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Try Zonal geraniums for beautiful gardens
To some gardeners, the zonal geranium is an old-fashioned plant, but to me, there’s nothing like having this classic in my landscape.
While garden participation has increased because of the pandemic, now is a great time to get acquainted or reacquainted with zonal geraniums. I think they are one of the showiest groups of plants we can grow in our gardens.
Zonal geraniums get their name from the coloration of their foliage. The bright-green leaves are roundish and have a dark band that circles the center of the leaf. The leaf color provides a fantastic background to contrast with the flowers. The leaf edges are wavy with a soft texture, and they release a spicy fragrance when touched.
Their brilliant-colored flowers are sure to impress. The red zonal geranium is a classic garden plant that does not go out of style. Other attractive colors are pink and salmon.
The flowers are clusters of tightly grouped buds, which don’t open all at once. The top buds open first, showing a bit of color, followed by the lower buds.
Zonal geraniums are native to South Africa. In Mississippi, the best flowering and growth comes in morning sun with a little protection in the afternoon.
The Calliope series is one of the best and most versatile geraniums available, and it is suited for baskets and containers. These plants have a vigorous, semi-trailing and strong branching growth habit with semi-double blooms. It is no wonder that this series was an All-America Selection in 2017.
Calliope is an interspecific hybrid, a cross between upright zonal and trailing ivy geraniums.
Red geraniums are by far the most popular, and Calliope Medium Dark Red doesn’t disappoint. This selection has outstanding flower color -- a rich, deep, velvety red.
But Calliope geraniums don’t stop with traditional red. Medium White pops with its pure, white flowers. Large Rose Mega Splash Bicolor has intense, pink petals that are splashed with a deeper red-pink eye. Medium Pink Flame bicolor has large, light-pink flowers with hot-pink eyes.
Geraniums like lots of sun, so be sure to plant them in areas that get at least six hours of full morning sun every day. They are heat and drought tolerant, which is a good combination for our Mississippi gardens and landscapes.
Always plant geraniums in well-drained potting mix, and water only when soil is dry to the touch. Be careful not to overwater because geraniums don’t like wet feet.
Geraniums are heavy feeders and need consistent fertilization to keep flowering. Feed with a controlled-release fertilizer at planting and then twice a month with water-soluble fertilizer.
Don’t forget to deadhead for the best flowering performance. When the flowers are fading, they need to be removed. Don’t just clip the flower head. Go ahead and pinch or prune the flower stalk at the base.
I highly encourage every home gardener to visit your favorite local, independent garden center and pick up a couple of zonal geraniums.