The scented stems and foliage of the florist geranium (Pelargonium) make an attractive background for the clusters of flowers that repeatedly appear when temperatures are warm. Grown as an outdoor container annual that succumbs to frost, geranium eventually exhibits rangy stems, few leaves or flowers when grown in frost-free climates or indoors as a houseplant. Pruning encourages fresh new leaf growth and more attractively shaped plants.
Things You’ll Need
- Hand-held pruners (secateurs)
- Snap with your fingers or cut with a hand pruners flower stems that have finished their blossoming. Cut them at the base where the flower stems meets the larger plant branch. This is called deadheading and makes the plant look tidy as well as encourages more flowers.
- Make crisp, one-motion cuts with the hand pruners, removing all dead or damaged stems on the container geranium plant. Locate pruning cuts one-fourth inch above an alive leaf or at a junction with another healthy stem branch. Cutting away dead or diseased stems can be done at any time.
- Reduce the length of leggy stems by half to three-fourths with a crisp pruning cut. Making the cut in tan, semi-woody stem tissue is better than in soft, green new growth stems. This reductive pruning is best done in late winter or early spring just before new growth accelerates.
- Selectively cut back leggy stems, those that are long, thin or are nude of foliage, as needed during the growing season. Discontinue pruning back leggy stems six to eight weeks before the expected first autumn frost date as the new growth will not mature to produce flowers in time.
Tips & Warnings
In regions where the florist geranium is grown outdoors only as a summer annual, pruning plants is best done no later than two months before the expected first fall frost date. Where plants grow year round in warm climates, pruning is best done in very late winter or in late summer, whenever stems become leggy or flowering wanes.
Florist geranium (Pelargonium) is not the same as a true botanical geranium (Geranium) that is commonly called cranesbill.