Deb Babcock: You can count on geraniums

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Deb Babcock

Deb Babcock's gardening column appears Thursdays in Steamboat Today.

Find more gardening columns here.

— One indoor plant Steam­boat Springs gardeners can count on is the geranium.

No matter how much abuse we heap on this plant, it seems to thrive and flower all year round. That’s partly because it’s so sunny here in Steamboat. Geraniums love sunlight.

They thrive also because it’s so dry here. This plant prefers dry soil and, in fact, will easily rot if over-watered. You should only water geraniums when the soil is quite dry.

Geraniums don’t need a lot of pampering in the form of frequent fertilizing. A teaspoon of slow-release fertilizer in the soil when you pot the geranium should be sufficient for several months, if not longer.

And frequent repotting is not needed, either, since geraniums seem happier when their roots are crowded. Only repot when the roots are so crowded that the plant needs frequent watering, such as every day or two.

Geraniums manage to survive a wide range of temperatures. Although a range of 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal, they tolerate the daytime heat of a south-facing window and often survive near-freezing temperatures if left outdoors accidentally on a cold summer night.

If indoor geraniums are not trimmed regularly, they can grow spindly and unruly. Often, they will need to be staked to avoid long, twisted stems snaking out in all directions. If frost liquifies the stems or animals — such as porcupines, chipmunks or deer — tear the plant apart, simply prune it to about an inch or so, and it’ll grow back bushy and beautiful. This is one tough plant to kill.

Propagating geraniums is very easy. Simply cut a 2- to 3-inch stem section and plant in vermiculite or potting soil, not water. Plant several cuttings in a pot for a full foliage display. But watch out — geraniums are so easy to propagate and grow so heartily, they can take over the house.

There are many varieties of geranium from which to choose. Fancy-leaf geraniums offer beautiful foliage as well as brightly colored flowers. Stellar geraniums are distinguished by their deeply toothed leaves and large flowers with wide, star-shaped petals. Scented geraniums are found in aromas that include chocolate mint, peppermint, ginger, lemon, pine, apple, orange and rose, among others. The tulip group of geraniums displays inward-curved petals, while ivy geraniums sport long, trailing stems.

Mix and match geraniums for a collection that can be arranged in a dazzling display of color, aroma and texture.

Deb Babcock is a Master Gardener through the CSU Cooperative Extension Routt. Questions? Call 879-0825.

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