Plant of the Week: Geraniums

Photo: Geraniums are readily available and provide quick color for the spring garden.

When I was a kid I got a boxful of geranium cuttings from some place up North. Some of them actually survived their week on the road and went on to do fairly well in College Station that springtime. But I learned some lessons that still fit here in Texas.

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Before I give you those observations, though, let me mention that I transferred from A&M to Ohio State as a junior, and geraniums were everywhere on the OSU campus and in the Buckeye State. They’re a landscaping staple where summers are cooler. And that plays back to my observations from Texas.

Photo: Vivid pink geraniums can highlight a drab corner in springtime.

Growing geraniums in the Lone Star State…
The problem with growing geraniums in Texas is that summers aren’t cool here. Which means that we want to enjoy them in the spring. Nurseries are chock-full of them now, and they’re a great and quick way to add color to entryways and patio pots. Here are a few suggestions.

Plant them in clusters of 10 or 15 plants in a well-draining corner of a strategic bed – one near the front door or just off the patio.

Set them into large decorative pots, again at focal points in your landscape. Use a lightweight potting soil and be sure the pot drains really well during periods of extended rain.

Full sun in March, April and early May, then morning sun into the summer. (That’s where growing them in pots really pays off – it’s a lot easier to move pots than it is to lift and transport entire beds!)

Fertilize them with a complete-and-balanced, water-soluble food. That’s doubly critical if you’re growing them in an artificial lightweight potting soil.

Because of their popularity on the West Coast, in the North and in other parts of the world, breeders are looking for “new and improved” geraniums all the time. Popular types like the Caliente and Calliope series have been bred by scientists to combine great growth habits, showy flowers and foliage and heat tolerance. Those are some of the types you’ll find in garden centers today.

If you have a greenhouse or bright sunroom window, you can even keep your geraniums over the winter and then set them out into the garden in March.

And that brings us back to where we started this all off in the first place.

Have fun with your geraniums!

Posted by Neil Sperry
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