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Growing geraniums as annual flowers in Minnesota

Quick facts

  • Geraniums (Pelargonium) are easy, low maintenance plants. They grow well as potted flowering plants indoors, and outdoors in gardens and containers.
  • They grow best in a sunny location with well-drained soil.
  • Geraniums can be kept from year to year.
  • They can be started from seed or stem cuttings.
Several green leaves with white edges
Unique foliage of Pelargonium capitatum 'Atomic Snowflake'

Annual geraniums are favorite outdoor and indoor flowering plants in Minnesota. They are not true “geraniums”, but belong to the genus Pelargonium, which means “stork” in Latin due to the long, slender fruit capsule resembling a stork’s bill. True geraniums belong to the genus Geranium and are grown as perennials in Minnesota.

There are over 200 Pelargonium species and many well-known hybrids. Most species originated in South Africa and are available in a wide variety of flower colors, growth habits, leaf patterns and scents.

Clusters of bright, red geranium flowers
Scented geranium Pelargonium capitatum 'Schottesham'
  • Flower colors
    • White, pink, salmon, orange, red, fuchsia, lavender, bicolored.
    • Martha or Lady Washington geraniums (Pelargonium x domesticum) have intense flower colors from purple-black to vivid yellow. They require cool 50° to 60°F night temperatures to blossom, so they bloom in early summer and autumn in Minnesota.
  • Single and double flower forms.
  • Growth habits from trailing vine types to upright garden forms.
  • Leaves are rounded, scalloped or deeply segmented and lacy.
  • Leaf color ranges from nearly white, to green/green and white, to green with patterns of reds, yellows and oranges.
  • Some geranium varieties - “scented geraniums” - have scented leaves with aromas including lemon, orange, lime, peppermint, pineapple, nutmeg, rose and many others.

    Segmented, green-white leaves of a geranium plant
    Foliage of scented geranium Pelargonium graveolens 'Lady Plymouth'

 

Good performers from the U of M annual flower trials

A glazed, brown planter with magenta flowers and deep green leaves
Geraniums grow well in various kinds of containers

Annual geraniums are evaluated as part of the U of M flower trials and research. Located at the West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris, MN, the Horticulture Display Garden serves as an All-America Selections (AAS) Display Garden and Trial Grounds and provides the public an opportunity to view the newest superior performers.

The following annual geranium cultivars were rated good to excellent in our recent trials:

  • Cumbanita Rose Splash
  • Brocade Cherry Night - an interspecific geranium (a cross between a zonal and ivy geranium)
  • TimelessTM Lavender (Proven Winners)
  • PintoTM Premium (Syngenta Flowers) - orange bicolor, rose bicolor, white to rose, lavender
  • Big Ezee Pink

Growing geraniums outdoors

Whether you grow geraniums as annual flowers in your garden bed or in a container on a deck or patio, they should be located in full sun and planted in well-drained soil. Containers should have drain holes and can vary in materials (terracotta, plastic, ceramic, resin, metal, wood, etc.).

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Growing geraniums indoors

Many gardeners like to keep their geraniums from year to year. Geraniums add beauty and color as indoor plants. Saving them over the winter to grow again in the spring can also save money. There are several methods you can use to save your geraniums over the winter.

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Julie Weisenhorn, Extension educator 

Reviewed in 2018

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