Let's Talk Pelargoniums

Grandpa Ott's Morning Glory with an ivy geranium.
One easy way to save money this spring is by growing annual geraniums (Pelargoniums) from seed. Geraniums are another plant that you can start now from seed, like pansies.

I've grown geraniums for at least 10 years due to sentimental attachment. My grandfather used to grow them in pots around his garden in Queens, New York. He would bring them indoors to overwinter. His geraniums had bright lipstick red flowers. He would take cuttings of them (a popular way to propagate geraniums), root them and get more plants. They were very long-lived.

Before I owned a house with my husband, we rented an apartment in the adjacent town. This building was a converted middle school, so the apartment windows were large (almost seven feet high!). I would buy geraniums from Country Flower Farms (a nearby plant nursery) and then let them go wild in the windows, which faced west. They grew at least five feet tall, with all their support on the windows. It was a geranium jungle! When it came time to move, I had to cut them back. It felt awful to trim back these large, voluptuous (albeit, a little leggy) plants to normal size geraniums. But, you do what you have to do to transport your plants. (I also learned that geraniums let off a "stink" when you trim them. I still joke with my husband that this is the geraniums way of telling the other plants it is under attack.)

Maverick Coral geranium seedlings (photo taken
Feb. 25). They were sown on Feb. 2 and
sprouted under lights on Feb. 9.
Geraniums in the Garden
This past fall, I dug up my geraniums that I grew from seed last year, potted them and brought them inside. (These plants are hardy! They survived even with voles eating their roots.) They are clustered around my growlights as we all wait out the winter together.

I've found it difficult to find geranium seeds at local plant nurseries, so I was really happy to discover that Swallowtail Garden Seeds offered a whole section on their website to choose from. (This year I decided to try growing Pinto Premium White to Rose and Maverick Coral geraniums).

Why else are geraniums fabulous? They make great companion plants for vegetables like tomatoes and grapes. They repel Japanese beetles*, so it would be a good idea to plant them near roses, too. Deer and rabbits do not seem to be interested in nibbling on them either.

Geraniums are also tolerant of neglect, so if you forget to water them for a few days, they won't wilt like more delicate annuals (impatiens, anyone?). They will wait patiently until you see their soil is dry and they need a drink. With geraniums being so easy to grow, what are you waiting for?

* It turns out Japanese beetles become paralyzed after eating the flower petals of the zonal geraniums. 

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