It’s no wonder that every year millions of people go to nurseries and garden centres in search of their own personal summer happiness. Plants significantly increase the feel-good factor of balconies and terraces, but it can be exhausting to make outdoor areas pretty for summer. And it can take weeks for your little oasis to blossom fully. Now, in spring, it’s all about laying a good foundation for a flower-filled summer season as effortlessly as possible. With geraniums and tips from the experts at Pelargonium for Europe (PfE), you can save a lot of time and enjoy the summer more quickly.
Geraniums are Europe’s number one low-maintenance summer favourite. They grow quickly, flower non-stop and are very robust at the same time. From the first moment, this versatile South African native creates an irresistible summer vibe, thanks to its countless shades and flower shapes.
Geraniums are made for sunny balconies. If you plant them, you can create a flower-filled retreat in no time. If you think a few months further ahead, geraniums provide the best conditions for a relaxed, sun lounger summer. With their fleshy stems and leaves, they can even withstand high temperatures or temporary drought.
Step 1: Tidy up the balcony
Anything cluttering up the balcony needs a good clear-out on a sunny day at the beginning of April.
The motto is: repair immediately, give away or throw away. Remove old compost from containers and boxes and take it to the compost heap. Clean containers with water and a scrubbing brush, wash the garden furniture and scrub the floor.
Step 2: Test out your dream and write a shopping list
We recommend setting out your existing planters on a trial basis. That way you can see in advance where there are still gaps in your dream summer balcony and, at the same time, you’ll have a good basis for a shopping list. This list should specify exactly how many planters you need to buy and what size.
The number and size of the containers will determine the amount of geranium compost you need. Make a note of this too. Your shopping list should also include slow-release fertiliser (which will save you time later on), drainage material and a watering can (in case the old one has not survived the winter). You can even decide on the number of plants. How many trailing geraniums do you need, how many upright ones? Which colours should predominate? All this should be on the shopping list!
Rules of thumb for plant requirements:
In a 40cm-long box there is room for two geraniums; at 60cm there’s space for three; at 1m, four. A single geranium can be placed in a pot up to 20cm in diameter. Once your plan is in place, you can store the existing pots and boxes in one place to save space.
Step 3: Stay focused in the garden centre
Bulky and heavy items, such as geranium compost, fertiliser and other accessories, can be bought some time before the actual planting event. Thanks to your shopping list, this is no problem.
The advantage: on the day you buy the plants, your hands, head and shopping trolley are free for the most beautiful geraniums. The best gardener-quality geraniums are characterised by a bushy structure and strong stems. They have plenty of buds and their root ball is well-rooted. Don’t buy the plants too early, however tempting the prospect of summer flowers in mid-April may be. If you buy too early, you’ ll have to do a lot of care at home. Only after the last night frosts can geraniums be left permanently outdoors without protection.
Step 4: Plant in groups
One fine day in May, it’s all about planting the containers efficiently. If you think in processes instead of individual plants, you’ll save a lot of time. Mass production is the magic word.
Start by setting up a planting table. Then get a whole group of pots or boxes and put the drainage layer into each individual container. Then put away the drainage material and get the geranium compost. Fill the containers one after the other three-quarters full with fresh compost and press it down lightly. Put away any leftover compost, take the slow-release fertiliser, sprinkle it on the soil and work it into the surface. Meanwhile, the root balls of the geraniums can be soaked in water in a container. Now place the plants in the containers, then plant up each container one by one. The root ball should be flush with the surface of the soil.
If necessary, add more compost and press the plants down lightly. Move the containers to their final location and water them.
What else helps save time?
A clever choice of containers is probably the most underestimated time-saving aspect. Planters with a water reservoir reduce the time spent on watering enormously. A lighter coloured container also has a positive effect. Less water evaporates from them than from dark ones. We also recommend that you avoid using containers that are too small. Soil volume always means water storage capacity. A pot with a diameter of 20-25cm is ideal for a single geranium, boxes should be 17cm or wider.
Savvy time-savers know that with single-flowering varieties they will have virtually no work removing faded flowers even in a rainy summer.
And one last tip: when buying, look for the best possible quality. Vigorous geraniums are further along in their development than weaker specimens and will take off immediately on the balcony and terrace.