Geranium Houseplants: Learn How To Grow Geraniums Indoors
By: Raffaele Di Lallo, Author and founder of Ohio Tropics houseplant care blog
Although geraniums are common outdoor plants, it is verypossible to keep the common geranium as a houseplant. There are a few thingsthat you need to keep in mind in terms of growing geraniums inside, however.
About Geranium Houseplants
Before we take a look at indoor geranium care, it’s worthmentioning that there are many different varieties of geraniums.
The most common variety that is seen everywhere is the zonalgeranium. These flower in a variety of colors including white, red, pink,salmon, lavender, and others.
Another variety of geranium are the ivyleaf geraniums. These have waxier leaves and are trailing in habit and alsoflower in a variety of colors.
The Martha Washington geranium is another type of floweringgeranium but these are not as heat tolerant as the rest.
Finally, there are various scentedgeraniums that are grown mainly for the lovely fragrance their leavesproduce. They come in scents such as rose, cinnamon, lemon and many others.
How To Grow Geraniums Indoors
Indoor geranium care is easy if you can give your plant thefollowing care:
- Light – In order to produce sturdy plants indoors and flowering, it is important to place your geranium houseplants where they will receive at least 6-8 hours of direct sun. If you don’t happen to have appropriately sunny windows, you can supplement with artificial grow lights for about 14 hours a day in order to keep the plants in good condition.
- Soil and Watering – Use a soilless potting mix for your geraniums. Geraniums like a light, loamy potting mix that is well drained. Allow your geranium’s soil to dry out pretty well in between thorough waterings. If you keep the soil too wet, these plants are very prone to diseases such as gray mold, blossom blight and rust.
- Temperature – Geraniums tend to prefer cooler temperatures. Ideal temperatures are 65-70 F. (18-21 C.) during the day, and around 55 F. (13 C.) in the evening.
- Fertilizer – For good growth and flowering, you should fertilize your indoor geraniums during the growing season. Time-release fertilizers can be used or an all-purpose liquid fertilizer at about half strength about once a month.
- Pot Size and Pruning – Geraniums like to be somewhat potbound, so make sure not to overpot these plants. Also, to encourage a bushy plant, prune back any leggy canes and pinch back the growing tips in order to encourage a bushier plant.
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Read more about Geraniums
How to Grow Geraniums in Containers
No garden is complete without colorful geraniums, and they’re so easy to grow that practically any gardener can successfully tend. Native to South Africa, geraniums can be grown right in the garden in USDA zones 8 through 11 where winters are mild, but they bloom even better when they are slightly root-bound (tightly packed, such as in a container), as long as they have good drainage. When grown in pots, geraniums can also be relocated at a moment’s notice, whether to show them off near an entry, to bring them indoors during surprise freezes, or to move them to a shadier spot during the hottest days of summer.
Growing Pelargonium Crispum
According to the Royal Horticultural Society, Pelargonium crispum plants can be grown from seed or from softwood cuttings their tip cuttings are well-known for rooting easily. The best time to plant or transplant the seeds is when the last frost of the year has passed. If you are moving plants started in containers or already-established plants to the outdoors, it is usually a good idea to harden them off so they can acclimatize to their new home. While growing the plants indoors, try to keep the plants between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
The University of Illinois Extension notes that Pelargonium crispum prefers full sun locations, and in colder areas, they should be planted in containers so they can be moved inside during the winter, though when they are established, they can be dug up and moved indoors from the garden. If the plants are excessively large, consider cutting off weak or overly long limbs to make the move easier and to help the plant make the change from outdoors to indoors.
There are hundreds of species of geranium because hybrid species are accepted by the general term of geraniums in most nurseries and garden centers.
However, of the possible thousands of species, each can be narrowed into just five distinct groups.
Zonal geraniums get their name from the different bands of color that appears on each flower. On other types of geraniums, the colors are usually solid with varying shades such as light pink to deep red.
With zonal geraniums, each flower can have alternating colors on the flowers such as green, white, yellow, orange and red.
It’s the wider variety of colors on the flowers that make these popular as border plants and also why these are mostly referred to as the garden geranium.
Due to the popularity of these, you’ll see Zonals on display in garden centers, despite them being pelargoniums.
The regal geranium is also known as a King Pelargonium, Pelargonium Grandiflorum, and the English Pelargonium. It produces vibrant flowers every year, provided it is overwintered indoors with temperatures above 55 0 F.
These bloom throughout the summer lasting to early fall producing large trumpet shaped leaves with six petals surrounded by lush green serrated edge foliage.
