Most species of geraniums are annuals and have originated in South Africa. However, there are some geraniums that are perennials that look much different. The perennial geraniums are usually called cranesbill and are hardier plants, surviving in zones 4 to 8. Because the annual geraniums will not survive for longer than a year, they are able to grow in any USDA hardiness zone as long as lighting and water requirements are met. Geraniums grow about 1' tall and spreads 1' wide (3). Few plants offer such variation in flower color, growth habit, leaf pattern, and scent. Geranium flowers come in white, pink, salmon, red, fuchsia, lavender, and bi-colors. Growth habits range from trailing vine types to upright garden forms. Leaves may be nearly circular or deeply segmented and lacy. The leaves can be green, green and white, or patterned with combinations of reds, yellows, and oranges. Aromas include lemon, orange, lime, peppermint, pineapple, nutmeg, rose, and many others (5). Geraniums like direct sunlight and require 8 or more hours of light. Soil should be open and porous to allow for good water drainage, oxygen penetration, and healthy root growth. Water these plants thoroughly in hot temperatures. Geraniums tolerate dry soil conditions better than excess moisture. Avoid cold, drafty areas as well as hot, dry locations. Ideally, they should be grown at 65°F day and 55°F night temperatures. Wait to plant geraniums outdoors until frost danger has passed and the soil temperature reaches 60°F. Beware that over fertilizing geraniums will prevent them from blooming. Geraniums repel cabbage worms and Japanese beetles, so a good idea would be to plant around grapes, roses, corn, tomatoes, peppers and cabbage where these insects can cause problems. Geraniums also help to distract beet leafhoppers, carrier of the curly top virus.
Culinary or Medicinal Uses
Scented geranium leaves are used in potpourri, scented pillows, soaps, face creams, bath oils and in jellies, teas, butter, biscuits, cake, custards, sugars and sorbets. These plants are said to provide use as astringents in poultices, as a cure for headaches and also for treating dysentery. Oil of rose geranium has been used to treat lice, ringworm and shingles. The leaves of rose geraniums are used in a cream reputed to have anti-aging effects.
Significance to Cultural Communities
In the language of flowers, scarlet geraniums have a meaning that relates to either comfort or stupidity. However, the meaning assigned to any geranium, without reference to color, is more promising. These geraniums reflect gentility and esteem.
From the Community Voice
"To help my grandma, I planted some Geranium flowers for her. I transferred the plant from temporary pots to a bigger, more permanent pot that my grandma kept by her front door for visitors to notice. When I was transferring the pots, my grandma made me water the plant first, to make it easier to take out, and then when I put it in the bigger pot, she made me water them again. She said it was important so that the plant gets used to the new environment. Since then I associate the smell of the Geranium with her." -Karl