Geraniums

Geraniums in a raised bedThe geranium is a popular and attractive flower. Their bright red, white, or pink flowers can be used to fill a bed or combined with other plants for colorful accents.

But in Florida, geraniums pose some problems. They cannot tolerate a freeze, but they also do poorly in our summer heat and humidity. In North Florida, plant your geraniums early in the year, after the danger of frost, to take advantage of cool spring temperatures. In South and Central Florida, where geraniums are used as a winter annual, plant them from October to March.

Geraniums grow best in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. Remove old flowers to keep new ones coming. Geraniums prefer well-drained soils. Work a three- to four-inch layer of organic matter such as compost or peat moss into the soil when planting.

Space geraniums 12 to 24 inches apart to form a solid, colorful ground cover. Geraniums grow well in pots and planters with adequate drainage. Mulch will help retain moisture and prevent weed growth.

Scented Geraniums

Scented geranium

Scented Geranium
Pelargonium citronellum 'Mabel Gray'

Don't overlook scented geraniums, grown not for their flowers but instead their foliage. Scented geraniums have long been favored for their fragrant leaves, which release aromatic oils when rubbed or crushed. They can smell like mint, rose, lemon, cinnamon, or even chocolate.

In Victorian times, people would float the leaves in small bowls of water as a way to cleanse their hands before eating, earning the plants the name "fingerbowl geraniums." The leaves are also edible and can be used to flavor sugars, jellies, or baked goods.

Like their flowering cousins, scented geraniums can be grown outdoors in containers, and just like regular geraniums, they struggle in summer's heat and will need to be protected from frost.

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