilize geraniums yearly in the spring just as new growth begins to show.
- Divide geraniums in spring. Dig up the whole clump and divide it into sections, discarding the center of the plant if it has died out. Replant the divisions promptly. Alternatively, you can remove a side shoot with strong roots and replant it elsewhere.
Tips & Warnings
Shorter geraniums make good ground covers for under roses and other shrubs.