Also known as: Pelargonium

Known best for their bright, cheery blooms in container gardens around the country, geraniums are easy plants to grow in nearly every zone. The flowers are well-known for their range of scent, which can vary from sweet and rose-like to sharp and citrus. The plant is native to South Africa and is thought to have been brought to Europe by Dutch sailors from the Cape of Good Hope.

Geraniums, especially those that are rose-scented, have had many uses over the years, predominantly in the perfume industry. However, it also has been used over the years for a number of illnesses and complaints, including pneumonia, cholera, diarrhea and stomach complaints. Geranium essential oil is used to increase circulation, soothe the symptoms of menopause and menstruation, and lift the mood.

The geranium flower, which can grow to 24 inches and spread to 48 inches, is comprised of a group of colorful blossoms atop a long green stem, with gently lobed light green leaves. Sometimes, the foliage can be striped or variegated with lighter or darker green bands. The flowers can be red, pink, violet, orange, salmon, white or purple. Plant your geraniums after the last frost has passed. They should bloom until the late fall.

Growing Geraniums

Geraniums need full sun to grow well, but they may tolerate partial shade. However, you will see less growth and fewer blooms. Plant them in fertile, well-drained soil. Growing from seed isn't recommended, as it takes a long time, so purchasing a cell pack of the annuals might serve your garden design better. Combine them with dusty miller or sweet alyssum to create a focal point that will draw everyone's eyes. You need to deadhead geraniums to keep them growing well – otherwise, you will see a lot of dead and wilting flowers as opposed to bright, healthy blossoms.

Recommended Varieties

Many geraniums are popular as container garden plants, but a few well-loved varieties include "Ivy-leaved Geranium" and "Zonal Geranium", for which there are many different cultivars. Depending on where you want to plant them in your outdoor garden, geraniums can trail more or grow taller or bushier as the location requires.

Landscape Design Tips

Geraniums look best when planted in containers, but they can provide an interesting groundcover if planted in a flowerbed. The flowers are actually perennials that are treated as annuals – if you want to keep your geraniums for another season, you can pot them and winter them inside, in a bright room.

Gardening Zones

Geraniums are hardy in zones 5 to 7.

Pests and Problems

Geraniums are very hardy plants, but they can suffer from edema, which is a disease unique to their species. It happens when the plant is overwatered – the cells burst and create wart-like growths on the leaves. There is no cure, but careful monitoring and removal of the damaged tissue can prevent it from spreading over the whole plant. Geraniums may also suffer from aphids, leaf spot and blight.