Cultivation geraniums

The extraordinary variety of geraniums

With the term “geraniums” we mean the wonderful plants that decorate entrances, balconies, houses and gardens. The classic gerano is the one with carmine petals, soft, luxuriant, which blossom apically through proud and thick stems, surrounded by rounded green leaves. In reality this is only one variety, among many, of the most common geraniums, also defined as “zonal”, which arrived in Europe in the 17th century and from which infinite hybridizations derive. In summary, we can divide these varieties into 4 macro categories: Zonal, Imperial, the “Ivy” geraniums and the Odorosi. Each of these characterized by clear distinctive features but all endowed with external beauty. The Imperials, also called “butterfly geraniums”, they have lakes and wavy flowers that express very suggestive and particular shades and colors. Ivy geraniums, as the name suggests, are of the climbing type, have smaller flowers with distinct petals and the foliage tends to expand to create a “cascade” effect. They are mainly used to decorate terraces and balconies. The Odorosi, on the other hand, develop into bushes, emanating intense fragrances (lemon, cinnamon, mint, etc.).

The cultivation of geraniums: some simple rules

Using geraniums for your own spaces is undoubtedly a functional choice to achieve an immediately developable floral display. Geraniums can be grown directly in the ground, if the winter temperature does not reach below 3 – 4 degrees. If winter is likely to drop at these temperatures, it is advisable to choose a more resistant variety of geraniums, such as Odorosi. This is because the plant that wood the stem is more resistant to frost. More frequent is instead the cultivation of geraniums in pots, also for the convenience, as soon as winter comes, to move them to sheltered environments (home, greenhouse, etc.). The type of vase to be preferred is always the terracotta one, capable of not retaining excessive humidity and avoiding harmful temperature changes. The pot must be prepared with non-compact, slightly acidic soil (pH between 5.5 and 6.5) and with a drainage system at the base composed of small stones and coarse sand. Contrary to popular belief, geraniums do not need a lot of water, which must be commensurate with the specific needs of the context (climate, temperature, size of the pot, age of the plant).

Useful works for geraniums: fertilization and pruning

The gerano is a rustic plant, although it is of African origin it often gets used to even mountain environments. As for fertilization, it is not a species that requires great attention but some basic precautions are essential to obtain good results with the least effort. In fact, the first important fertilization is represented by the preparation of an excellent soil, rich in humus. In this case, and during flowering, a liquid potassium-based fertilizer diluted in water once every 10 days will suffice. However, for those who have less time or risk getting confused with the frequency of doses, a slow release solid fertilizer (usually NPK 10-12-18) is recommended. For pruning, a normal pruning of dry or diseased foliage is more than enough for geraniums. So no energetic pruning but simple cleaning of dead or broken branches. It is also advisable to eliminate withered flowers as they appear. These “removal” operations, ie cleaning, are carried out in the period following winter, therefore in spring, to prevent the frost of the cold season from blocking the natural vegetative phase that follows the cutting of a branch.

Cultivation geraniums: How to combat the main diseases of geraniums

Geraniums are strong and lush plants. However, they can suffer severe damage from insects and specific fungal diseases. For parasites, particular attention deserves a light brown butterfly, coming from southern Africa and known as Cacyreus mashalli. The tiny butterfly lays its eggs on every part of the plant, preferring the sepals and peduncles. From these caterpillars are born that penetrate inside the structure of the plant causing serious damage. To eradicate them, contact insecticides are used, carrying out constantly repeated treatments. Geraniums can also suffer from traditional pests, such as whiteflies, aphids, snails and caterpillars. Among the diseases of a fungal nature, on the other hand, the classic rot and molds are included, situations that, however, derive above all from insufficiently careful cultivation. The main causes of these outbreaks are in fact excessive watering, poorly ventilated environments or excessive stagnation of water that weaken the plant. In these cases, the best weapon is prevention because fungal diseases are difficult to combat and require specific chemical treatments.

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