Geranium Plants Brighten the Day

Geraniums are one of our most popular outdoor plants; and they make great indoor flowering plants once the weather turns cold.  The plants we call Geraniums are really part of the genus Pelargonium which means “stork” in Latin.  There are over 200 Pelargonium species, most of them originally from South Africa. Geraniums come in a variety of colors, white, pink, salmon, red, fuchsia, lavender, leaf patterns, round, segmented, lacy, flower size, single or double blooms, and leaf color, green, green and white, or multicolored. They can be a compact upright plant or a graceful hanging vine. The vibrant flowers don’t have an appealing aroma, but there are several varieties that have leaves with lovely scents. Geraniums are a great addition to your indoor and outdoor plant collection, but will bloom indoors only if you keep them in very bright lightVery few houseplants should be placed in direct sun. High light refers only to bright indirect light since direct sun often burns the leaves of indoor houseplants. An area that is too hot and dry encourages Spider Mites and causes blooms to quickly fade. A northern exposure really doesn't provide enough light for high light plants. These plants need to be placed directly in front of an east-facing window, within 1-3 feet of a west-facing window, and within 5 ft. of a south facing window. A high light area has over 300 ft. candles of light. or direct sun.

There are several different types of geraniums:

Common Geranium (Pelargonium x hortorum): These are compact plants that are often sold as bedding plants. Their leaves have distinct bands or zones in a darker color, tri-colored leaves, or silver or white areas that give them the nickname “zonal geraniums.” Common geraniums have single or double blooms that come in pink, white, red, and salmon.

Ivy- leaved geranium (Pelargonium peltatum): This type of geranium has smooth leathery, ivy shaped leaves and grows as a cascading vine. It looks great in a hanging basket. The flowers have narrow petals and the blooms are less showy and dense than those of the common geranium.

Martha Washington (Regal) Geranium (Pelargonium x domesticum): These geraniums have woody stems, wrinkled leaves with pointed lobes, and the brightest flowers of all of the geranium varieties. The blooms can range from a dramatic purple black to a bright yellow. Martha Washington’s are mainly grown in commercial greenhouses as potted plants. They are not very heat tolerant and do not do as well outdoors as the Common or Zonal geranium.

Scented–leaved Geranium: There are numerous varieties of scented geraniums all with different types of leaves and growing habits. The flowers are usually smaller and less showy than other types of geraniums. The leaves can be used to make sachets, tea, and potpourris. Here’s a list of some of the scents geraniums can produce: Almond, Apple, Coconut, Lemon,  Nutmeg, Old Spice, Peppermint, Rose, and Strawberry.

Geranium Care Instructions: Don’t fret too much over your geraniums: bright lightVery few houseplants should be placed in direct sun. High light refers only to bright indirect light since direct sun often burns the leaves of indoor houseplants. An area that is too hot and dry encourages Spider Mites and causes blooms to quickly fade. A northern exposure really doesn't provide enough light for high light plants. These plants need to be placed directly in front of an east-facing window, within 1-3 feet of a west-facing window, and within 5 ft. of a south facing window. A high light area has over 300 ft. candles of light., not too much water, quickly removing dead flowers are the main things to keep in mind. These are the care instructions that have worked for me.

Light: Indoors, Geraniums can grow if placed in moderate light, but only bloom in very bright intense light. Fluorescent lights about 10 to 12 inches from the plants can be used to supplement natural light. Outdoors, place geraniums in very bright lightVery few houseplants should be placed in direct sun. High light refers only to bright indirect light since direct sun often burns the leaves of indoor houseplants. An area that is too hot and dry encourages Spider Mites and causes blooms to quickly fade. A northern exposure really doesn't provide enough light for high light plants. These plants need to be placed directly in front of an east-facing window, within 1-3 feet of a west-facing window, and within 5 ft. of a south facing window. A high light area has over 300 ft. candles of light. or direct sunlight.

Water: Geraniums easily survive being under watered, and in fact often bloom more when stressed with a little bit of a drought. Too much water on a consistent basis causes root rot and the plant dies. Wait until the top 50% of the soil is dry before watering, but never allow the whole root ball to dry out.

fertilizerPlants need fertilizer only when they are actively growing. Slow growing plants in low light require very little plant food. Too much fertilizer is worse than not enough. Most plants prefer a water soluble plant food at 1/2 the recommended strength. Plants that are in bloom or dormant should not be fertilized. Houseplant food contains nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). A fertilizer containing these elements in equal proportion is considered a balanced plant food. Nitrogen helps in photosynthesis and encourages the growth of leaves and stems. Potassium and phosphorus also help in photosynthesis and aid in root and flower development. Most fertilizers have trace elements of other minerals that are lacking in the soil but are necessary for good plant growth. Fertilizers have a high salt content. If a plant is not producing new leaves and doesn’t absorb the fertilizer, salts build up in the soil. These salts can burn the roots, discolor the leaves, and cause new growth to be small.: Fertilize every two weeks in the spring and summer when the plant is actively growing with a water-soluble houseplant fertilizerPlants need fertilizer only when they are actively growing. Slow growing plants in low light require very little plant food. Too much fertilizer is worse than not enough. Most plants prefer a water soluble plant food at 1/2 the recommended strength. Plants that are in bloom or dormant should not be fertilized. Houseplant food contains nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). A fertilizer containing these elements in equal proportion is considered a balanced plant food. Nitrogen helps in photosynthesis and encourages the growth of leaves and stems. Potassium and phosphorus also help in photosynthesis and aid in root and flower development. Most fertilizers have trace elements of other minerals that are lacking in the soil but are necessary for good plant growth. Fertilizers have a high salt content. If a plant is not producing new leaves and doesn’t absorb the fertilizer, salts build up in the soil. These salts can burn the roots, discolor the leaves, and cause new growth to be small. high in potassium  at ½ the recommended strength. The potassium helps the flowers develop.

