QUESTION: Every spring I buy pots of geraniums to place in the planters on our front porch, which is shaded by a couple of tall trees. They look great for a couple of weeks, then the lower leaves begin to turn yellow and the flowers become scraggly and sparse. The neighbors’ geraniums always look great! What am I doing wrong?
Geraniums seem to be on porches and in planters everywhere in summer, so they should be fairly easygoing – and easy-to-care-for plants, right?
Right. As long as you provide what they need to grow and thrive: sun, enough (but not too much) water, and perhaps a bit of fertilizer every now and then.
These are, no doubt, the so-called “common geranium” (Pelargonium x hortorum) that you can find at every nursery and garden center, grocery store and roadside stand in the spring. Notice that in the growing tips that are usually provided, “sun” is the first item on the list. The recommended dose is five to six hours of full sun, so if your geraniums are on a porch that is in the dappled shade of tall trees most of the day, they will not get the sunlight they need to bloom well.
Move them to a sunny spot, and the geraniums likely will respond with a burst of new blooms. Clip dead flowers off to encourage continued blooming.
Water the plants when the soil is dry or just barely moist. Don’t let the plants become waterlogged, though, and make sure the container drains well to avoid rot and fungus that may develop. Feed container plantings lightly every few weeks with water-soluble fertilizer.
By the way, sources note that common geraniums may stop blooming during extended hot weather, and in that case will benefit from light shade in the afternoon. They should begin to bloom again when the weather is cooler.