Geraniums are one of the most popular of annual bedding plants

Farm Forum

Geraniums are one of the most popular of annual bedding plants. They come in a wide array of flower colors, can take the heat and drought and usually look good all summer and into the fall until a killing freeze takes care of them for the year. But what about the perennial geraniums, the “true” geraniums? Botanically speaking, most of the “geraniums” that people buy are the annual type, unless you take them inside during the winter, usually cultivars of Pelargonium x hortorum. The perennial types are usually cultivars or species of Geranium, sometimes also known as cranesbill geraniums because the shape of the seed pod is rather long and slender, like the bill of a crane.

This is the time of year when both the annual and the perennial types of geraniums are in bloom. The annual types are known for their persistent blooming period throughout the summer and fall. Perennial types of geraniums usually have their major bloom time now with some repeat blooming the rest of the summer. Some of the newer releases have better repeat blooming so that their flowers can be enjoyed over a longer period of time. ‘Rozanne’ is a recent release that has excellent repeat bloom with blueish flowers. But the flowers are not the only reason to plant Geraniums. They also have attractive foliage, often with interesting, although muted variegation patterns. Another highlight of many of the Geraniums is fall color. One in particular, G. sanguineum, is known as the bloody cranesbill because of the deep red color the foliage will turn in the fall of the year, providing the temperatures haven’t dipped too low in the fall.

Most geraniums will grow best in a full sun location but most of the perennial types will also tolerate shade too, but the plants will generally grow a bit taller and have fewer flowers than in the sun. Most species and cultivars will grow about 8” to 24” tall. The leaves are usually dissected and the flowers are borne singly or in small clusters on the ends of the flower stalks. Flower colors may be white, pink, red, blue, purple or burgundy and they usually have veins in the flowers that are a different color, making them quite striking.

The commonly grown perennial geraniums will usually spread in the garden, by underground rhizomes or by seed or both but they are usually not considered to be invasive. Many have thick roots that allow the plant to withstand dry periods. Most cultivars have few pest problems, other than powdery mildew which can be a problem in locations with poor air circulation. Propagation can be done by division in early spring.

Time to get the sprinklers going again

The weather this year has been a vast improvement over last year’s drought for most gardeners with the rains that most of us have had. Granted, sometimes it was too much at once, but I think that is better than almost no rain at all. But, even in a year with normal rainfall, most people will have to water their gardens at least once in a while to get them through the dry periods and therefore have better production.

There are lots of ways to water the plants in your garden. Some of the most popular utilize oscillating sprinklers that apply water over a pattern that you can select on the sprinkler, impact sprinklers that spray water over a selected radius or full circle and spot sprinklers that spray water over a small area. All of these can work well but also have a few disadvantages. First of all they all spray water over head, up into the air. Whenever you spray water in the air you have the potential to lose a significant amount of it to evaporation from the time when it leaves the sprinkler until it lands on the ground or your plants. Secondly, you often fight against one of the common aspects of living on the Great Plains – wind. The wind may blow the water away from where you want it to go. If you add these two factors together along with some hot summer temperatures and you might end up with a watering system that is not very efficient at getting the water to where it needs to go, your plant’s roots. In addition, everything gets watered, the beans in your garden row and also the weeds in between the rows. That means more weeds and weeding.

Another disadvantage of these systems is that you usually will have to move them around to get coverage over your entire garden. This can be a challenge, especially if you are trying to water a large patch of squash or melons that have covered up the garden space, not knock over plants as you drag the hose around or get the water up high enough to effectively water a patch of sweet corn that will block most sprinklers unless you put them on a post or a ladder. Plus, it is usually pretty muddy after watering so you might lose your shoes in the process.