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Are geraniums perennials or annuals? The answer does not have a simple black-and-white answer, so keep reading to find out! Part of it involves confusion among botanical names and common names, but it also has to do with your growing environment.
First, there is always confusion when it comes to naming plants. When we hear the word “geranium”, it really could be one of two different plants, and I’ll get into each of them in the following sections.
When many of us think of geranium, we think of the plants in the Pelargonium genus that are commonly referred to as geraniums.
These are the common, flowering bedding plants that we see everywhere, and that also make wonderful container plants.
To make things more confusing, there are also hardy geraniums that actually belong to the genus Geranium so these are true geraniums! Now, let’s get into the annual vs. perennial discussion of both of these plants.
ARE GERANIUMS PERENNIALS OR ANNUALS?
There are about 286 accepted Pelargonium species, and they are native to much of Africa, and also Australia. Many of the species are native to South Africa. So many beautiful hybrids and cultivars have been developed and these are found in practically every garden center.
These are considered tender perennials. These evergreen perennials do not tolerate frost, so if they are left outside in colder climates, they are often times just treated as annual plants.
If you live in USDA hardiness Zone 9 or higher, you’ll be able to grow these plants year-round outside. If you live in Zone 8 or below, you can simply grow them as annuals, or you can overwinter your geraniums from year to year.
If you’re not sure what growing zone you’re in, check out this plant hardiness zone calculator that tells you by simply entering in your zip code.
Within the Pelargoniums genus, there are many types of “geraniums” and here are 4 of the most popular types.
1. ZONAL GERANIUMS
These are the most popular types and they receive their name due to the zones of maroon or bronzy-green in the center of the foliage of many of these plants. These plants are predominantly grown for their beautiful flowers, but they also have attractive foliage.
They have a long blooming season and can be in constant bloom with the right conditions! They come in both single and double flowers, and the vibrant blooms come in white, pink, orange, red, lavender, salmon, magenta, and even bicolored.
There are even gorgeous varieties with colorful, variegated leaves.
These are best grown in at least a few hours of direct sunlight, if not full sun conditions in order for best flowering to occur.
If you live in a really hot, sunny climate, partial shade especially during mid-day when the sun is strongest would provide the best results.
For more tips on how to get your plants to flower continually, check out my blog post on how to get geraniums to bloom.
If you live in a climate with cold winters and you want to keep your plants year after year, check out my blog post on how to overwinter geraniums. It will be easier than you think! I’ve done it many times and there are multiple ways to do it.
If you don’t want them to go dormant, you can continue growing them indoors in a sunny window.
Well-drained soil is a must for these plants as they can rot easily otherwise.
2. SCENTED GERANIUMS
Scented geraniums have flowers that are rather insignificant, but they are predominantly grown for the gorgeous scent of the foliage.
There are rose-scented geraniums, as well as ones that smell like lemon and even chocolate. The citronella plant that is popular for repelling mosquitos is also a type of scented geranium.
Scented geraniums are perennials if grown in hardiness zones 10 or warmer, otherwise they will act as annuals in climates colder than this.
If you haven’t grown any of these, their scents are delightful and make an indispensable part of any scented garden!
3. IVY-LEAVED PELARGONIUMS
Ivy geraniums are often grown in hanging baskets since they have a trailing nature. They also make stunning plants for window boxes.
They normally have waxy green leaves and are loaded with flowers if well cared for and given enough direct sun.
These are perennials in zone 10 or warmer, and act as annuals in climates colder than zone 10.
4. MARTHA WASHINGTON GERANIUMS
Martha Washington geraniums are also known as regal geraniums and are not as widely grown as most of the other varieties mentioned above.
This is probably explained by the fact that they need more exacting cultural conditions to grow well. These varieties need cooler night time temperatures to grow and bloom well.
These plants reportedly can be perennials in zones as cold as zone 7 (if mulched heavily), otherwise it is probably best to just grow these an annuals.
These are the true geraniums if you will, and actually belong to the genus Geranium. There are about 360 accepted species of Geraniums.
In the garden setting, the most popular is probably Geranium maculatum. These plants are commonly known as cranesbill geraniums or simply, wild geranium. They get this name due to the seed pods that look like the head and beak of a crane.
They are native to central and Eastern United States and Canada. These are herbaceous perennial plants that are hardy down to zone 3.
Cranesbill geraniums do best in part shade in a nice fertile soil that has plenty of organic matter, but also that is well-drained.
The delicate, pretty flowers are pinkish to light purple or lilac colored and the blooming period is typically late spring to early summer.
Sometimes the flowers are even white, but this is rarer. The plants naturalize beautifully in a woodland setting and form wonderful clumps, but they are not invasive.
These perennial geraniums like plenty of moisture and will flower best in full sun to light shade. Plants in sunnier spots will need more watering, particularly if you have new plants in your garden.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post! Do you have any geraniums? Which are your favorite? Comment below. I’d love to hear!