Plant Geraniums in Containers

Geraniums do great in containers. Keep the blooms coming with these tips.
Steve Bender

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.