Lifespan of Geranium Flowers: What To Do With Geraniums After Blooming

Lifespan of Geranium Flowers: What To Do With Geraniums After Blooming

By: Liz Baessler

Are geraniums annual or perennial? It’s a simple question with a slightly complicated answer. It depends upon how harsh your winters are, of course, but it also depends upon what you’re calling a geranium. Keep reading to learn more about the lifespan of geranium flowers and what to do with geraniums after blooming.

Lifespan of Geranium Flowers

Geraniums can be split into two main categories. There are true geraniums, which are often called hardy geraniums and cranesbill. They are often confused with common or scented geraniums, which are actually a related but completely separate genus called Pelargoniums. These have a much showier display of flowers than true geraniums, but they are harder to keep alive in the winter.

Pelargoniums are native to South Africa and are only hardy in USDA zones 10 and 11. Though they can live for many years in warm climates, they are often just grown as annuals in most places. They can also be grown in containers and overwintered indoors. The common geranium lifespan can be many years, as long as it never gets too cold.

True geraniums, on the other hand, are much more cold hardy and can be grown as perennials in many more climates. Most are winter hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8. Certain varieties can survive the hotter summers in zone 9, and some others can survive, at least as far as the roots, in winters as cold as those in zone 3.

The true geranium lifespan, as long as it’s cared for well, can be many years long. They can also be easily overwintered. Certain other varieties, such as Geranium maderense, are biennials that will survive most winters but have a lifespan of only two years.

So to answer “how long do geraniums live,” it really depends on where you live and the type of “geranium” plant you have.

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How to Grow Annual (Zonal) Geraniums

Although they are often called geraniums, the familiar annual flowers with red, pink, purple, or white blooms and thick, pleated leaves are not geraniums at all, but rather members of the Pelargonium genus. True members of the geranium genus are often known as cranesbill or hardy geraniums. Originally, both types of plants were part of the Geranium genus, before Pelargonium was designated in 1789. The geranium name, however, persists to this day as the common label for many species of Pelargonium.

The Pelargonium species most often go by the common name annual geraniums or zonal geraniums. These tropical perennials from South Africa are usually grown as annuals, though it is possible to overwinter them in very warm climates. Annual geraniums are favorites for container plantings and hanging baskets, and they also work well as bedding plants.

Botanical Name Pelargonium spp. and hybrids
Common Names Annual geranium, zonal geranium, regal geranium, Martha Washington geranium, ivy-leaved geranium
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial flower, usually grown as an annual
Mature Size 5 to 36 inches tall, depending on variety
Sun Exposure Full sun tolerates light shade
Soil Type Rich, medium-moisture, well-drained soil
Soil pH 5.8 to 6.5 slightly acidic
Bloom Time Flowers freely throughout season
Flower Color Red, purple, pink, magenta orange, salmon, white, bicolors
Hardiness Zones 9 to 12 grown as an annual elsewhere
Native Area Species are from Southern Africa most are now cultivated hybrids
Toxicity Toxic to humans and animals

How to Care for Geranium Flowers

Some gardeners with proper basement environments can successfully store bare-root geraniums over the winter. Remove the geraniums from the outdoor soil, shake all the soil from the roots, and hang them from rafters in a basement. The relative humidity must be between 85 and 90 percent, and the temperature must be between 50 and 55 degrees. Replant the geraniums the following spring.

Geraniums are a common, yet beautiful, garden flower that will perform with profuse blooms over an entire growing season. The traditional geranium has deep-red blossoms, although there are other colors, as well. A newer geranium variety has ivy leaves that trail attractively out of a container and look beautiful when in a hanging basket. Geraniums grow hardily in a variety of soils. Many gardeners save geraniums over the winter months by digging them up and bringing them inside.

Select a sunny growing area, and plant in the spring after the threat of frost has passed. Work the soil with the spade down to a depth of at least six inches, and add two inches of compost to the top of the soil. With the spade, work the compost into the garden soil well, and then rake the soil smooth.

  • Geraniums are a common, yet beautiful, garden flower that will perform with profuse blooms over an entire growing season.

Dig holes for the geranium seedlings so they will be at the same depth or slightly more shallow than they were in their temporary containers. This will help avoid stem rot in the geranium seedlings. Space the geranium plants eight to 12 inches apart in a flowerbed. Firm the soil gently around the newly planted seedlings, and water generously.

Water the geraniums regularly if adequate rain does not fall. Fertilize geraniums once or twice per month by mixing the fertilizer with water according to package recommendations. Always give plain water after fertilizing geraniums to ensure the roots do not burn. Wash off any fertilizer that touches foliage.

  • Dig holes for the geranium seedlings so they will be at the same depth or slightly more shallow than they were in their temporary containers.
  • Always give plain water after fertilizing geraniums to ensure the roots do not burn.

Remove faded blossoms and pinch back stems that grow long and leggy. This will help the geranium plants stay bushy and attractive.

Dig up the geranium plants in early autumn. Trim the plants back by approximately half, and plant them in containers filled with fresh potting soil. Place the potted geraniums in a sunny location during the winter. Move the geraniums back outside the following spring.


Diseases and Insects

Spent flowers should be removed daily while geraniums are flowering to prevent botrytis, a fungal disease. There are also a variety of bacteria that can cause leafspot or rot. These diseases can be avoided by good sanitation, removing diseased plant parts and keeping the leaves dry when watering. Diseases can also be spread by insect pests. Aphids, thrips, spider mites and mealy bugs are common geranium pests. Releasing beneficial insects to control ants that tend aphids and mealy bugs and controlling dust to discourage spider mites will reduce insect problems.


Types of Geranium Plants

With over 400 geranium varieties, the list below will not, in any way, aim to exhaust all the types of geranium plants. Instead, I’ve chosen 5 of the geraniums plants I find most interesting to grow.

– Geranium sanguineum var. Striatum

This geranium variety is excellent for growing in containers because it’s low height (4 inches or 10 cm). It produces an abundance of pale pink flowers with slightly darker pink veins, creating an impressive contrast with the plant’s dark foliage.

– Geranium ‘Rozanne’

Named after its discoverer, Rozanne Waterer, the Rozanne cultivar produces large, violet-blue flowers that feature a white center with grey antlers. The plant reaches a height of 12 inches.

– Geranium maderense

Standing at 60 inches tall, this geranium bears magenta pink blooms. It’s the tallest geranium variety.

– Geranium x magnificum

Another tall-growing geranium, the Geranium x magnificum is winner of the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society, which is hardly surprising thanks to its rich, violet-blue flowers that appear in mid-summer.

– Geranium ‘Max Frei’

With an average height among geranium varieties (15 inches), the Max Frei cultivar bears bright pink flowers that appear from June to August.


Suitable Gifting Occasions for Geranium Flowers

Geraniums make wonderful housewarming or hostess gifts with their cheery disposition and well-wishes. They are also appropriate for retirements or other ceremonies where you desire to wish the recipient well.

They also make a delightful presentation for the gardener in your life as they will continue to bring cheer all summer. Consider a big basket of ivy geranium for the deck or porch for housewarming or retirement gifts.


Petal Republic’s Flower and Plant guides:

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