Temperature: Geraniums like it on the cool side, 65-75 degrees during the day, and around 55 at night, though they seem to adapt to warmer temperatures without much difficulty.  Avoid cold, drafty areas.

Humidity: The common Geraniums we find in the stores are not fussy about humidity. However, very high humidity encourages bacterial and fungal growth on the leaves and stems and very low humidity encourages spider mitesSpider Mites, members of the Acari family, are small insects about 1mm in size. The most common indoor plant mite is the red spider mite (also called the two-spotted spider mite.). These pests lay their eggs on the under surface of leaves and produce fine webbing especially where the leaves are attached to the stem. Spider mites are hard to see with the naked eye, and may appear only as small red dots. They are more often recognized by the gritty feel of the leaf when you run your finger down it’s length, or by the appearance of discolored leaves due to the sucking action of the mites. The best way to prevent spider mites is to keep your plants clean and dust free. Treat spider mites by spraying every ten days for a month with a product such as Safer Insecticidal Soap..

Flowering: Geraniums need very bright intense light to bloom. Personally, I’ve found that if I go away on vacation and my geraniums dry out more than usual, once I water again, they bloom more than ever. Quickly remove fading flowers. geraniums produce a lot more flowers if you’re really consientious about doing this.

Pests: AphidsSee a picture, learn to identify, and read about Aphid houseplant pests in the Glossary of Houseplant411.com., whiteflyWhiteflies are small gnat-like insects, covered in a powdery white wax; they feed on the sap of plants. This causes leaf-drop and weakens the plant in general. Whiteflies secrete a sticky substance called honeydew while they feed. The flying adults lay eggs on the tops of leaves, but it is the immature nymph stage, feeding unnoticed on the underside of the leaves, that does the real damage. Yellow sticky cards are a good way to trap the flying adults and prevent new eggs. Spray the Green Solution to get rid of the feeding nymphs on the underside of the leaves., and spider mitesSpider Mites, members of the Acari family, are small insects about 1mm in size. The most common indoor plant mite is the red spider mite (also called the two-spotted spider mite.). These pests lay their eggs on the under surface of leaves and produce fine webbing especially where the leaves are attached to the stem. Spider mites are hard to see with the naked eye, and may appear only as small red dots. They are more often recognized by the gritty feel of the leaf when you run your finger down it’s length, or by the appearance of discolored leaves due to the sucking action of the mites. The best way to prevent spider mites is to keep your plants clean and dust free. Treat spider mites by spraying every ten days for a month with a product such as Safer Insecticidal Soap. all seem attracted to geraniums. When you put your geraniums outside for the spring and summer, be careful the caterpillars don’t start enjoying them for dinner.

Diseases: Bacterial leaf spot, gray mold, blossom blight, or rust can develop whe the humidity is too high or the leaves are kept wet. This is one of the reasons I never recommend misting plants.

Soil: The right soil is very important if you want your geraniums to grow. Use a quick draining all-purpose loose houseplant potting mixture that contains a fair amount of nutrients if you’re putting your geraniums into pots. If you’re planting Geraniums outside in the garden, be sure to add a little sand and compost to the soil if it seems heavy and clay-like.

Pot Size: As with all houseplants, there has to be drainage holes in the pots so the geraniums will never sit in water.  Geraniums like to be a little root-bound, so don’t be in a rush to re-pot them. When you do move you geraniums to a larger pot,  use a container only one size larger than your existing pot.

propagationRead how to propagate houseplants by Plant Division at HousePlant411.com: You can easily root geraniums from stem cuttings. The best time to propagate is from the early spring through summer.

Toxicity: Unlike flowering plants such as azaleas and lilies, geraniums are a good choice if you have cats or dogs since they are non- poisonousPlants are a great addition to homes and offices, but it’s important to know whether your plants are dangerous to children, pets, or even adults. Some plants contain chemicals such as oxalates, solanine, glycosides, or alkaloid lycorine that may cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, swelling and redness of the mouth, throat, and lips, and trouble breathing. Touching parts of certain plants, especially the sap, may cause various skin irritations. The weight and age of the human or pet involved, and the part and amount of plant eaten determine how severe the reaction to the toxins will be. Although plants may be listed as non-toxic, they can still cause individual allergic reactions. If there is any question after a houseplant has been ingested or touched immediately call the Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222 The Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants [Paperback]is an excellent reference to keep around if you have young children and pets..

If you have any questions about your geraniums just contact me at: judy@houseplant411. I’ll be happy to try to help you out.