They are ideal for indoors and for planting outdoors in Spring and Summer as border plants, for using as a potted plant on your patio or in raised flower beds.
Some regal specimens are scented making them great for brightening up gardens and homes while also scenting the air.
Ivy geraniums are your go-to spreading flower that are absolute perfection for hanging baskets. These grow fast and are extremely easy to propagate.
Blooming throughout the summer, it’s possible for these to cascade up to 6 feet making them ideal to use in hanging baskets or as a spreading flower to fill up garden space with a range of bright colors.
Scented Geraniums have some surprising uses because they’re also herbs. Being edible, they can be added into recipes and drinks. Some of the most used in recipes are citrus, fruit, rose, spiced and nut varieties of scented geranium plants.
An additional perk with the citrus variety is that you can use them as a mosquito repellent (see some of my other options).
However, if that’s your reason for growing them, you need to know how to use the plants for that purpose because there’s no plant you can put in your garden that’ll completely keep insects away.
About the Mosquito Plant
Despite garden centers and nurseries selling lemon scented plants described as either a mosquito plant, mosquito-repelling plant, or just by the general term ‘Citrosa,’ they are only effective when the leaves are disturbed as that’s where the oils are that repel the insects.
To use the oils from a lemon geranium as an insect repellent, the leaves can be rubbed on your skin directly (provided you aren’t allergic) or boiled in a pan to release the aroma or burned.
It’s the oils from these citrus plants that are used to make citronella candles you can buy in jars to burn outdoors. You can put them in a bamboo torch near where you’re sitting outdoors to enjoy the space free from flying pests.
Scented geraniums aren’t as widely available in garden centers as other varieties because nurseries tend to grow for commercial purposes, selling wholesale to aromatic oil manufacturers who extract the oils then sell those bottles to candle makers, scented soap companies and perfume manufacturers.
Additionally, some varieties of scented geraniums such as the rose geranium have high anti-inflammatory properties making them a big deal in the pharmaceutical industry.
Hardy geraniums are the common name for a Cranesbill Geranium, which are the real deal. These are surprisingly easy to grow and can give a vast amount of ground coverage as they can spread to around 4 feet in width.
Heights can be as high as 8-feet if they aren’t cut back making them useful as a second-tier plant in a flower bed or border plant arrangements supporting any other variety of pelargoniums that have shorter stems.
How to Grow Scented Geranium Indoors
Scented geraniums (Pelargonium spp.) release a burst of fragrance when you brush against their leaves or rub them gently between your fingers. Their growing requirements are easy to meet because they enjoy the same comfortable temperatures as humans and don't balk at the dry air found inside most homes. Beginners might want to try nutmeg scented geraniums (P. fragrans), which is a forgiving plant, but you'll soon find that just one scented geranium isn't enough. The citrus-scented geraniums are dainty plants that can sit on a sunny windowsill. If you want a larger plant, consider apple (P. odoratissimum) or rose (P. graveolens) scented species.
Place the plant in the light of a sunny, south-facing window. Scented geraniums grow best when they receive at least five hours of sunlight daily.
Maintain temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Allow the soil to dry to within one-half inch of the surface, and then water the pot thoroughly. Empty the saucer under the pot after about 30 minutes so that the roots aren't left sitting in water. Let the soil dry to a depth of 2 inches between waterings in winter.
Feed scented geraniums by watering the pot with liquid houseplant fertilizer every two weeks in spring, summer and fall. Do not fertilize the plant in winter.
Pinch out the tips of vigorous stems in spring and summer to keep the plant neat and bushy. Trim the long stems on vigorous varieties just above a leaf node if necessary to control the size of the plant.
Repot scented geraniums annually in spring to renew the potting soil and give the roots room to grow. Use general purpose potting soil and a pot no more than 1 inch larger in diameter than the current pot. If you would like to maintain the plant at its current size, put it into the same pot or another pot of the same size.
- The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual Barbara Pleasant
- Indoor Plants Jane Courtier, et al.
- House Plants A to Z Sunset Magazine Editors
- Some gardeners give scented geraniums a rest period in winter to encourage vigorous growth, and better flowering in spring and summer. The plant doesn't die back when it is dormant, but it stops growing and flowering. To induce dormancy, move the plant out of direct sunlight and reduce temperatures to 45 F.
Jackie Carroll has been a freelance writer since 1995. Her home-and-garden and nature articles have appeared in "Birds & Blooms" and "Alamance Today." She holds a Bachelor of Science in medical technology from the University of North Carolina.