Craving Some Color?

Dannette Hunnel

After a long, dry summer, you might be craving some color. One good plant to achieve color is the geranium. In Phoenix suburbia we have access to many beautiful colors, including red, white, pink, and salmon.

It’s good to plant geraniums in October before cold weather returns. Plant in full sun, and they will bloom through April. Geraniums are the most robust and colorful during the spring, and again in late fall. Try planting two smaller geraniums in a pot instead of one large one to create a plush, bushy look.

Most potting soils are fine for geraniums. I mix one part Perlite to four parts potting soil to improve drainage. Watering lightly every two to three days is necessary during autumn. Decrease water December through February, but gradually increase in the spring and again July through November. Never waterlog the soil, as geraniums are very susceptible to root rot disorders. Also, being frost sensitive, geraniums need protection when weather drops below 35 degrees at night. Cover after sunset with burlap or old sheets and leave overnight. Remove covering so they benefit from sun the next day.

Geraniums are oddly classified as both annuals and perennials and are easy to propagate from cuttings most anytime of the year. If geraniums are already well established, our intense summer heat renders the plants flowerless and unattractive, but they will live through our summers, especially if placed in a shaded location with morning sun only. In September, cut those ugly, stick-looking stems from the older geraniums down to within a foot of the soil to stimulate growth, fullness, and flowering. Then in October, with watering and an occasional sprinkling of used coffee grounds, they’ll come back bold and bright as the weather cools.

Geraniums are more than just pretty. Their leaves can add flavor to soups, stews, sauces, and even ice cream. When dried petals are ready to drop, grab the large bloom at the bottom and pull upward with your hand and drop the petals into bath water. Often used in aromatherapy, the lemony-pepper scent is said to relieve anxiety and depression. Other geranium health benefits include hair growth, antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory.

Geranium symbolism is happiness, positivity, and friendship. Place the plants near the front entrance as a welcome symbol. October is the time to place bright, bold geraniums in the ground or your favorite pot, and enjoy living color for the next seven to eight months.