Geraniums: Characteristics and Care

Geraniums are common decorative plants, noted for their beauty and ease of care. Let's find out more about this species.
Geraniums: Characteristics and Care
Mariel Mendoza

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Mariel Mendoza.

Last update: 08 March, 2023

Geraniums look great as decorative elements on balconies, patios, or inside the house. Both the foliage and its flowers captivate looks, due to the colors, texture, and aroma. Their beauty is exhibited in all its splendor during spring and summer, while in autumn, the plant reaffirms the greenness of the leaves, saving itself for flowering.

The ability to withstand temperature variations is another reason that makes this ornamental plant a favorite among gardening enthusiasts. Caring for this plant isn’t hard, but it’s worth knowing its requirements in order to offer it the best care. Let’s find out more about it.

What are geraniums and what are their characteristics?

The geranium is a plant with more than 200 varieties, belonging to the Genariaceae family. The Herbarium of the Public University of Navarra describes the geranium as a dicotyledon, whose leaves have palmate veins and the flowers consist of 5 petals and 5 free sepals.

The fruits are detached from the bottom up and the size of the specimens is variable, depending on the type and the plantation. Some reach 1 meter high, others measure 25 centimeters, and there are also mini varieties.

The digital magazine Animals and Biology points out that the roots of geraniums have different shapes, determined by the species and the particularities of the substrate. As for the stem, it’s flush with the ground or straight, and the aerial part shows glandular hairs.

For its part, the Virtual Herbarium of the Western Mediterranean says that most varieties occur in crops, fields, and bushes. However, the geranium known as Pelargonium is the one often planted to ornament urban environments, either directly in the garden or in pots to decorate interiors.

The benefits of geraniums

The qualities of these herbaceous plants transcend the aesthetic, as their use in pharmacy and cosmetology shows satisfactory results. For example, in the beauty industry, this plant is used as an ingredient to nourish the skin, even skin types affected by acne or oily tendencies. They also take advantage of its properties in the manufacture of anti-stretch marks and anti-cellulite creams.

Likewise, the Libyan Journal of Medicine reviewed the results of an experiment in which the essential oil of the geranium rose demonstrated its anti-inflammatory power as part of a topical treatment to relieve edema.

Similarly, the Cuban Journal of Medicinal Plants describes the aqueous extract of Pelargonium as an antibacterial for oral diseases; while the publication Saber (Universidad de Los Andes) highlights that geranium leaves work as a repellent, fungicide, and local hemostatic on wounds or for nosebleeds.

The reduction of symptoms of the common cold is one of the attributes of geranium, according to the magazine Family Practices.

Aceite esencial de geranio.
Geranium essential oil has various applications in naturopathic medicine and aesthetics.

Care that geranium plants need

Maintaining the beauty of a geranium plant depends on the care you give it. When well cared for, it’s believed to live for 40 years or more. Take note of the following recommendations.

Good light

As long as the geranium has good light during the day, flowering is strengthened. Locate it in a semi-shade so that it receives the sun’s rays properly, especially in the hottest hours.

If the plant is for indoor decoration, the best position is near a window.

As for temperature, the ideal temperature ranges between 18 °C and 20 °C, but they can withstand up to 30 °C. With the arrival of frost, the matter is different. A recommendation during the winter is to cover them with bubble wrap if temperatures are below 10 °C; after the freezing, return them outdoors.

Humidity without excess

The geranium’s soil needs humidity, but not too much. In summer or in hot regions it is advisable to water it daily with 250 milliliters of water. Meanwhile, in the winter, it’s necessary to supply half every 3 days. The period of time should be defined by how hydrated the substrate is so that excesses do not rot the roots.

Use special fertilizer

The geranium should be fertilized in spring-summer, providing a balanced substrate between solid and liquid. Organic fertilizers such as compost, green manure, or fertilizer, always combined with a little water, suit them well.

However, special chemical fertilizers can enhance flowering. The application is carried out respecting the manufacturer’s instructions.

Elimination of dry leaves

This kind of plant doesn’t require constant pruning, but it does require the elimination of dead or withered leaves. Remove the branches that look weak, pulling out from the base.

It’s estimated that new stems begin to emerge a week later.

If you want to give a special shape to the geranium, perhaps hanging like ivy, prune it with garden shears, avoiding the strongest shoots. It’s best to cut at the end of winter.

Reproduce by cuttings

The propagation of the species is by cuttings. Choose those taller than 10 centimeters and with 3 to 4 leaves. Cut them as close to a node as possible to simplify subsequent rooting.

Make sure that the soil is always moist and accelerate growth by covering the pot with perforated plastic as if it were a greenhouse. Transplant every month.

Geranios en macetas.
Geraniums need semi-shade, medium watering, and organic fertilizer in spring and summer.

Disease prevention

The species is prone to pests, such as the “geranium whitefly”, “geranium borer,” and red spider mite. These are insects that damage plant tissue, requiring the use of acaricides or broad-spectrum insecticides. The cleanliness of the plant and a well-maintained substrate prevent most of the diseases.

On the other hand, geraniums can have health failures that trigger consequences in the plant, such as knots in the stems, insufficient flowering, and chlorotic leaves. Flores y Plantas advises controlling the amount of fertilizer, especially if it contains nitrogen. Also, check drainage and aeration and spray a mixture of chelated iron and water on the leaves.

Recommendations for choosing the best geraniums

The main tip for selecting geraniums is to identify the variety you will take home. Clarify your doubts by consulting the specialists at the nursery and taking into consideration aspects such as those mentioned below:

  • Structure: Verify that it has bushy branches and that the stem is quite strong.
  • Buds: If it’s a quality specimen, it shows many flowers of intense tones and emerging buds.
  • Planting: The pot should offer adequate space for rooting and to ensure that the root doesn’t crumble if you want to transplant it.

If there are pets at home, be cautious with geraniums

In the midst of so much visual perfection and medicinal goodness, the plant species still carries a warning. If there are pets in the family, it’s important to place the plant in a place that is difficult to reach, since the plant possesses toxic substances.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals argues that geraniums are poisonous to dogs and cats due to their linalool and geraniol content, principles that cause digestive problems and irritation. If a pet eats the plant, it could present symptoms such as dermatitis, vomiting, and depression.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.