Deb Babcock's gardening column appears Mondays in Steamboat Today.
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One of my favorite indoor plants during our long winters in Steamboat Springs is the geranium. It flowers all winter long and doesn’t punish me for neglect. Actually, it is one plant that seems to thrive on neglect. All it requires is a little pruning of leggy limbs and deadheading the spent blooms and yellow leaves.
While my favorite is the traditional bright red flower, geraniums also come in shades of white, orange, pink, purple and bi-colors. Some offer scents of lemon, mint, apple, citrus, wood and rose. And some are designed as bedding plants for outdoors, as houseplants and as trailing vines for window boxes and hanging baskets.
Common geraniums (Pelargonium) grow best when placed in a room with lots of light and temperatures of about 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 55 degrees at night. They particularly thrive in south- and west-facing windows.
They prefer to live in soil that completely dries out between watering. If you water too often, the plant will have a straggly, unattractive growth pattern. When you water, soak the soil until water comes out of the drainage hole. Pour off the excess water and then do not water again until the soil is very dry. I use a water meter to tell when the plant has used up most of the water in the soil.
Also, when watering, try to avoid splashing the leaves and flowers with water as wet foliage can lead to disease problems. This plant loves our dry climate.
To propagate your geraniums, simply cut a 4-inch stem from the main plant. Remove bottom leaves and place in a peat moss and perlite or sand mixture, or you can leave in a glass of water until roots form and then plant the stem in a container with good potting soil.
Fertilize according to the directions on your plant food package. Generally, this means fertilizing monthly in spring and summer and every other month during autumn and winter.
Be sure to give your geraniums plenty of space. A good air flow around the plants helps keep disease away and the plants healthy with room to grow and flower.
Add color, aroma and interest indoors this winter with geraniums on your window sills, counter tops and other surfaces.
Deb Babcock is a master gardener through the Routt County Extension Office. Call 970-879-0825 with questions.