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How to grow and care for colorful geraniums

Geraniums 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

Geranium: plant profile
Botanical name: Pelargonium
Common name: Geranium
Plant type: Perennial, conservatory
Flower colours: Pink, red, purple, bronze, white
Plant in: April-May
Flowers in: May-October
Prune in: October
Sun exposure: Full sun
Hardiness: Half hardy / tender
Soil type: Acidic / chalky / alkaline / well drained / light / sandy
Toxicity: Can be toxic to cats and dogs

Growing conditions vary slightly depending on the variety of geranium.

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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.

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.

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:

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:

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.