Tag Archive | geranium

Happy Indoor Bloomers

What triggers bloom in houseplants? Plants bloom if they get good care — the right light, temperature, water, food, and growing medium — but the details depend on the particular species. If you can get one African violet to bloom, you’ll be successful with any of them. But if you treat your kalanchoe the same way, it will probably never flower.

The goal is to provide an environment that’s as close as possible to conditions in the plant’s native home. Some plants, for instance, have learned to face adversity — periods of cold or dry — by going dormant for a while. For many, going through this dormant period is required to trigger blooming. In the wild, plants recognize when to go dormant by being sensitive to shorter days, lower temperatures, or reduced rainfall.

In a house, dormancy is induced naturally by shorter days, or by your withholding water or putting the plant in a cooler spot. Growth slows, and the plant needs less fertilizer and water. When days lengthen and become warmer, or you resume more generous watering, you complete the cycle and flowering begins.

Other plants come from environments where light, temperature, and rainfall are about the same all year. Those plants can grow and flower anytime, so they rarely need a dormant period to induce flowering. Since they are always growing, the amount of light, fertilizer, and water you give them throughout the year remain constant. The amounts depend on the species.

PelargonZonal Geranium (Pelargonium x hortorum)

Most geraniums are easy keepers, but the zonal ones are the best survivors. They have round leaves, usually with concentric stripes of colors around the edges. And if they are given a combination of cool temperatures and strong sunlight, they will repeatedly produce large flower clusters. The most important tool for nurturing them is a pair of shears; geraniums tend to become gangly even when conditions are perfect, and they can get extremely gangly if light is scarce. Frequent cutting back will keep them bushy and healthy.

African Violet (Saintpaulia)

800px-SaintpauliaMy Mom’s favorite, today’s African violets are the most popular of all flowering houseplants. They trace their heritage to several species collected in East Africa in the late 19th century, but their appearance today derives from years of intensive hybridization among only a few of the species. The original blue and purple African violets are still happily blooming, but most have yielded the spotlight to new color tones. Modern violets also appear in white (the touchiest sort to grow), all shades of pink, burgundy, and even crimson. Generally, African violets need abundant filtered light. In summer, however, move plants away from any direct sun to where they will receive less intense, indirect light only. Violets like the same comfort level you do: average room temperatures or a little warmer in the day and a few degrees cooler at night. Keep the humidity high around your plants by placing them on a humidity tray, but never allow them to sit in water or the plant will die from fungal rot. Whenever the top half-inch of soil feels dry to the touch, add enough water to make it evenly moist. There are many, many websites dedicated to the care and nurturing of African violets.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)

Hasn’t everyone tried to grow a big, beautiful, flowering Peace Lily received as a gift? 3108042900_f3b4cb17cc_zThe Peace Lily tops the list of plants that provides beautiful foliage and flowers AND is easy to grow. The plant thrives indoors and blooms reliably with minimal attention. White flowers with a stiff yellow center (similar to those of a calla lily) appear nearly continuously amid the large, dark green, oval leaves. The plant needs low to medium light (never direct sun) and average indoor conditions. Its tropical foliage looks best, however, if you raise the humidity around it by setting it on a humidity tray. Moisten the soil evenly when the top inch feels dry to the touch; reduce watering when room temperatures fall below 70ºF, and never expose a plant to conditions below 55ºF.

Why should you let Mother Nature dictate when you can enjoy gardening? There are hundreds of lovely houseplants that need care and love, and are currently sitting at your local nursery or garden center waiting for you!

Advertisements

A Geranium by any other name…

 

by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman

3a1692ce06cbe5d1ce3a4c0cc3800075

Geranium ‘Brookside Blue’

When you hear ‘geranium’, I’m guessing you picture the beautiful annuals that are so beloved by northern gardeners. While I, too, love those gorgeous full heads of color all summer long, there is another geranium that I love as much: the ‘hardy geranium’.

Hardy geraniums are distant cousins of the tender plants known as geraniums. The irony is that the hardy plants have technical rights to the name (they belong to the genus Geranium), but it is the tender ones that most people think of when they hear “geranium”.

Technically, the familiar houseplants are not geraniums. They belong to the genus Pelargonium. But the confusion is natural. Both the hardy and tender versions belong to the Geraniaceae family, and they both used to be in the genus Geranium. Then the tender ones got split off into Pelargonium, but people kept right on calling them geraniums.

Pelargoniums were brought to Europe from South Africa early in the seventeenth century. They found immediate favor, but it was their scented leaves and not their flowers that caused the sensation. By the time they came to the U.S., more than a century later, Pelargoniums’ large clusters of bright red, orange, or hot pink flowers had taken center stage, a position they still hold; scented-leaved geranium fans are passionate, but a minority.

IMG_3033

My Cranesbill: ‘Bikova’ clustered at the base of a tree peony

Meanwhile, back in the temperate British and American countrysides, numerous species of native Geranium, known to the populace as cranesbills, were finding their way into gardens. The cranesbills do double-duty, offering beautiful, long-lasting leaves as well as loose umbels of flowers in a wide range of pinks, blues, and purples.

You can usually tell these plants apart by general appearance: the leaves of Pelargonium are thicker than those of true Geranium, their flower stems are stiffer, and though individual flowers are smaller, they tend to be clustered more densely. And if you look closely at the individual flowers, you can usually see a tiny spur on the pelargonium flower stalk (geranium flowers don’t have them).

hardygeraniums.biokovo

Cranesbill ‘Bikova’ in bloom

Color helps too: although both kinds might be white, plants in the genus Geranium come in purples, blues, and blue-tinged reds and pinks; those in Pelargonium may be true red, orange-red, pink, or orange, but they do not sing the blues.

Note: Wild geranium, also known as cranesbill,  (Geranium maculatum) is a hardy perennial excellent for naturalizing, or filling in, under bushes or wherever there is dappled shade or part sun. The American native wildflower, with it’s flat, delicate-looking pink-lavender flowers and deeply notched foliage, is very easy to grow, ultimately reaching between 12 and 18 inches.

Overwintering Geraniums

8387268_origSometimes you have a perfect summer with conditions that have contributed to the most beautiful container of geraniums you’ve ever had. What to do in the fall — let them die off and try again next year, or attempt to keep them over the winter? If you’re tempted to keep them, you have some options.

The perfect solution would be a cool, damp basement (can you say cellar?), where you could just hang them upside down. Shake the excess dirt from the roots, but leave all that clings. Loosely tie a string around the neck area, where the stem meets he roots, and use this to hang them from a rafter or beam. They should get good air circulation; be sure they don’t touch each other or anything else.

A dry basement — as long as it is cool (35º to 45ºF) — is a distant second choice. In that case, you will need to pot them up and they will need a place that’s light. They should be watered thoroughly about once a month, but let them go dry in between — they’re hardly growing.

No matter which way you store them, remove buds and flowers, where the disease botrytis hides, and any leaves that turn yellow. Cut the plants back to 6 inches after planting them outside next year.

Even thought your geraniums appear healthy, they could have picked up at least one of the many diseases that affect geraniums during the summer. When they are ready to go back outside, the geraniums will be stressed from their winter treatment, but any disease organisms will be just fine so the plants may not be as healthy as you expect. Keep a little extra in the gardening budget for replacements.