Geraniums are among the absolute stars of summer flowers. In boxes, pots, containers and hanging baskets, these easy-care beauties transform gardens, balconies and terraces into flowering havens of wellbeing all summer long with their impressive profusion of flowers and bright colours. But geraniums don’t just look good in planters; as bedding plants, upright varieties especially are also ideal for colourful carpets of flowers in gardens, parks and other green spaces. The experts at Pelargonium for Europe tell us what to bear in mind when using geraniums as bedding plants.
Whether you plant geraniums in a balcony box, a container, a hanging basket or in a bed, the requirements for this beautiful South African native to thrive are the same:
Light, warmth, nutrients and space. Choose a sunny spot for your geranium bed. The more light the plants get, the more lush the flowers will be. If you don’t have a sunny spot, the plants will still be happy in partial shade. The right time for planting is when no more night frosts are expected and daytime temperatures settle into the double-digit range. In our latitudes, this is usually in mid-May at the latest, after the feasts of the Ice Saints. When planting, use high-quality, pre-fertilised potting compost and keep a distance of at least between plants. As geraniums grow quickly and bushily and can reach impressive sizes outdoors, the gap can be as much as 30-40cm.
Choose suitable varieties
Geraniums that grow upright are ideal as bedding plants. In addition to upright geraniums, the so-called zonals and other types such as foliage geraniums and scented geraniums are also suitable. Of all the geraniums, the zonals have the greatest variety. Their colour spectrum ranges from white to pink, lilac and violet to salmon, orange and yellow. In addition, there are a large number of different shades of red, from vibrant bright red to black-red burgundy, as well as numerous bicoloured or patterned varieties with beautiful colour gradients, stripes or spots.
The flowers can be single, semi-double or double, large, medium or small. The appearance of the individual petals also varies greatly, from long and narrow to broad and round to jagged or heart-shaped. In general, geraniums with single, smaller flowers survive poor summer weather better than those with large, double flowers, making them a better choice for unprotected bedding.
Due to the abundance of different flower colours and shapes, even pure geranium beds can appear very varied. Combining them with foliage geraniums provides additional structure, while scented geraniums with their delicious aromas add an extra sensory experience to the visual pleasure. Of course, geraniums can also be wonderfully combined with other flowering and green plants as well as herbs, as long as they have similar location and care requirements.
Basically, geraniums that grow in beds have the same needs as their counterparts in hanging baskets, containers and balcony boxes. However, due to the larger soil volume and the associated higher water storage capacity, they don’t usually need to be watered quite as often. As heavy feeders, geraniums also need sufficient nutrients in the bed, but a good garden soil with a little compost is usually sufficient.
If the soil is not very rich in nutrients, it’s wise to mix a good slow-release fertiliser into the soil when planting so the plants are nourished throughout the summer. Occasional pruning also encourages bedding geraniums to flower even more profusely. If you want to overwinter your geraniums after the end of the season, you can plant them in a large, untreated terracotta pot with a drainage hole and sink them into the soil together with the pot. Then the plant can be dug up again in autumn, together with the pot, without the risk of damaging the roots.