Plant Geraniums in Containers

Few flowers look as good in a pot as these do. They blend handsome foliage with large clusters of showstopping blossoms in colors of red, pink, rose, salmon, orange, lavender, violet, or white. Although many people use geraniums as bedding plants, we think they perform even better in containers.

Two Main Plants
If you search enough garden centers, you can probably find four or five different types of geraniums. Two, however, account for almost all of the sales. The first and most popular is the common geranium (Pelargonium x hortorum). It’s also sometimes called a zonal geranium, because its rounded, velvety, green leaves often contain a burgundy ring.

Most gardeners treat common geraniums as annuals, but in the Coastal and Tropical South where it doesn’t freeze, they’re perennials. Succulent stems become woody with age, and plants grow into picturesque shrubs. Outside these areas, you must store the plants indoors near a window during winter if you wish to grow them this way.

The second most popular type is the ivy geranium (P. peltatum), named for its glossy green, ivy-shaped leaves. Rather than growing upright like common geraniums, this one cascades. Use it to plunge from hanging baskets, window boxes, or the edge of a big planter.


How To Grow
Geraniums like fertile, well-drained soil that contains plenty of organic matter. Let the soil go slightly dry between waterings. Don’t overfertilize: Feed them with slow-release, granular fertilizer once in spring or with a liquid 20-20-20 fertilizer three times during the growing season. Remove faded flowers regularly to keep the plants blooming. The best exposure is full sun in the morning with light afternoon shade.

Good To Know
High summer heat can take its toll on these plants. Many common geraniums stop blooming in sizzling weather, a condition known as “heat check.” (They’ll resume blooming when cooler weather arrives.) To avoid this, grow heat-tolerant types, such as the Americana, Eclipse, Fidelity, Maverick, and Orbit Series. Ivy geraniums like high heat even less; they do better in the Upper and Middle South. However, the heat-tolerant Blizzard, Cascade, and Summer Showers Series perform well in much of the Lower South. So does ‘Sofie Cascade.’ In the Coastal and Tropical South, use ivy geraniums as winter annuals.

What they like:
Morning sun, afternoon shade; fertile, well-drained soil

“Plant Some Geraniums” is from Southern Living’s Container Gardening.

Growing Geraniums Outdoors

Introduction to Growing Geraniums Outdoors:

Geraniums are a gardener’s favorite plant for indoor and outdoor growing because they can be one of your most reliable plants that you can put into the garden. Home growers will typically buy their geranium plants in the late spring months and as long as all danger of frost has passed, they will produce beautiful blooms for you all season long until the first fall frost. New varieties are even available now that are highly resistant to the rain and strong winds.

If you look around, you are likely to find folks growing geraniums outdoors all over and in many different types of locations. These old fashioned plants don’t just excel in flower beds either. You can grow these beauties in window boxes and hanging baskets too; just about any container you can find could be a suitable home for a geranium plant. In this article we will give you some great tips for planting, growing, and caring for your geraniums.

Growing Geraniums Outdoors – When to Plant:

As we said in the opening, geraniums do not do well if subjected to frost. While the plant can survive a light frost and come back, performance for that season will be wasted while the plant recuperates. So make sure you keep your geraniums indoors until all danger of frost has passed. If you are buying geraniums for the coming growing season, a good time to pick them up is around May, subject to your local climate conditions of course. Just make sure the soil temperature is at least 60 degrees to ensure your plants will survive the planting. If the nights are still getting colder, hold off a week or two before taking them outside.

When you are ready to start growing geraniums outdoors, make sure you have a good location selected for them that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight each day. 8 hours is even better! If your summers get very hot and dry, it’s also a good idea if you can provide your geraniums with a little afternoon shade. Perhaps a site where the sun passes behind a small tree or shrub for instance.

Growing Geraniums Outdoors – How to Plant:

If you have read a bunch of our articles on planting different kinds of plants, you will begin to see a pattern on certain growing conditions. One good example is the type of soil needed for growing geraniums outdoors. The fact is most plants will do very well if you take the time to add a few inches of good compost into the soil and till it all together. Geraniums are no different and they will appreciate the added effort. For these plants however, do not mix in manure or any vermiculite as geraniums just don’t seem to care for either.

When growing geraniums outdoors, remember they will enjoy a regular fertilizer once growing, they will not bloom well or you if you fertilize them too much. At planting time, add a little bit of 10-10-10 or 5-10-5 fertilizer into the hole. You don’t need a lot, just a sprinkle to give the plant a good strong head start. Once planted, one tip you can use is to dig a small furrow around each of the plants to catch water and act as a reservoir over the hot summer months. Excess water will drain into the furrow and wrap around the plants for them to absorb later on.

