Spring has sprung, and if you haven’t dressed up your containers—whether flower pots, window boxes, or hanging baskets—time’s a wasting. For great looks with little fuss, the cheery geranium (or more correctly, Pelargonium) is an ideal candidate. Although treated as an annual in many regions, this evergreen perennial can over-winter here and come back renewed in the spring. And if you’re picturing your grandmother’s red geranium, think again. There’s an extensive palette of colors, varieties, and even scents that can be planted alone or combined to quickly make your garden, porch, or deck gorgeous and fragrant.
Common Garden Geranium (Pelargonium x hortorum)
Also referred to as “zonal geraniums,” these are recognizable by their leaf markings seen as tricolored bands or variegated. They have compact, upright growth with either single or double blooms clustered into heads. Colorful varieties such as ‘Tango Rose Mega Splash’ provide dazzling iridescent blooms.
If fragrance is a priority in your garden, look for these aromatic leafed geraniums. Their blooms tend to be smaller, but just rub their soft, textured leaves for a burst of scent, from lemon (Pelargonium crispum) and apple (P. odoratissimum) to rose (P. graveolens), peppermint (P. tomentosum), and nutmeg (P. x fragrans). Enjoy them in teas or use for potpourri or sachets.
Ivy-Leaved Geranium (Pelargonium peltatum)
As its name implies, this variety has ivy-shaped, smooth leaves that are vine-like in their growth. This trailing habit translates well in window boxes and hanging baskets. Although its flowers typically have narrower petals and less dense heads, there are stunning varieties, such as ‘Contessa Double Lilac’, which has glorious double blooms in soft purple on deep green cascading foliage. If you prefer a brighter trailer, check out ‘Global Salmon Rose.’
Light: Geraniums require about four hours of sun to set their flowers, preferably morning sun and shade in the afternoon.
Water: Let common geraniums dry out between watering. However, the ivy-leaved varieties are sensitive to moisture fluctuations in the soil. Water them on a regular schedule.
Soil: Geraniums like well-draining soil. Use a rich organic potting mix in a container with drainage holes.
Fertilize: Geraniums can be given a liquid feed of 20-20-20 once a month or a slow-release granular fertilizer.
Maintain: Remove spent flowers to keep blooms coming. If your plant gets leggy, prune it back to encourage new growth. They’re propagated easily by vegetative cutting.