Geraniums (also known as pelargoniums) are popular bedding plants, providing a burst of colour or fragrance throughout summer. They’re easy to grow and thrive in terracotta pots as well as traditional bedding displays. They work well planted or their own or combined with other plants such as lavender and nemesia. Some types of geranium are perfect for growing in hanging baskets.
As well as offering beautiful blooms, some geraniums, known as scented-leaf geraniums, have fragrant leaves. Choose from apple, orange, lemon, spice or lavender. They’re often sold as herbs as the leaves are edible.
Jump to Best geraniums to grow
What’s the difference between geraniums and pelargoniums?
All plants have a species or Latin name, as well as a common name. ‘Geranium’ is the common name for the species Pelargonium. Confusingly, ‘Geranium‘ is also the botanical name of hardy geraniums, also known as cranesbills or ‘true geraniums’. Despite sharing a common name, geraniums (pelargoniums) and cranesbills (geraniums) are different species, and have different growing requirements.
Looking for hardy geraniums? See our hardy geraniums Grow Guide.
How to grow geraniums
Grow geraniums in moist but well-drained soil in full sun. Cut back in late summer and take cuttings to insure against winter losses. Most geraniums need protection in winter – move pots indoors in autumn to ensure they grow back the following year.
More on growing geraniums:
- Pelargonium types explained
- Pelargonium, euphorbia and salvia pot display
- Nemesia, diascia and pelargonium hanging basket
Where to plant geraniums
Geraniums can be grown in garden soil of any types but will benefit from a neutral or alkaline soil. Grow in a position of full sun in containers, hanging baskets or flower beds.
If growing under glass, protect them from direct sun in high summer.
How to plant geraniums
When growing geraniums in containers choose a peat-free multi-purpose compost with added slow-release fertiliser. Geraniums look spectacular when planted with other summer bedding plants. If planted in a good compost and kept well-watered they’ll withstand being planted tightly with other tender plants.
Here, Monty Don demonstrates how to plant pelargoniums and lavender in pots, for a beautiful display:
How to care for geraniums
Water geraniums well in summer and deadhead to encourage a second flush of flowers.
Geraniums are often grown as annuals and are composted at the end of summer. If you have room in a frost-free place, it’s worth trying to keep them over winter.
To overwinter geraniums, lift plants that are in garden soil or large pots and pot them into a smaller pot. This should be done before the first frost. Remove any damaged leaves and faded flowers. Cut plants back by about a third and position in a frost-free but bright place. The plants won’t go into complete dormancy so water lightly through the winter. In spring, apply a general liquid feed and increase watering. Plant out only once all danger of frost has passed, usually from late May.
If growing geraniums as house plants, you can let the plant carry on flowering into autumn, even winter. Keep indoor geraniums away from radiators or open fires.
Here, Monty Don explains how to reinvigorate overwintering geraniums by cutting them back hard before they start into growth:
How to propagate geraniums
Take cuttings from the new growth of overwintered plants in spring. Cuttings can be taken in late summer if preferred.
To remove cutting material, cut above the third joint below the growing tip. Pinch out any flowering buds that are forming. With a clean knife remove all but the top two leaves. Recut the base of the cutting just below lowest joint.
Fill a plastic garden pot with cutting compost and firm the compost down. Water and insert the cuttings into the compost by about 1cm. Position pots in a warm but not hot place that is light. Don’t forget to label the pot if you’ve taken cuttings from lots of different varieties.
Watch Rosie Yeomans demonstrate how to propagate pelargoniums in our No Fuss Guide:
Growing geraniums: problem solving
Zonal geraniums are susceptible to pelargonium rust. This is a fungal disease that is often worse in wet summers or when plants have been grown in a poorly ventilated space. Rust is easily spotted as the underside of leaves displays brown spots. Destroy plants that are covered in the brown spots.
Find out if you should water over-wintering geraniums, in our Quick Tips video:
Best geraniums to grow
Geranium ‘Voodoo’ has stunning wine-red flowers with purple markings. It is a ‘unique’ type – a shrubby geranium that produces masses of small flowers and foliage that is scented when crushed. It flowers for a long time.
‘Vancouver Centennial’ is a zonal geranium that has chocolate-brown leaves with lime green edges and bright red flowers. It’s a Stellar geranium, from a range bred in the 1970s in Australia.
Geranium ‘Lord Bute’ is one of the finest regal pelargoniums, with dark purple, velvety petals with pale edges and fresh, green foliage. Regal geraniums need more watering than other varieties and a warmer minimum temperature in winter.
Geranium ‘Bitter Lemon’ has dark green leaves that have – as its name suggests – a strong, lemony scent. Rub the foliage to release the fragrance. The flowers are a delicate pale pink.
Geranium ‘Attar of Roses’ is highly prized for its strongly rose-scented foliage – the scent is released when the leaves are rubbed or brushed past. It also has pretty, pale pink flowers.
Geranium ‘Splendide’ is a species pelargonium, with unusual bi-coloured flowers in loose clusters and velvety grey-green foliage.