Growing Geraniums Outdoors – Caring & Maintenance:

When growing geraniums outdoors, remember they are very thirsty plants and they like to be watered frequently. You do need to make sure however that you give the soil time to dry out in between waterings of you could find that your plants’ roots will rot. Be very careful not to allow the plants to wilt and should they do, do not follow up with a single heavy watering but rather several light waterings in the beginning to get them back on cycle. If you allow them to wilt and then give them an overdose of water immediately, this cycle tends to cause the leaves to drop and the plant’s growth will be stunted.

Throughout the season remove any faded flowers on the plants and immediately get rid of any dry leaves you might find. If left unchecked your plants could get infected with the botrytis fungus. If this turns out to be the case, your local garden center will sell a fungicide specially formulated for geraniums. This fungus is most common during times of moist, cool weather. While insects and pests are usually a problem for most other plants, geraniums tend to be one of the few that don’t have many issues with them.

Growing Geraniums Outdoors – End of the Season:

As the growing season nears its end and the weather starts to cool, pay close attention to the evening temperatures in your area and bring your geraniums in before the first frost hits…assuming of course you would like to replant them the following spring. Some gardeners simply choose to let them die off and buy new the next year rather than go through the added effort of caring for them over the winter months. Geraniums actually will do quite well indoors in a cold damp basement also.

Most people figure if they are going to bring their garden plants inside, they are going to grow them as best they can rather than simply storing them. The first thing you should do when you bring your geraniums inside is prune them back to half their size, and give them a good watering. Then try to find a bright window to put them near that is away from heater vents. Growing geraniums outdoors suffer the same risk of root rot indoors as they do outside, so be careful during watering. One suggestion is to plant them into a clay pot when you bring them in. Clay breathes, unlike plastic, and it is much better for the root systems.

A good soil mix is all that you really need for indoor growing, and it’s ok to give them a little fertilizer when you first bring them in, but after that wait 2 to 3 months before the next application. Geraniums will thrive indoors at temperatures between 55 and 65 degrees.

Leave Growing Geraniums Outdoors and go to Backyard Flower Gardens
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Propagate pelargoniums

When to take cuttings

If you’ve never taken cuttings before, try pelargoniums as it’s a straightforward technique, with guaranteed results. You can increase the volume of plants for your own garden or try swapping your cuttings for other plants with other gardeners.

Snip off short lengths of your favourite pelargonium in August and September. They’ll root easily to make new plants in a few weeks.

What to do

How to propagate

  • Choose vigorous, healthy shoots and remove from plant by cutting above a leaf joint.
  • Aim to make a cutting between 7.5cm to 10cm long (3in to 4in) by making a straight cut just below a leaf joint.
  • It’s important to remove all the lower leaves and the stipules (small leaf-like structures at the base of each leaf stalk) from the stem.

  • Each cutting needs to have just two or three leaves – just enough so that the plant can continue to photosynthesise and grow.
  • If there are too many leaves, the cutting will lose moisture, wilt and die.
  • Fill a 7.5cm (3in) pot with free-draining compost (a mix of 50 per cent cuttings compost and 50 per cent horticultural grit), firm and make six 2.5cm (1in) holes around the edge of the pot.

  • Push a cutting into each hole and label each pot if you’re taking cuttings of several varieties.
  • Water the plants sparingly to keep the compost barely moist.
  • Put the uncovered pots in a warm, slightly shaded place until they root.
  • Keep cuttings damp and put into their own pot when fresh leaves start to grow.

Watch video

In this video Toby Buckland takes pelargonium cuttings.

Five to try

  • Pelargonium tomentosum – tiny white flowers and peppermint scented, silver leaves
  • P. ‘Lord Bute’ – black flowers with a red edge
  • P. ‘Ballerina’ – white flowers edged with pink
  • P. ‘Scarlet Rambler’ – tall plant with red flowers
  • P. ‘Quantock Candy’ – two-tone pink flowers

Taking Geranium & Pelargonium Cuttings

There is no particular time of the year for taking cuttings of many of the members of the pelargonium family, because they have no dormancy and grow for twelve months of the year. However, success will depend on being able to supply good light and warm compost. A propagator is a worthwhile investment for any enthusiastic gardener. It is a good idea to get going on the regal varieties first if you need more of these, as they take longer to root and longer to come into bloom than the zonal types.

