Hardy Geraniums and How to Grow Them
Most landscaping endeavors, no matter how small or large in scale, have a place for hardy geraniums. Geraniums are very popular among photographers because they display a unique combination of wilderness and sophistication. A geranium plant or two can spruce up virtually any setting and this genus is well-known for including plants that are easy to care for–even for individuals who haven’t got the slightest touch of green in the thumb. The plants in this genus offer convenience, beauty, and simplicity, all of which are perfect traits for a home garden.
Geranium is a genus of plants that contains more than 400 different varieties with cross-cultivars popping up all the time. Some might better recognize this species by its nicknames, “hardy geraniums” and “cranesbill,” the latter of which is derived from the unique appearance of geranium seed pods which look strikingly similar to the head and beak of the crane bird. Geranium plants are typically on the small side with foliage that is similar in appearance to a parsley leaf. Overall, one might expect a geranium plant to average around 12 inches tall and 12 to 18 inches in spread, although it is worth bearing in mind that different cultivars may be smaller or larger in size depending on the plant’s specific properties. In fact, some cultivars have been known to grow more than three feet tall and as much as four feet in spread, although this is not the standard for most geranium plants.
Geraniums are most recognized for their flowers. Most geranium plants produce flowers with five petals, although some cultivars known as “doubles” have two sets of petals creating a total of 10. Geranium flowers are small and come in a variety of colors including pink, red, purple, blue, orange, white, and multi-colored. Most of the plants in the geranium genus are quite hardy to cool weather and some are even hardy to drought. They require little pruning in order to thrive and can be grown equally well in the ground or in containers.
Hardy Geraniums for Landscaping
Geranium plants are very versatile and can serve many purposes in a home garden. Shorter varieties, such as Orkney cherry, purple pillow, ballerina, and sanguineum, do really well in bare spots that need a bit of ground cover. They are also good varieties for use in places where one doesn’t want a lot of overgrowth, such as along walkways, fences, around bird baths and other decorative pieces, in raised flower beds, in a window planter, along the border of a house, in a hanging basket, and mixed in with other plants of varying size. Larger-growing hardy geraniums, such as biokovo, double jewel, splish splash, and rozanne, are suitable for many uses. For instance, one might plant a few of these geraniums along a fence, shed, or house wall, as a focus point in a garden, in a planter, or in a shady corner where other plants might struggle to grow.
How to Grow Geraniums
Planting and growing geraniums is quite easy compared to some other flowering plants. Hardy geraniums are fairly tolerant of gardeners who occasionally forget to water the garden and as long as they are protected against harsh, direct summer sunlight (especially during a drought), geraniums will provide a beautiful floral display. The first step in planting a geranium is to acquire either a nursery plant or seeds. Nursery plants are young plants that already have a fairly developed root system. This planting method is much easier, yields quicker growth, and will provide an instantaneous benefit to the landscape. For the sake of ease, we will discuss how to grow a geranium from a nursery plant.
The next step is to choose where the plant will be grown. If the plant will be grown in a container then one merely needs to ensure that the container will be big enough to accommodate the plant. A good quality potting soil mixed with a 20-20-20 fertilizer will work well for a geranium plant. Fill about 3/4 of the pot will soil and then make a hole in the soil that’s large enough to accommodate the plant’s roots. Place the roots in the hole and then add another inch of soil over the top. Water the soil deeply and place the plant in the desired location.
If the geranium will be grown in the ground then one must decide which location would be best for the plant. Most geraniums thrive best in partial shade, partial sunlight, or full sunlight. Ideally, the ground should be level and not prone to flooding or pooling water. This will prevent the roots from taking on too much water and not enough air. If one is considering growing the plant in a location with exposure to full sunlight, it is important to determine whether the plant will be subjected to extreme sunlight during the summer. In the summer, mid-day sunlight can be very intense and if the plant is not watered often then it may end up with discolored leaves and poor flower production.
Once the location has been chosen one must grab a shovel and dig a hole in the ground. The hole should be about twice the size of the plant’s root ball. Mix a bit of 20-20-20 fertilizer into the displaced soil and back-fill the hole about 2/3 full. Place the roots of the plant into the hole and hold the plant steady while scooping the remaining soil into the hole. Press the soil down firmly around the plant’s roots. Water the soil deeply and cover with mulch or grass clippings to prevent the water from drying too quickly.