Growing Your Own Geraniums
Geraniums are a staple in many outdoor summer landscapes. They are used in containers, window boxes, hanging baskets and in the flowerbed. There are gardeners who like to start their own geraniums from seed. It’s easy to do but does take time. From the time the seed is planted until the plant starts to bloom will take an average of 14-20 weeks. Keeping this in mind, seeds should be started in January/February if you want to enjoy the flowers by May. Geranium seeds are now available in the seed racks at the garden centre, along with the necessary supplies to start the seeds.
Start seeds in a light weight, high quality soil-less, starter mix.
The starter mix will be put into clean containers such as tray inserts, that have drainage. The inserts are then placed into a tray with no drainage holes. If you are using last year’s containers, clean them with a mild bleach solution first, before using them. This is important as you don’t want to have to deal with any diseases such as damp off, which is fungi that attacks young seedlings and will kill them. Fill the containers to almost the top of the container with the moistened starter mix. The next step is sowing the seeds.
Geranium seeds are large enough to handle with some ease and so are easy to be able to space when sowing them. Space the seeds 2-3cm apart. When the seeds have been placed on the starter mix they can then be covered with a slight layer of starter mix. You may need to moisten the starter mix a little more. Add some room temperature water to the bottom of the tray so that the filled inserts can soak the water up from the bottom. After 15-30 minutes the excess water is carefully drained out of the tray. Place a clear plastic dome over the tray and place the tray on a heat mat which is specific for starting seeds or on top of a warm surface. Ideally seeds start better with bottom heat and the soil should be 21-24 Celsius.
Light is not essential when starting the seeds, but as soon as the seeds start to germinate they need to be given lots of light. It can take anywhere from 5-21 days for the seeds to germinate. Once the seeds have germinated, the plastic dome is taken off and the bottom heat is removed.
To grow strong, healthy seedlings they will need 12-14 hours of daily bright light. An adjustable light stand with grow lights such as ‘Sun Blaster’ , or fluorescent lights, work well as the light can be raised as the seedling grow. The light should be 10-15 cm above the seedlings. Keep the starter mix moist, as you don’t want the young seedlings to go dry. Water (with room temperature water) from the bottom and allow the moisture to be absorbed, discarding any excess water after a few minutes. Daytime temperatures should be 21-24 Celsius and night time temperatures 16-18 Celsius.
The seedlings will first produce a set of seed leaves, and the next set will be the ‘true leaves’. The young seedlings can be transplanted into individual 8-10 cm containers after the first set of true leaves are produced. Use a high quality indoor potting soil for transplanting. Soil is the foundation for your plants, so you want to make sure that you spend the few extra pennies and get a good quality soil. The young seedlings are tender, and can break easily, so hold the plants by its leaves and gently transplant them into the container. The plant can be planted as deep as up to the base of the seed leaves.
Place the pots into a tray with no holes and continue to water from the bottom, using room temperature water, as this will encourage the roots to grow. After 10-14 days the plants can be placed in an area where the night time temperatures are 16-18 Celsius which creates a stronger plant. Start to fertilize the transplants with 10-52-10 and then switch to 20-20-20 once the plants are established. Its important to give the plants 12-14 hours of daily bright light and for bushier plants, pinch out the top to promote branching. By May, plants should be a good size and should be fertilized with 15-30-15 to promote flowers.
Jos Van Hage owns and operates two Art Knapp Home and Garden Centres in Prince George:
- Highway 16 Wet at Kimball road
- Highway 97 North at Northwood Pulpmill Road (closed for the season)