Whilst I’d always encourage you to expand your collection by trying out new varieties (and of course, ordering them all from Vernon’s!), taking your own cuttings of geraniums is also an exciting part of this wonderful hobby of growing and collecting geraniums! If you’ve never tried it before then do give it a go – I still get a thrill when fresh, white roots are coming out of the base of a cutting I’ve taken. There is no such thing as 100% success but if you have a method that works for then I’d always say stick with it.

How to take geranium cuttings

There is no particular time of the year for taking cuttings of the geranium family, because they have no dormancy and grow for twelve months of the year. However, success will depend on being able to supply good light and warm compost.

Your requirements will be a mother plant, a sharp knife, some seed compost and some means of keeping the compost warm once the cuttings are inserted.

  1. Cut the mother plant just above a leaf joint on the main stem and then trim the cutting you’ve taken to just below the joint.
  2. Strip off most of the leaves.
  3. Don’t take a great long cutting. The healthiest past of a plant is nearest the growing tip, so short cuttings are best, and once rooted they will soon catch up with long ones.
  4. The cuttings need to be inserted into warm, damp sterilised compost. Do not let them dry out and keep them in a light, dry atmosphere. Never put the lid down on a propagator if you are rooting any of the pelargonium family – they are very prone to rotting in high humidity.
  5. Wait and few weeks and your cuttings should have rooted!

Some years ago someone once wrote in a pelargonium magazine that it was beneficial to use a solution of vitamin C for cuttings, so we tried it and had to agree it helped, so we have been using it ever since. We put about half a teaspoonful of powder in a couple of eggcupfuls of cold water and stir it with anything that is non-metallic (usually a plant label) and it is stored in a dark bottle. Tablets would do just as well as powder – and what you don’t use for your geranium cuttings can be made into a drink – so it will do you both good! We never use hormone-rooting powders or liquid, as this makes the ends go soft and they are more likely to rot than root.

Do not get distraught if a few do not make it – one hundred per cent success is a very high standard to try to achieve! The important thing is to enjoy what you are doing, and we think you will always feel a sense of achievement when you manage to increase your stock of a plant. We always do!


The process for over propagating geranium cuttings is the same for many other plants as well.

This method is also called cloning because we are continuing the growth of an existing plant to start a new one (with the same genetics).

How to Take Softwood Cuttings includes an illustrated guide in case you need more details.

1 Get Your Supplies Ready

  • Clean, small flower pots with drainage holes
  • Potting mix
  • Drip tray
  • Scalpel or very fine, sharp knife
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Large, clear food bags
  • Have small pots filled with moist container mix ready on drip trays.
  • Clean your scalpel or cutting knife blades with rubbing alcohol.

2 Take Cuttings

  • You want to end up with a stem that is approximately 4 to 6 inches long with two healthy leaves up top.
  • Choose a new stem that is green (not old and woody).
  • Cut just below a leaf node with a clean, sharp scalpel or very fine knife.

3 Prepare for Planting

  • Remove any flower stems, flowers, or buds. You don’t want the plant putting energy into those just now.
  • Remove any leaves from the bottom 2″.
  • Keep the remaining leaves attached.
  • Dip the base in rooting hormone powder. (optional- some cuttings will root fine without it)
  • Tap off any excess powder.

New to this? Get all the basics on using rooting hormones here.

4 Planting

  • Use your finger or a dibber to make a hole in the container mix and insert the geranium stem.
  • Careful not to push the rooting hormone powder away.
  • Loosely fill hole with container mix around the stem.
  • Bury the stem deep enough that any bare leaf nodes (where you removed leaves) are submerged.

You can put several cuttings in one pot. Place one along each inner side.

  • You can either water the pots and/or fill the drip tray and empty it after 30 minutes.

5 Cover (Optional)

  • If your growing space had good humidity (over 50%) and there is not risk of the cutting drying out, you should not need to cover it.
    If you keep them out in the open, mist them as needed to maintain good moisture levels (not too dry, not too damp).
  • Alternately, in a drier environment, you can loosely sit a large, clear bag over top or a dome, so long as there is still air circulation.
    Check daily to be sure the cover is not building up too much condensation or mold or fungus on the soil.

6 Location

  • Keep in warm location. Avoid full sun until roots have formed (it usually takes a few weeks).
  • Keep container mix moist but not soaking wet.

7 Growth

  • In 6-8 weeks, you should notice roots forming. It can be as quick as 4 weeks.
  • Geraniums grow long roots so you may see some at the holes in the bottom of the pot.
  • You can also check by lightly pulling on the stem to feel if roots are holding it in place.

