Annual geraniums are colorful, hardy, easy-care flowers with a long blooming season, flowering continuously from early summer to frost. All annual geraniums grow best when planted in full sun, though most varieties benefit from some shade during the afternoon heat. Annual geraniums are available in several different types, making them a popular and versatile mainstay for the summer garden.
Bedding Geraniums (P. x hortorum)
These geraniums have an upright, bushy growth habit reaching 10 to 20 inches in height. The soft, fuzzy leaves can be either rounded or scalloped depending on the cultivar. Leaves are aromatic. Large clusters of single or double flowers bloom on fleshy stems in shades of red, magenta, pink, salmon and white. Bicolor varieties are also available. Some fancy leaf varieties sport borders or splashes of color on the leaves in shades of brown, purple, red, yellow and white. Plant these versatile annuals in borders, beds, containers and window boxes.
Ivy Geraniums (P. peltatum)
These annuals are vining plants with shiny, sharply-lobed leaves that are excellent in hanging baskets, window boxes or trailing from containers on balconies. The two-inch flower clusters are available in both single and double forms in shades of pink, lavender, white and salmon. The single-flower cultivars do not need to be deadheaded. Pinch off the spent blooms of the double-flower varieties. The plants can grow two to four feet long in one season.
The fragrant foliage is the main appeal of this annual, with many selections available. The common name of the plants typically refers to the particular scent of the leaves. The choices are many: lemon, peppermint, nutmeg, coconut, lime, apple and rose varieties, to name a few. The small, somewhat nondescript flower clusters bloom in either pink or white. The leaves vary from rounded to almost fernlike and release their aromas when rubbed between the fingers. Most scented geraniums grow one to two feet tall and wide. Scented geraniums do well in herb gardens, hanging baskets, window boxes, and the fronts of borders. Use the leaves to flavor teas, vinegars and jellies.
Martha Washington Geraniums (P. x domesticum)
These geraniums have an erect growth habit with large, showy single or double flowers. Flowers come in both solid colors or in combinations of red, pink, white, lavender, purple, and salmon. The plants are bushy with rounded leaves reaching one to two feet in height. These geraniums make a good choice for pots and containers. They perform best with cool nighttime temperatures that fall below 60 degrees.
Geraniums need little fertilizer when planted in humus-rich soil. Deadhead the spent blooms to keep plant growth neat and to encourage flowers all season long. All annual geraniums have the added benefit of attracting hummingbirds and beneficial insects to the summer garden.