Geranium Mistakes You Should Avoid

Remember these tips to keep your geraniums growing their best.

Beloved for their bright blooms and long flowering season, geraniums (a.k.a. pelargoniums) are popular plants for Southern gardens. Often grown as annuals in hanging baskets, container gardens, and bed borders, they are relatively low maintenance and easy to care for. However, there are a few things gardeners can do to keep these plants growing and thriving. Read on for the mistakes you should strive to avoid when tending geraniums.

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Giving Too Little (or Too Much) Water

While geraniums can be drought tolerant, they grow best with moderate to regular water. Keep an eye on them to ensure they're not drying out. These plants are also averse to soggy roots, so you should set yours up for success from the beginning—that means planting them in well-draining soil.

Planting in Poor Soil

As mentioned above, fast-draining soil is the best bet when caring for geraniums. Whether in a container, bed, or border, they are more likely to thrive when planted in rich soil amended with lots of organic matter. If the soil is right, they won't need much fertilizer. If they're struggling—or if all you have to offer is sandy soil—The New Southern Living Garden Book recommends feeding the plants with fertilizer during their active growth periods.

Letting Them Languish in the Heat

Summer heat can spell disaster for geraniums. Some species and series (including Americana, Orbit, and Cascade) are more tolerant of high temps than others, but many, like common geraniums (Pelargonium x hortorum), will halt blooming entirely when the mercury rises too high. The bad news is that this heat check will erase the flowers from your geranium containers; the good news is that the plants will usually bloom again when the weather changes and the temps cool off.

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Planting in Deep Shade

Even though some can be sensitive to intense summer heat, deep shade is not the solution for helping geraniums avoid the scorch. Most still need adequate sunlight to thrive. Light afternoon shade is best, which is why The Southern Living Garden Book recommends partial shade and filtered sunlight for geraniums.

Neglecting to Deadhead

When planted in the right conditions and given adequate water, geraniums can thrive with relatively low maintenance. They're not entirely hands-off plantings though. To keep them flowering, don't forget to remove spent blooms. Pruning and deadheading young plants can help with both shaping and prolonging blooming. The New Southern Living Garden Book recommends pinching the ends of young plants to develop the shape of the plant and help encourage side branches to emerge.

Forgetting about Pests

Geraniums can fall prey to garden pests including aphids, whiteflies, and spider mites. Keep an eye on your plants to ensure you don't have any unwelcome visitors setting up camp in the foliage. Telltale signs of an infestation are flowers with tattered petals and flower buds that won't open. The New Southern Living Garden Book reminds gardeners, "Most pests are easily controlled by spraying with neem oil or spinosad."

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