Belonging to the Geraniaceae family, geranium is one of the most popular ornamental plants. Yet, a distinction must be made between geranium and pelargonium because we often tend to mix up these two species. Indeed, the true geranium is a perennial plant that renews itself each year, which is not the case of pelargonium. Even though these plants both belong to the same family, they each have very different maintenance needs that must be fulfilled in order for them to thrive.

Perennial geraniums and pelargoniums are plants that bloom every year from May to late September until the first frosts appear. If true geraniums are hardy plants that can withstand low temperatures, pelargoniums are much more fragile. Indeed, a native of South Africa, this species does not like cold and harsh winters. Perennial geraniums usually yield white, pink or red flowers while pelargoniums produce leaves of which the many scents often evoke the rose, lemon or even mint. It is also mainly for this reason that pelargoniums are much better known under the name “scented geraniums”. Perennial geraniums and pelargoniums do not require extensive care and are both rarely victims of disease. Of course, a minimum amount of care and attention should still be provided because if these plants are poorly maintained they can hardly produce the beautiful flowers that we appreciate so much. However, if all the necessary maintenance conditions are met, both species flower abundantly to brighten up patios, balconies and gardens with their harmonious colours.

How to plant your geraniums?

Perennial geraniums are plants that will perfectly suit your garden as they are able to withstand particularly cold temperatures. Before planting them, preferably choose a cool, dry place that is not too exposed to the wind or the sunlight. Indeed, it is important to know that perennial geraniums dislike strong sun exposure and soil that is too damp. Thus, take special care to plant them in fertile and relatively well-drained soil so they can fully thrive. For beautiful borders, be sure to group your different geranium seeds together so that they give beautiful clumps when growing. If you live in an apartment, opt for geraniums because these plants are ideal for balconies and terraces. Note that these ornamental plants grow much better when they are cramped in small containers. Since pelargoniums do not like damp soil, prefer pots of which the pierced bottom will be lined with a layer of gravel to easily eliminate excess water during irrigation. Perennial geraniums and pelargoniums should both be planted in spring or fall because they bloom in summer. Even though they dislike heavy soils, they need regular supplies of fertilizer to be well-fed. If you want to propagate your geraniums, you will need to wait until spring or summer. When you carry out your cuttings, take special care to select a totally healthy stem. Once cut and stripped of its largest leaves, the stem can be stuck into a pot and watered before being placed in a warm location. It is easy to take cuttings from geraniums, therefore, after a while, you should already see a little shoot spring from the earth. While these plants dislike strong sun exposure and excessive moisture, know that they still need a happy medium between both to grow well. Thus, give your geraniums and pelargoniums just enough sun and water for them to produce large leaves and beautiful flowers every year.

Geranium maintenance

Once you have planted your geraniums, avoid over-watering them because this will only lead you to obtain large leaves and few flowers. To prevent the ground from staying damp, be sure to water your geraniums in the morning so that sunlight can dry the soil. Even though geranium maintenance is not complicated, remember to regularly remove dead leaves and damaged flowers to revitalize your plant. Unlike pelargoniums, perennial geraniums can withstand very low temperatures. However, if you live in a region where winters are relatively harsh, you can uproot them keeping only a small mound. That way, it will then be easier to place them in containers that will be kept away from the cold throughout the winter. Concerning pelargoniums, be sure to bring them indoors in the fall, before the first frosts appear. When they are finally sheltered from the cold, you can trim them a little and repeat the procedure in early spring to restore the plant its full vitality. During the cold season, place your geraniums in a dry and bright location, taking care to provide them with enough air. There is no need to water them too frequently at this time because over-watering could only harm them. Finally, wait until the frosting period is over before bringing them out. In spring, you can make your decks flower again by bringing out the geraniums in containers or repotting the ones you previously uprooted. It will then be time to gradually resume watering before feeding them with the necessary fertilizers. Thus, your revitalized geraniums and pelargoniums will finally adorn your gardens and balconies with their bright colour and crispness.

Related posts:

  1. Growing and maintaining the end-of-the-year flower

Published in Flower guide by Alexander on 06 Jul 2011