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.
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