Gardens

The Care and Keeping of Geraniums

How to get the most out of the beloved patio plant

photo: Courtesy of Monrovia

A peach calliope geranium.

I’ve always loved geraniums—the shape and scent of their leaves, and all the electric colors—even in the moments when they’ve been out of vogue in the gardening world, considered played out and pedestrian. When you water them, they’re as pleasantly pungent as tomato leaves in high summer. And right now, they seem to be having a bit of a renaissance, as are other favorites-from-the-eighties patio plants. That’s probably because, like the eighties-inspired fashion that’s back and here-to-stay, geraniums are voluptuous, blousy, and showy in the best way possible. “Geraniums are a well-known staple in the garden to both seasoned gardeners and folks who are gardening for the very first time,” says Georgia Clay, the new plant manager at Monrovia. “They’re a fantastic comeback plant.”

Also, they’re low maintenance, especially in the temperate South. And contrary to the idea that they only belong on patios and in window boxes, they thrive when planted, too.

According to Clay, either way you choose to do it, planter or planted, you can also easily overwinter them indoors and bring them back out in the spring. “They’re great performers in both containers and in the ground,” she says. “If you prefer to plant them, you can dig them up about a month before your first frost date and transfer to an indoor container.”

The only thing that will suck the life out of a geranium is a lack of sun and too much moisture. They are naturally drought tolerant and love at least six hours of full sun so “remember to let the soil dry out between waterings,” Clay says.

Choosing which geraniums to try is really the hardest part, because there is such a rich diversity of options, from fragrant varieties like the citronella geranium, to ivy geraniums that trail beautifully, to varieties like the brocade geranium that features flashy multicolored leaves.

photo: Courtesy of Syngenta Flowers
photo: Courtesy of Syngenta Flowers
photo: Courtesy of Monrovia

At the moment, Clay is excited about the new Calliope geraniums from Syngenta Flowers for Monrovia. “They are loaded with beautiful, large, semi-double flowers, and are incredibly easy to care for because they do not require deadheading and have exceptional performance in high heat,” she says.

photo: Courtesy of Monrovia
photo: Courtesy of Monrovia