In the Garden:
Lower South
March, 2009
Regional Report

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Geraniums work well in containers including hanging baskets, which makes them great for decorating a porch or patio.

Zonal Geraniums

I love geraniums! I know they are fairly common and I know that our southern summers can be hard on them. Yet you've gotta admire these plants for their toughness and beauty.

Geraniums look their best in the early spring to early summer season. They do a fairly nice rerun in the fall too. When it really heats up they tend to shut down their bloom production.

Geraniums are native to dry, frost-free areas of South Africa where temps are fairly mild in the growing season. In our hot, sultry summers they can languish and may be attacked by diseases, especially if not provided appropriate care.

Here in the South there are some secrets to success with geraniums. First of all in spring and fall give them lots of sunlight. Then when summer heats up move them to a part-shade location with a break from the hot noon to afternoon sun.

Keep in mind that they are very drought tolerant. In the past it was a common practice to knock the soil off of the roots and to hang the plants in a protected area for the winter! They like a good watering with a dilute fertilizer solution and then allow them to dry out a bit before watering again. Soggy soil conditions are a sure route to root and stem rots.

While they can be grown in garden beds, I find container culture to be preferable as it allows me the opportunity to change their sun exposure and to insure good drainage, even during rainy spells.

Geraniums are easy to propagate by stem cuttings. Take 2 1/2-inch cuttings and remove the lower leaves. Dip the base of the cuttings in rooting hormone and place in moist perlite or a 50:50 perlite/sphagnum peat mix. Keep the rooting mix moist but not soggy and place in bright but indirect light.

I have found these plants to be easy to care for. Remove spent blooms periodically to keep them looking good and to encourage more blooms. Feed them regularly with a soluble fertilizer product. If you forget to water now and then it's no big deal with geraniums!

When freezes threaten move your plants to a protected spot. In spring I cut mine back a little and root the cuttings. The "mother plant" will respond with new growth and be denser and full of flowers again in a few weeks with some warm weather and a boost of fertilizer.

Breeders are always coming up with new colors to keep us geranium lovers interested. Try these easy care plants this year for a burst of color in your landscape.


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