Still One of My Favorites

We didn’t have a lot of geraniums when I was a kid. But they were in all the gardening catalogs and magazines. I read about them, and I fell asleep dreaming about them. But they weren’t a big deal in hot College Station, Texas.

Every time I go into a Calloway’s Nursery this time of year they have some of the most gorgeous geraniums I’ve ever seen. So do many other nurseries. They just serve to tell us that spring is arriving.

When I transferred from A&M to Ohio State there were scarlet geraniums all over that campus. Everywhere I could see. It looked like all those photos I’d grown up looking at in my books.

About the time I finished my degrees at OSU and started teaching horticulture in Shelby, Ohio, a new way of growing geraniums came along: from seed! It was a way we could bypass the vascular diseases that were inherent with the old cutting-growing types, and I had my students raise them in our high school’s greenhouses.

Continued Below

I jump ahead to today. Go into nurseries and you’ll find hundreds of absolutely dazzling geraniums in shades of red, pink, salmon, white, fuchsia, and more. Their growth habits are handsome, and their foliage is striking. But best of it all, they bloom from now well into early summer.

Could a bunch of geraniums be any more compelling! I can smell them just from this photo. Beautiful plants.

Things to know to get the most from geraniums…
Morning and early afternoon sun, then shade during the hottest part of the day.
Loose, well-draining and highly organic planting soil. I grow geraniums primarily in pots, and I use lightweight mixes consisting of half sphagnum peat moss, 30 percent pine bark, 10 percent perlite and 10 percent expanded shale.
That kind of a mix is going to be devoid of nutrition, so you have to add a complete fertilizer (all three major nutrients included along with trace elements). That plant food needs to be fairly high in nitrogen, since geraniums bloom on strong, new growth.
As summer nears, if you begin to see the leaves of your geranium plants starting to fade to yellow or tan, move the plants a couple of feet farther into the shade. That may buy you a few more weeks before they give it up for the heat.
Watch for new types of geraniums each year. Breeders are constantly looking for new types with better vigor, more flowers, brighter colors and, you guessed it, heat tolerance.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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