If you choose geraniums, you don’t need a green thumb. You don’t even have to spend a lot of time caring for them, and you can still enjoy the summer in the midst of a sea of blossoms.
Just heed the following advice on planting, watering, fertilising, pruning and overwintering geraniums. Mother Nature will take care of the rest and you’ll have time to relax on the balcony.
What you’ll learn in this article:
• Which location is best for geraniums
• How to plant geraniums correctly
• Important things to know when watering
• How to fertilise geraniums
• Why pruning provides a new supply of flowers
• How you can safely try overwintering
Tip 1: The optimal location for geraniums is warm and sunny
Geraniums originate from South Africa. That’s why they love warm and sunny conditions. If you put them in a bright, sunny spot they will thank you with lots of flowers. And don’t worry about the blazing midday sun; even this kind of heat is tolerated by geraniums.
Geraniums also grow very well in a bright, semi-shaded location. Only full shade does not suit them. If you have a north-facing balcony, you should look for a different summer companion.
Do not put the geraniums out too early in the spring. Mid-May onwards is probably best. These otherwise robust plant react to temperatures below five degrees with a pause in growth, and frost will cost them their lives. You should also protect geraniums from continuous rain.
What sunny, semi-shaded and shaded means
- Sunny: Sun all day, no shade
- Semi-shaded: Diffused light all day, or no more than four hours in the shade of trees, houses, screens, etc.
- Shady: On the north side of buildings, under dark overhangs, etc.
Tip 2: Plant with plenty of space in quality potting soil
We advise you to use the best soil you can get, as well as relatively deep balcony boxes and containers. The investment is worth it. After all, when planting you lay the foundation for the whole summer.
Special geranium soil perfectly meets the needs of the plant and retains water so well that you need to water less often. Other loose, structurally stable substrate also forms a good basis for healthy growth.
Speaking of which, geraniums grow fast and vigorously.
To develop well they need space – about 20 centimetres from their neighbours is a good distance.
You can find detailed step-by-step planting instructions here.
Planting distances for geraniums:
• 60 cm balcony box: 3 plants, 14 to 20 litres of potting soil
• 80 cm balcony box: 4 plants, 18 to 27 litres of potting soil
• 100 cm balcony box: 4 to 5 plants, 25 to 32 litres of potting soil
• Pot up to 20 cm diameter: 1 plant, up to 4 litres of potting soil
• Pots over 20 cm diameter: 2 or more plants, more than 4 litres of potting soil
Tip 3: When watering, it is better to be a little drier
Geraniums need regular watering to bloom abundantly and without interruption. Use your fingers to find out if you need to water.
If the soil feels dry and warm, your plants need watering.
Why you can’t rely on your eyes: Unlike other balcony flowers, it’s hard to tell when geraniums are too dry. They store liquid in their fleshy leaves and thick stems. Therefore, occasional dryness therefore does not bother them. Nevertheless, they will grow and flower better if you water them as soon as it’s required.
Unsure whether you should reach for the watering can? Then keep the soil drier rather than too moist.
Tip: Here we explain in detail how you can manage watering when it’s hot, raining, or you‘re going on holiday, and how a water storage box can help. Just follow the corresponding links.
Water geraniums correctly:
• No need for water: soil is cool and moist
• Ideal time: soil feels warm and dry
• Highest priority: soil loosens from the edge of the pot
• It is best to water the soil between the plants in the morning or evening
• Calculate half a litre of water per plant
• Drain off excess water
Tip 4: Fertilise geraniums systematically
Let’s be clear: fertilising is indispensable for healthy, beautiful geraniums. They won’t die with just air and love, but they won’t grow and flower the way you want them to.
If you don’t want to worry about feeding the plants in summer, sprinkle slow-release fertiliser into the substrate when you plant them. Alternatively, mix liquid geranium fertiliser into the water every week.
Forgotten the slow-release fertiliser and don’t feel like using liquid fertiliser? You can always press fertiliser sticks into the soil. They release their nutrients for up to three months.
3 ways to fertilise geraniums
- Mix slow-release fertiliser into the soil when planting
- use liquid fertiliser weekly when watering
- Push fertiliser sticks into the soil once every quarter
Tip 5: Encourage new flowers by pruning them
When pruning, cut off all the flowers that are past their prime. By removing withered flowers, you encourage the plants to produce new flowers. To prune, grab the faded flower stalk at the leaf node and snap it off cleanly.
Upright geraniums benefit from pruning particularly well and with hanging geraniums, pruning semi-double and double varieties is more important than with single-flowered varieties. For those who don’t want to do this, there are “self-cleaning” varieties. Your gardener will be happy to advise you.
Checklist: Care for geraniums
• Sunny location
• Good potting soil
• Watering as needed
• Sufficient fertilizing
• Removal of faded flowers
Bonus: Overwintering - Why geraniums deserve a second chance
We talked about this at beginning of this article: geraniums do not tolerate frost. Therefore, most hobby gardeners treat them like annual summer flowers; everybody‘s darling for one season, and then they’re gone. But geraniums are actually perennials that can last for several years.
If you want to try overwintering, cut the plants back to about 15 centimetres before the first night frost and bring them into a cool, bright room.
In winter, you hardly need to water them because their metabolism is on the back burner.
In spring, repot them in fresh soil and put them in a warmer place. With a bit of luck they will sprout again. After the last frost, put the plants outside.
• Cut back before the first frost
• Move to a light, cool room (5 to 10 degrees Celsius)
• Do not water at all in winter
• Repot in March, water and put in a warmer place (room temperature)
• Move outdoors after the last frost
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