When I was a kid, geraniums were just about my favorite spring-flowering annual. You saw them in the gardening magazines and nurseries offered them each spring.
That was a different era, though, and we’ve been blessed with much better choices in wider ranges of colors now than ever before. Let me give you some quick tips on getting the most from this great group of plants.
Success with geraniums…
• Start with healthy, vigorous plants.
• Buy early, a couple of weeks prior to the average date of your last killing freeze.
• Geraniums can’t handle freezes, but they like cool weather. (Hence the need to start them early.)
• They’re probably best in pots. That ensures the perfect soil, great drainage and the ability to move them out of direct afternoon sunlight when it starts to turn hot in late spring.
• Their planting soil should be highly organic, loose and perfectly draining.
• Give them full or nearly full sunlight during the spring, then partial afternoon shade in early summer. Once it turns really hot by mid-June they will likely be done (or at least very challenging).
• If you ever want to prune geraniums, do so by snapping their stems with your fingers. If you use a knife or shears you risk transmitting disease from stem to stem on the blades.
Note: There are many scented-leafed geraniums in the marketplace. One, with the aroma of a citronella candle, is purported to repel mosquitoes, but university entomologists and this one horticulturist have not found that to be the case. Still, it’s a very attractive plant for the garden, so not all is lost.