8 Repot

  • With roots well established, you can now repot each cutting into its own pot.

9 Where to Grow

  • During winter, you can grow them as houseplants.
  • In spring, after last frost, they can be gradually introduced to life outdoors.
    This shows How to Harden Off Plants for Life Outdoors.

It’s Time to Take Geranium Cuttings for Spring Planting

In just a few weeks, gardeners will be heading for garden centers and nurseries to see what is new for this year. It is too early for many plants, but fruit trees, some shrubs, strawberry plants and peonies can be planted now.

Most gardeners would develop a migraine headache at the prospect of allowing a geranium to freeze when cold weather approaches in the fall. Many geraniums were moved into homes to wait out the winter. Many of these plants are quite large now. Why not take cuttings from these and have them rooted to set out after April 15?

Strip foliage from lower stems. Have a rooting compound on hand, because this usually will ensure almost total success in rooting. I prefer sand for rooting the cuttings. Vermiculite is also good.

Dip the cuttings in the rooting compound, and place them into a clay or plastic pot that is at least 6 inches across. As many as four can be started in one pot. Place pot in a place where it can receive good indirect light, not direct sunlight. Keep it only slightly moist, and when it is time for it to be set out in April, the plant should be well-rooted.

Yard and Garden: Overwintering Geraniums for Spring Replanting

AMES, Iowa – Geraniums are beautiful plants which add color and vibrant detail to any landscape. However, they are ill-equipped to survive harsh winter conditions. There is a solution: Geraniums can be taken indoors and overwintered, then replanted in the spring.

ISU Extension and Outreach horticulturists can help answer your questions about overwintering geraniums and how to preserve them during winter conditions. To have additional questions answered, contact the ISU Hortline at 515-294-3108 or [email protected]

How can I overwinter geraniums indoors?

Geraniums can be overwintered indoors by taking cuttings, potting up individual plants or storing bare-root plants in a cool, dry location. Remove plants from the garden (or take cuttings) prior to the first fall frost.

How do you take geranium cuttings?

Using a sharp knife, take three-to-four-inch stem cuttings from the terminal ends of the shoots. Pinch off the lower leaves, then dip the base of each cutting in a rooting hormone. Stick the cuttings into a rooting medium of vermiculite or a mixture of perlite and sphagnum peat moss. Pots and flats with drainage holes in the bottom are suitable rooting containers. Insert the cuttings into the medium just far enough to be self-supporting. After all the cuttings are inserted, water the rooting medium.

Allow the medium to drain for a few minutes, then place a clear plastic bag or dome over the cuttings to prevent the plant foliage from wilting. Finally, place the cuttings in bright light, but not direct sunlight. The cuttings should root in six to eight weeks. When the cuttings have good root systems, remove them from the rooting medium and plant each rooted cutting in its own pot. Place the potted plants in a sunny window or under artificial lighting until spring.

How do you overwinter geraniums as potted plants?

Carefully dig up each plant and place in a large pot. Water each plant thoroughly, then place the geraniums in a sunny window or under artificial lighting. Geraniums prefer cool indoor temperatures. Daytime temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit and slightly cooler night temperatures are ideal. Water plants about every two weeks. Geraniums are likely to become tall and lanky by late winter. In March, prune back the plants. Cut the geraniums back by one-half to two-thirds. The geraniums will begin to grow again within a few days and should develop into attractive specimens by May.

How do you overwinter geraniums as bare-root plants?

Carefully dig up the geraniums before the first fall frost. Shake the soil from the plant’s roots. Then place one or two plants in a large paper sack and store in a cool (45 to 50 degree Fahrenheit), dry location. An unheated bedroom or indoor porch might be a suitable location. An alternate (somewhat messier) method is to hang the plants upside down in a cool, dry location. The foliage and the shoot tips will eventually die.

In March, prune or cut back each plant. Remove all shriveled, dead material. Prune back to firm, green, live stem tissue. After pruning, pot up the plants and water thoroughly. Place the potted geraniums in a sunny window or under artificial lighting. Geraniums that are pruned and potted in March should develop into attractive plants that can be planted outdoors in May.

How to Prune Geraniums for Better Growth: We Knew You Wanted to Know

Along with the right type of soil, the right amount of water and the right place to grow a plant, you need to prune it properly to ensure it grows in a healthy manner. Read on to learn how to prune geraniums.

