Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
November, 2008
Regional Report

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My ivy geranium is loaded with blossoms in the sunny south exposure with cool nights.

Growing Geraniums Year-Round

Now that killing frosts have brought the outdoor gardening season to an end, it's fun to reward yourself by growing some annuals indoors. Luckily, I was able to save a few of my favorite geraniums, and just a few weeks after placing them in a sunny, south-facing room, the ivy geranium is beginning to put on another colorful show.

Here are some simple techniques to growing and coaxing geraniums to bloom indoors. Whether it's the common geranium (Pelargonium x hortorum) or ivy-leafed geranium (P. peltatum), be sure to have them potted in a well-drained growing medium. I like to use potting mixtures that have a good supply of organic matter such as screened compost and sphagnum peat moss. If you make your own you can combine equal parts of garden loam, peat moss, and coarse sand or perlite.

Once indoors geraniums will have different watering needs than when they were growing in the outdoor garden. It is important to check them daily to make sure they are receiving enough moisture. Indoor temperatures can vary greatly, and forced-air heating dries the air which in turn dries out the plants. My best luck has been to water thoroughly, then let the potting mixture dry out slightly between waterings. Rather than watering when the soil surface dries, which could lead to overwatering, check the moisture level of the potting mix to a depth of 4 inches to determine when the plant needs watering. Then, apply enough water so that some drains from the bottom of the container.

With the day length shorter than in summer months, be careful about feeding your indoor geraniums. More often than not, we tend to apply fertilizer too often indoors. If your geranium plants are growing in bright light conditions like mine, fertilize every three weeks with a diluted high-phosphorous, soluble plant food. In lower light intensities, apply once a month. Apply fertilizer according to the directions on the label, and make sure that the potting soil is moist before feeding.

The trick to get geraniums to set flower buds and bloom indoors involves the lighting conditions. My best luck has been in the south-facing, full-glass sliding door. My ivy and old-fashioned geraniums are within a few feet from the bright winter sunlight that enters the room when the curtains are opened. Of course they will often grow and bend toward the window, but I keep them growing more evenly by rotating the containers a couple times a week. In this south-facing room the leaf color is good and the stem growth and bud development are healthy and vigorous.

If you don't have as bright a location as mine, satisfactory results can be obtained at other exposures if the plants are placed on windowsills to maximize light quality. Artificial light from cool fluorescent bulbs (40 watts) placed a foot above the plants for 14 to 16 hours can be utilized, too.

The ideal temperatures for geraniums indoors are warm days and cool nights. My south-facing room generally gets between 60 to 65 degrees during the day, but since it is not heated, the temperature gets down to 45 to 50 degrees at night. It is best to avoid locations where the plants are exposed to cold, hot, or drafty areas.

So go ahead and enjoy the ever-dependable, old-fashioned or ivy-leafed geranium in your home. It's a tradition passed down from my Italian grandmother and relatives and I've always made the effort to enjoy the colors and scents of this wonderful annual.

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