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Geranium Basics

 

Geraniums are beautiful bloomers and are suitable for indoors or outside

Geranium identification is confusing. There are two types and one is sometimes referred to as a "fake." The common geranium - the one we see most in garden centers - is actually the species Pelargonium. It is treated as an annual and there are many variations that make for a beautiful summer bed. Pelargoniums require a good nitrogen balance in fertilization. They are also called "zonal" geraniums.

Scented geraniums are also not considered part of the immediate family. They have wonderful aromas and many uses, however, and gardeners plant them along with herbs. One variety emits a citronella scent and is called a "mosquito" geranium.

The "true" geraniums are wild. They are perennials that are a common sight along roadsides and in other natural habitats. These also are quite beautiful and can be enjoyed in a controlled garden. Even better, they are easier to grow than Pelargoniums. They do not require a precise soil mix nor are their lighting requirements as rigid. They'll do well in sun or shade; some even can survive a clay soil base. They also bloom longer with a little pinching back - typically from spring steadily through fall.

Regardless of which type of geranium you choose, you can expect wonder variations in foliage and a plant that complement other species in the garden. Some are good for ground cover while others are bushy and compact. Some species will grow taller for backdrops.

For potting, either indoors or out, use deep containers with large drainage holes. Soil should be heavy in organic matter to prevent water retention. Soil should dry out at about 4 inches before watering. Most geraniums do well in a warm location with at least 6-8 hours of sunlight. Martha Washington is one exception, generally preferring an indoor location.

Geraniums do attract some pests and diseases. The best prevention is to keep leaves dry - water at the base of the plant instead of spraying the plant. Keep insecticidal soap handy for pests.

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