Observe yon sweet geranium flower.
How straight upon its stalk it stands,
And tempts our violating hands,
Whilst the soft bud, as yet outspread,
Hangs down its pale declining head.
Yet soon as it is ripe to blow,
the stems shall rise, the head shall glow. ~ “THE GERANIUM” by Richard Brinsley Sheridan

There’s nothing like a brightly blooming bed of flowers to add color to one’s garden. If flowers had personalities, then geraniums would be the friendliest, with their vibrant colored petals and their blooming presence.

Would you like to write for us? Well, we’re looking for good writers who want to spread the word. Get in touch with us and we’ll talk…

Let’s Work Together!

This flowering plant, also known as cranesbills, is actually a genus of 422 species. They bloom throughout the year and have a 5 petaled flower, in colors or red, white, blue, pink and purple.

Unlike most flowering plants (some may need an entourage to look after them), geraniums make for hardy, long-lived plants that require minimal care during the winter months and provide fresh blooms for your garden and house, throughout the year. One aspect of caring for plants, is their trimming or pruning. Learn how to prune geraniums properly, with the following tips.

Pruning Geraniums

The act of pruning, like getting a haircut, encourages new and healthy growth. Pruning geraniums encourages new and vibrant growth from the plant, so there are more flowers, distributed lushly amongst the plant and growing healthily and fully.

The appeal to geraniums are their rich, vibrant blooms. But without pruning, you could end up with a flowerless plant. Keep in mind that there is pruning and there’s hacking off the plant, which can be detrimental to its growth. You must know which parts should be cut off and how. The process of pruning consists of 3 main parts.

The Right Time

Unlike humans, plants can’t tell you when they need a haircut. As a gardener, some key signs that your geraniums need pruning are:

  • When the plant starts to look very thin or sparse
  • Dead or rotting parts like brown leaves, dead blooms etc., appear on the plant
  • Tendency to loll or sprawl on the ground, due to droopy stem growth
  • When a compound flower head (stem with more than 1 bloom on it) starts to look faded and old
  • When your plant grows long and spindly with no blooms

Geraniums are easy to maintain but once in a while, if they start to exhibit any of the above signs, it is necessary to pinch back new growth on the stems. It is recommended to prune your geraniums intensely once a year. This pruning should take place during the winter season, as this is a time when the plant goes dormant and does not grow. Pruning at this time encourages fresh healthy blooms in spring.

What Should be Pruned?

The tip of the stem, from where new plant growths occur, should be pinched back from time to time. This forces the plant to branch out and grow more blooms. Pinching back means you use your finger nails or fingers, to lightly nip off the growth at the end of the stem. Try to pinch off the stem as close to a leaf node as possible. Do not pull the plant in an attempt to pinch. You can use a small but sharp pair of scissors to pinch the buds instead of your fingers.

Any dead or dry blooms on the plant, which are faded and old, should be snipped off at the stalk. This can be done at any time of the plant’s growth. Any signs of disease or an insect infestation, means the plant should be pruned of its flowers immediately. During the annual pruning, any dead or old parts of the plant should be pruned, along with some stems and blooms.

How to Prune Geraniums

Would you like to write for us? Well, we’re looking for good writers who want to spread the word. Get in touch with us and we’ll talk…

Let’s Work Together!

The following are some steps on how to prune your geraniums intensely:

  • Use your fingers for pinching off new growths and use pruning shears for snipping off dead blooms and dried out or damaged stems.
  • Snip off dead flowers from their stalk or elbow (where they are joined to a main stem). Remove any faded and brown leaves and if any stems are broken, remove them as well.
  • Pull out weeds and other small plants growing unwanted, in your germanium plant bed. Examine your plant’s leaves for signs of rot or a fungal infection. Remove any insects on the plant.
  • Cut off all the stems from the plant, leaving only 3-4 stems with blooms. This pruning may seem very harsh but geraniums are enthusiastic growers and will soon grow full blooms with a vengeance.
  • When cutting branches and stems, make sure your shears are sharp. Cut at an angle of 45°. This is a good pruning practice.
  • Cut down the plant’s length, such that it is 4-6 inches above the soil. The plant should be pruned to 1/3 of its total growth. Using a gardening fork or rake, gently shift the soil in the geranium bed.

In conclusion, geraniums are easy to look after, delightful blooming bundles, that are a welcome addition of color to any garden. With the right care and maintenance, including pruning and trimming, they can be the highlight plant of a novice gardener or a carefully-styled masterpiece for an old-timer.

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Overwintering Geraniums

With the rainbow of flower and leaf colors, it is hard to watch beautiful and costly geraniums die from a hard frost. There are several ways to keep those geraniums through the winter for a head start on blooms next spring and a savings to your garden budget.

