Geraniums? Get Growing
Growing your own geraniums from seed is not as hard as it may seem.
It takes time and patience and this is the right time to start. On average it takes 16-20 weeks from seed, to a plant with blooms, so geraniums should be started indoors now. The seeds are now available at the garden centre.
There is a choice of different colours such as Maverick pink, white, scarlet, salmon or mixed. There is also a good supply of seed starting equipment available which can be helpful in germinating and growing strong healthy plants.
Always plant seeds in a starter mix. Fill small sterilized containers with the moistened starter mix. There are seed starting kits available that contain a plastic tray, insert and a clear plastic dome that fits over the tray to create a mini greenhouse. If you are re-using containers, clean and disinfect them first with a mild bleach solution.
Seeds germinate better with bottom heat, so placing the planted seeds on a heat source such as a heat mat (available at the garden centre) is beneficial. The soil temperature should be around 21-24 Celsius for the seeds to germinate.
Geranium seeds have a tough outer coat, and some gardeners like to soak the geranium seeds between a moistened paper towel for a day before planting them in the starter mix. When the seeds have been planted, following the directions given on the packet, cover the planted seeds with the plastic dome, to keep heat and moisture in. It can take 5-21 days for the seed to germinate. As soon as the seeds have germinated, take them off the heat mat and remove the plastic dome.
Light is a very important factor in growing healthy seedlings. Most homes do not have enough natural light this time of year so placing the seedlings under an adjustable fluorescent light stand for 12-14 hours daily, works very well. Place the light 10-15 cm above the seedlings and slowly adjust it as the seedlings grow.
Moisture is another important factor in a plants health. Keep the soil moist, not soggy, and use room temperature water when watering. It is better to water plants from the bottom, rather than the top, and allow the moisture to be soaked up. For strong healthy plants, keep the daytime temperature at 20-22 Celsius and night time at 16-18 Celsius.
When the young seedlings have produced their first set of true leaves they can be transplanted into individual 8-10 cm pots. When transplanting, use a good quality indoor potting soil. After the plants have been transplanted give them a thorough watering, from the bottom, using room temperature water. To help with root formation keep plants at room temperature for the first week, and fertilize once with 10-52-10. After the first week, the plants can go back to cooler evenings, and fertilize every 2-3 weeks with an all purpose fertilizer such as 20-20-20. Continue to give plants lots of light by keeping them 15 cm under the fluorescent light.
In the first week of May, the plants are ready to be hardened off before they are planted outdoors. Harden plants off by placing them outdoors during the day (when there is no frost) and bringing them in at night. Continue to do this for 2-3 weeks so that they are accustomed to outdoor temperatures and then they can be planted outdoors after all risk of frost has passed. May 1st is also the time to change the fertilizer to a flowering plant fertilizer such as 12-36-12 to help promote flowers.
It is very satisfying, knowing that the plants that are blooming in your landscape or pot are the plants you started from seed!
Jos Van Hage owns and operates two Art Knapp Home and Garden Centres in Prince George:
- Highway 16 West at Kimball Road
- Highway 97 North at Northwood Pulpmill Road