How to Plant and Grow Hardy Perennial Geraniums
I love any plant that returns year after year. The perennial geranium will do just that and grow even larger and with more blooms than the year before. Unlike what we usually think of when we hear the name geranium, these plants are true perennials that return every year. If you keep the blooms deadheaded, you'll get a return of blooms later.
These plants are also known as cranesbill geraniums. The reason they are called that is because the seed heads look like a crane's bill. There are many varieties available.
When purchasing a plant, check for the hardiness zone on the label. Most are hardy in USDA zones 4–8. A few are hardy to zone 3.
When Will It Bloom?
A few will bloom only in the spring. Others start blooming in June and July and keep blooming for several months. Keeping them deadheaded can keep some of the newer varieties blooming all season. They are good ones to choose.
Which Variety Should You Choose?
This plant is offered in a variety of choices and colors. As many as 300 are available. Decide where you would like to place it in the garden, and this will guide your decision. Some like a sunnier spot, and others are fine in the shade.
Plant of the Year 2008
Blue with a White Center
Award of Garden Merit
Blue with a Darker Center
Where to Plant
I consider it a bonus that perennial geraniums will grow in both part sun and shade. My first plant was grown in a sunny spot, and it grew like crazy. The next one I grew in the shade, and it did well also.
These plants will grow well in all soil types. Plant in a spot that has at least average moisture or you will need to keep it watered.
You may want to use it as a ground cover or in a border. Most varieties are low-growing plants and will fill in a large space, if you'd like, or you can keep it cut down to a smaller size.
When choosing a spot, keep in mind that it is a shorter plant and would do best if placed in front of larger plants. They are beautiful in a spot of their own, also.
This is a low-maintenance plant and will require little care. Follow these easy steps and you should have a beautiful plant.
- Water the plant when needed when the soil gets dry. Water frequently if the plant is in full sun. Don't water overhead, because it will make the plant more prone to disease.
- Keep a check on any insects or disease that may attack the plant. Look for eggs on the bottom of leaves.
- Divide plants at least every 5 years.
Diseases and Pests
I've grown these plants for years and never had a problem with insects or diseases. You should find it an easy-to-grow plant. If you do have any of these problems, follow the advice below.
1. The Four-Lined Plant Bug can be a problem in some areas of the country. The insect has two stages of life: one as a nymph and the other as an adult insect. If you have this problem, you'll find red and black spots on your plant in the fall. The nymphs hatch in the spring and may travel from other plants. They like to suck the plants, and the attacked leaves will look shriveled or will be brown and dying. The adult has a yellow or green body with four black lines. This makes it easy to identify.
To get rid of the infestation, there are different solutions. The safest is just to spray water on the plants and kill the bugs as they fall to the ground. You can use insecticides if necessary. Several are available.
2. Downy Mildew—This is a disease that can be found on many varieties of plants and is usually caused by the same problems. It is a mold.
First of all, be sure the plant is in an area where it is getting good air circulation. I've found that spraying watered-down antibacterial mouthwash can kill the mildew. Otherwise, you will need a spray for plant fungus.
3. Bacterial Leaf Spot—This plant disease is caused when it is damp and cool, and it spreads quickly. It can cause leaves to drop, and it's important to treat the plant as soon as possible.
Remove the leaves that show disease. This will help prevent the disease from spreading to other leaves. You'll need to use copper fungicide to rid the plants of the disease.
4. Brown Leaves—The problem may only be caused by the soil needing some water. If the summer is hotter than usual, the plants may need some shade. I've never had this problem, but I am in Michigan. Just try covering the plants with newspaper or cloth in the hot afternoons. Consider moving the plants to a shadier spot.
5. Holes in the Leaves—If you are having problems with tiny holes in the leaves, it is most likely caused by caterpillars. You'll need to get rid of the moths causing the caterpillars or use an insecticide to kill them.
How to Garden with Hardy Geraniums
How to Propagate
The geraniums can be divided easily, especially since they spread so quickly. Make sure that you leave a nice rooting of the plant in the ground and have some root on your new start.
Some varieties can be started from seed. I always find a few extra plants that have seeded themselves. Hybrids won't be true to form, but you may get an interesting plant this way. Don't depend on it being true to color. Other varieties are sterile, and you won't be able to use seeds.