Keep them growing in containers

Geraniums grow easily indoors in containers with proper care and environmental conditions. Before the first frost, cut back plants to half of their original size and inspect them for signs of insects or disease. Then, dig up healthy plants and transplant into containers. Use a potting mix made for containerized plants instead of garden soil. Garden soil is often heavy, compacted, and drains poorly in containers. Place containerized plants in a cool location with plenty of bright, direct sunlight. Water plants well after potting and as needed when the soil begins to dry. Shoot tips may need pinching once or twice during the winter to promote branching and prevent weak growth. Before planting outside in May, fertilize lightly. Plants kept in containers over the winter are typically larger than most geraniums sold in the spring. This allows you to have a head start on growth and blooms for next year’s garden.

Taking cuttings from outdoor plants

Geraniums root readily from cuttings. This is also a great way to multiply the number of plants for next year’s garden. To take a cutting, remove a 3- to 4-inch section of the plant’s stem tip with a sharp knife. Pinch off the leaves from the lower half of the cutting and dip the cut end into a rooting hormone. Rooting hormones are sold in powder or liquid form at your local garden center or discount store. Stick the cuttings in a moist, porous, well-drained rooting media such as coarse sand, perlite, or vermiculite. Cuttings can be rooted in individual pots or several cuttings can be placed per container. Make sure the container has holes for drainage. Ideally, cuttings root best in a moist, humid environment. This is easy to achieve by securing a clear plastic bag over the cuttings and container. This “mini-greenhouse” should be placed in bright, but indirect light. Check the media occasionally to insure it remains evenly moist. Rooting normally occurs in 6 to 8 weeks. After roots are approximately 1-inch long, transplant cuttings into a 3- to 4-inch container with a standard well-drained potting soil. Place in a sunny window and water as needed. Pinch shoot tips back to force branching and prevent spindly growth. New plants produced from cuttings should be vigorous and about the same size as most geraniums sold in spring.

Dormant Storage

Geraniums are unusual and unlike many annual flowers, they have the ability to survive for most of the winter without soil. If properly stored, they can resist extended dry periods due to their thick, succulent-like stems. To overwinter geraniums in dormant storage, dig up the entire plant before frost and gently shake the soil from the roots. Place the plants inside open paper bags or hang them upside-down from the rafters in a cool, dark location for the winter. Ideally the temperature should be between 45-50 F. Two or three times during the winter, take the plants out the bags or down from the rafters and soak the roots in water for 1 or 2 hours. At this time, inspect the stems. While many of the leaves will die and fall off, the stems should remain firm and solid. Discard any geraniums with shriveled stems, since those plants will most likely die. Pot up healthy dormant geraniums in containers in late March or early April. Water plants thoroughly and cut back the dead stem tips. Place potted plants in a sunny window to initiate new growth. It often takes several weeks for plants to initiate growth after dormant storage.

No matter how geraniums have been overwintered, they should be healthy, free-flowering plants for spring. After being indoors all winter, your geraniums may be as anxious as you are for spring planting. Plant them after the danger of frost has passed and enjoy their colorful blooms all summer. You can invest your savings in new geranium varieties to overwinter next year.

This article originally appeared in the 9/17/2004 issue.



A truly classic garden plant, geraniums have been a gardener’s favorite for well over a century. The old-fashioned standard for beds, borders, and containers, geranium is still one of the most popular plants today. Traditional bedding types love hot weather and hold up well to dry conditions; many offer colorful foliage. Regal, also called Martha Washington, geraniums are more delicate-looking and do better in the cool conditions of spring and fall.

Though most geraniums are grown as annuals, they are perennials in Zones 10–11. Bring them indoors to overwinter, if you like, then replant outdoors in spring. (Or they can bloom indoors all year long if they get enough light.)

genus name
  • Pelargonium
  • Sun
plant type
  • Annual,
  • Houseplant,
  • Perennial
  • 6 to 12 inches,
  • 1 to 3 feet
  • Up to 2 feet wide
flower color
  • Purple,
  • Red,
  • Orange,
  • White,
  • Pink
season features
  • Spring Bloom,
  • Fall Bloom,
  • Reblooming,
  • Summer Bloom,
  • Winter Bloom
problem solvers
  • Deer Resistant,
  • Drought Tolerant
special features
  • Low Maintenance,
  • Good for Containers
  • 10,
  • 11
  • Seed,
  • Stem Cuttings

Garden Plans For Geranium

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Colorful Combinations

This garden staple has a little secret: It’s not even a geranium! What we know as the common annual geranium is actually a Pelargonium. The annual geranium offers so many great qualities that we can’t help but use it every year.

