How to Care for Fancy Leaf Geraniums
by Karen Carter, Demand Media
Fancy leaf geraniums (Pelargonium x hortorum) are commonly known as zonal geraniums. These perennials stay evergreen in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and 11, but grow as annuals in colder climates. Reaching 1 to 3 feet tall, this shrubby mounded plant is made up of green leaves marked with contrasting colors. Clusters of red, purple, pink, orange or white blossoms appear on top of long stalks throughout the growing season. With the proper care, fancy leaf geraniums will provide a gardener with nearly year-round beauty. Here's how -
1. Locate the fancy leaf geraniums in an area with at least four to six hours of direct sunlight per day. On hot summer days, geraniums benefit from light shade. Either move potted geraniums into the shade or erect a sunshade in the afternoon. These plants prefer temperatures around 60 degrees Fahrenheit, but will do well in a range of temperatures.
2. Pour water on the soil around the base of the geranium until the soil is damp to the depth of the roots. Allow the top 3 inches of soil to dry before watering again.
3. Pinch off the ends of the stems while the plant is producing fresh growth in the spring. This encourages the stems to branch out, producing a bushier plant. When the flower clusters begin to dry out, deadhead the blossoms by snapping the tall stalk of the plant. Do not let the flowers dry out completely on the geranium plant since this will cause the plant to stop blooming.
4. Feed fancy leaf geraniums during active growing months, but do not fertilize them in the winter. Mix a water-soluble 10-10-10 fertilizer with twice the recommended amount of water for a batch of half-strength fertilizer. Water the geraniums with the fertilizer mixture every two weeks.
5. Overwinter the geraniums in a sheltered area for the winter. For potted plants, bring them indoors before the first hard frost and place them in a sunny window. Reduce watering, but do not let the roots dry out. Another option is to cut the garden plants back to 6 inches tall with pruning shears. Lift the plants from the garden with a shovel and place them in a box of peat moss located in a dark frost-free area. Replant them outside in the spring after all danger of frost has passed. (If you live in San Diego County, there's no need to uproot your plants during our typically mild winters!)