Zonal Geraniums: Traditional, high quality beauty.

A big pot of red zonal geraniums is an eye-popping spot of color. Two pots next to the mailbox is a friendly welcome! These versatile plants are ideal for window boxes, hanging baskets, wheelbarrows, plumbing fixtures, you name it. They are also excellent performers in memorial boxes.

It seems that 45 percent of all geraniums sold are red (and there are hundreds of shades of red). After that, 30 percent are salmon, 15 percent pink, and 10 percent white. That doesn’t leave out the gorgeous lavenders and yellows that are available.

And, have you seen the ivy variety? They have funky saw-toothed leaves and sweet, fuzzy flowers with all the hardy features of the regular kind.

Here are a few “frequently asked questions” on geraniums and their care.

Why are they called “zonal” geraniums?

During cooler weather, red rings often appear on the leaves. These are referred to as “zones” and add a bright touch to the foliage.

Is it better to grow geraniums from seed or to buy started plants?

Cutting-grown plants are healthier and hardier, and start to bloom sooner than those grown from seed. They stay truer to the mother’s variety, too, so there are fewer variations in flower color and quality. Always buy started plants from a reputable grower and you will experience great success.

Should I pinch or deadhead my geraniums?

You absolutely should pinch and deadhead your geraniums. Pinching promotes bushiness, and deadheading encourages new growth for new blooms. Pinch off approximately 1 inch of the stem (or more for leggy plants) once they’re established in their new homes. When blooms start to fade and shed petals, pinch flower stems close to the branch. It should re-bloom in a few days.

How often do I need to water?

Geraniums like moist soil so check often and water thoroughly when they’re dry. They can take being too wet or too dry for a while, but they don’t like it! When you water, pour the water into the pot underneath the bottom leaves, rather than pouring it over the top. Your blooms will last longer and be prettier.

Should I feed my geraniums?

You bet you should feed geraniums. Water with a solution of MiracleGro or other standard fertilizer once a week. Follow the label directions to get just the right amount.

Why do the bottom leaves turn yellow?

You’re either under- or over-watering. Check the soil and the pot. Make sure it’s draining properly. Geraniums are full-sun plants, but they should not dry out during the hot days of summer. Just pinch off the yellow leaves and keep a close eye on your plants, and you’ll be fine.

Can I keep my geraniums over the winter?

You can try. When the weather cools off down to mid- to high forties at night, repot in fresh potting mix, give them a dose of fertilizer, and set them in a sunny, southern-exposure window. (They probably won’t make it through the winter without a southern exposure.) Water when dry, and drop back on fertilizer, only feeding every few weeks. Keep your fingers crossed, and try not to be too disappointed if they give up in January.

Above all, enjoy your geraniums. You’re carrying on a long tradition by growing these beautiful plants.

This article was sponsored by the Herb, Spice and Tea folks at the 10000Seeds website.

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  1. Marilyn Scheffler February 26, 2016 at 11:41 am

    I have pots of red hanging geraniums . They look very leggy, leaves are somewhat yellow in color. I have them on an automatic spay watering system. They are watered twice a week for about 5 min. We live in Orange County, Ca. Will you please advise me as to what I am doing wrong?

    Thank you,
    M. Scheffler

    1. Kathy Woodard April 11, 2016 at 2:01 pm

      Potted plants generally need a lot more water than plants in the garden, I would think in So Cal they would need watering at least every other day, daily in hot weather. You can check the soil about an inch down every day to get a feel for how often they need water. As soon as it dries out an inch down, water! Also, are they getting enough sun? Sometimes plants get leggy when trying to reach for more light. Im thinking though they need more water. Do you use fertilizer as well? Checking all these things should improve them! Good luck!


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