With their wide range of color, shape, and size of blooms, it’s hard not to find a reason to use geraniums everywhere. The most common of the annual variety, Zonal Geraniums, is the most recognizable geranium; it gets its name from the broad band of darker coloring on leaves. In some, this “zone” is more pronounced than others. If you don’t see this banding on the leaves but the flowers look like a zonal geranium, it could be either a variety where this coloring is not present or a seed geranium (the latter of which is a more inexpensive version of its zonal counterpart).

Zonal geraniums are grown from cuttings only, and have been heavily bred for traits like bigger and longer-lasting blooms, sterility (so that the plants don’t waste energy on making seeds), and overall vigor and disease resistance. Zonal geraniums also thrive in the heat and sun of the summer and will bloom all season, if you remove old blooms.

Ivy geraniums are another popular variety and, as their name implies, these plants have more of a trailing habit with segmented leaves like ivy. Overall, blooms of the ivy types are very similar to the zonals, but with smaller bloom clusters and deeper purple flowers.

Regal geraniums, another popular plant variety, are grown for their large, extremely showy blooms. These fancy flowers come in many colors and have beautiful patterns you don’t see in other types of geraniums.

See more houseplants for the forgetful gardener.

Geranium Care Must-Knows

The most important thing to know about some geraniums, such as the ivy variety, is that they can suffer from a condition called edema. This is most often seen in ivy type geraniums on the underside of the leaves. When soil temperatures are warm and wet and air temperature is cooler and humid, plants take up more water than they can hold, which causes the leaf cells to stretch and become damaged with scabs that turn brown and bumpy. This isn’t contagious, and damaged leaves can simply be removed. Ivy geraniums take heat well, but not quite as well as their zonal counterparts. If it is exceptionally hot, ivy geraniums will thank you for a little bit of afternoon shade.

Regal types are probably some of the pickiest geraniums. They prefer a cooler growing season and will stop blooming in high summer heat. Make sure they have well-drained soil, and keep them cool when the steamy temps arrive. Here’s how to fix a common geranium problem.

No matter which geranium you select for your next container, just make sure to keep up with deadheading. And don’t forget to feed them!

Houseplants That Work Great in Bedrooms

More Varieties of Geranium

‘Allure Light Pink’ Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Allure Light Pink’ bears pink flowers with a brighter pink blotch on vigorous plants that grow 18 inches tall.

‘Allure Pink Picotee’ Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Allure Pink Picotee’ produces huge, hydrangea-like clusters of pale pink blooms edged in darker pink. It grows 18 inches tall.

‘Americana Bright Red’ Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Americana Bright Red’ is a heat-loving geranium with large, rich-red flower heads. It grows 18 inches tall.

‘Aurora’ Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Aurora’ is a heat-loving variety with large heads of bright magenta-pink flowers on 12-inch-tall plants.

‘Caliente Hot Coral’ Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Caliente Hot Coral’ produces bold coral-pink blooms and exceptional heat tolerance. It has an upright, mounding habit, and you don’t need to deadhead the flowers. It grows 12 inches tall.

‘Calliope Dark Red’ Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Calliope Dark Red’ is a hybrid between ivy-leaved and zonal geraniums. It bears rich, dark red flowers and has a mounding/trailing habit. It grows 12 inches tall.

‘Candy Cherry’ Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Candy Cherry’ offers lots of bright cherry-pink flowers over rich, dark-green foliage. It grows 14 inches tall.

‘Candy Fantasy Kiss’ Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Candy Fantasy Kiss’ shows off rich pink flowers with a lovely soft pink edge. It has dark green foliage and grows 14 inches tall.

‘Daredevil Claret’ Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Daredevil Claret’ is a vigorous selection with dark red flowers all summer. It grows 24 inches tall and 14 inches wide.

‘Daredevil Orchid’ Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Daredevil Orchid’ shows off brilliantly colored clusters of lavender flowers all summer long. It grows 24 inches tall and 14 inches wide.

‘Designer Red’ Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Designer Red’ is a heat-loving geranium that offers rich red flowers on compact, 14-inch-tall plants.

‘Easter Greeting’ Regal Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Easter Greeting’ is a cool-season regal type with cerise-pink flowers that have dark purple blotches. The plants grow 12 inches tall.

‘Elegance Burgundy’ Regal Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Elegance Burgundy’ is a cool-season variety that blooms in spring with rich burgundy flowers that look like they’re made from crepe paper. It grows 12 inches tall.

‘Elegance Imperial’ Regal Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Elegance Imperial’ is a spring bloomer offering rich burgundy-purple flowers boldly edged in white. It grows 12 inches tall.

‘Elegance Royalty White’ Regal Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Elegance Royalty White’ is a cool-season variety displaying white flowers brushed with bright pink. It grows 12 inches tall.

‘Fantasia White’ Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Fantasia White’ offers pure white blooms on a heat-loving plant that grows 14 inches tall.

‘Global Merlot’ Ivy Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Global Merlot’ bears rich wine-red flowers on a heat-loving plant that trails to 14 inches.

‘Graffiti Salmon’ Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Graffiti Salmon’ is a heat-loving selection with spidery salmon-pink flowers on a plant that grows 14 inches tall.

‘Graffiti White’ Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Graffiti White’ is a heat-loving selection with spidery white flowers on a plant that grows 14 inches tall.

‘Indian Dunes’ Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Indian Dunes’ offers attractive chartreuse foliage with a large bronze-purple blotch in the center of each leaf. It produces orange-red flowers and grows 10 inches tall.

‘Maestro Rose Pink’ Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Maestro Rose Pink’ offers large soft pink blooms touched with rose on a medium-size plant with good heat tolerance. It grows 12 inches tall.

‘Maiden Iced Wine’ Regal Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Maiden Iced Wine’ is a cool-season variety with a compact habit and dark red flowers delicately edged in white. It grows 10 inches tall.

‘Mini Cascade Pink’ Ivy Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Mini Cascade Pink’ is a heat-loving variety with soft pink flowers that can trail to 14 inches.

‘Mini Cascade Red’ Ivy Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Mini Cascade Red’ is a heat-loving geranium with red flowers that can trail to 14 inches.

‘Mini Karmine’ Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Mini Karmine’ looks its best in hanging baskets or window boxes where you can enjoy it as the plant trails over the edges. It features bright magenta flowers and finely cut foliage.

‘Moonlight Cranberry Blush’ Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Moonlight Cranberry Blush’ features intensely pink flowers with a compact habit and lots of blooms throughout the summer. It grows 12 inches tall.

‘Mr. Henry Cox’ Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Mr. Henry Cox’ is a heat-loving type with variegated foliage and single pink flowers on plants that grow 12 inches tall.

‘Patriot Lavender Blue’ Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Patriot Lavender Blue’ is a quick-growing variety with large lavender-pink flowers. It grows 16 inches tall.

‘Patriot Berry Parfait’ Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Patriot Berry Parfait’ is a vigorous variety with large, cherry-red flowers. It grows 16 inches tall.

‘Pink Spirit’ Ivy Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Pink Spirit’ is a heat-loving geranium with double pink flowers that can trail to 16 inches.

‘Royal Candy Pink’ Ivy Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Royal Candy Pink’ is a trailing, heat-tolerant geranium with an abundance of rich pink flowers. It trails to 14 inches.

‘Royal Lavender’ Ivy Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Royal Lavender’ is a trailing, heat-tolerant geranium with soft, lavender-pink flowers all summer. It trails to 14 inches.

‘Vancouver Centennial’ Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Vancouver Centennial’ is a heat-loving geranium with golden foliage that bears a purple-brown blotch. It grows to 18 inches tall.

‘Wilhelm Langguth’ Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Wilhelm Langguth’ shows off attractive white-edged foliage and bright red flowers. It grows 2 feet tall.

Plant Geranium With:

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Many types of nicotiana are terrifically fragrant (especially at night) and are wonderful in attracting hummingbirds as well as fascinating hummingbird moths. There are several types of nicotiana, also called flowering tobacco, because it’s a cousin of the regular tobacco plant. Try the shorter, more colorful types in containers or the front of beds or borders. The taller, white-only types, which can reach 5 feet, are dramatic in the back of borders. And they’re ideal for night gardens; they’re usually most fragrant at dusk. These plants do best in full sun and moist, well-drained soil, and they may reseed.

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Pentas is one of the best butterfly-attracting plants around. It blooms all summer long, even during the hottest weather, with large clusters of starry blooms that attract butterflies by the dozens as well as hummingbirds. The plant grows well in containers and in the ground—and it can even make a good houseplant if you have enough light. It does best in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. Pentas is grown as an annual in most parts of the country, but it’s hardy in Zones 10-11. Plant it outdoors after all danger of frost has passed.

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Like so many grasses, fountaingrass is spectacular when backlit by the rising or setting sun. Named for its especially graceful spray of foliage, fountaingrass sends out beautiful, fuzzy flower plumes in late summer. The white, pink, or red plumes (depending on variety) continue into fall and bring a loose, informal look to plantings. This plant self-seeds freely, sometimes to the point of becoming invasive.

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