5 Reasons to Plant Geraniums in a Valley Garden
They’re unsung bloomers.
Written byLinda Grasso
When I first moved to LA in 1993, I visited my grandmother’s sister, who lived a stone’s throw from Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank. She was in her 80s then, and her once-tidy property had gotten away from her. With no sprinkler system, her yard was a dried heap of brown. However, in one spot in the backyard, there was a vibrant lemon tree surrounded by beautiful, flowering, mounding geraniums. I marveled that something was able to grow so well without water.
My long journey as a passionate gardener started soon after that visit. A native Marylander, I started out trying all kinds of things that are established no-no’s in SoCal: tulips, lilacs, peonies. Then acceptance set in, as I learned about what would grow in zone 9, and moved toward water-sucking flowering annuals. The next best thing—right? My next mindset: “I’m going to be money-smart.” I moved into perennials. Then an acute awareness of the drought set in, sparking another shift: “I’m going to plant drought-tolerant natives.” In came the salvias, manzanitas and buckwheats. The notion of including geraniums never entered my mind—until I went to a drought-tolerant-plant festival at the Sepulveda Gardening Center this spring.
On display by the Los Angeles Geranium Society: a fascinating display of geraniums, part of the Pelargonium genus (as opposed to the Geranium genus, aka “true” geraniums), most of which were the creations of Jay Kapac. For the past 40 years the Val Verde Park-based plant breeder has undertaken the delicate process of propagating geraniums–many of them cross-bred—and selling them to nurseries across the state.
“Geraniums have been here forever,” Jay shares. “The first people who colonized California brought roses, irises and geraniums with them because you can propagate them with cuttings.”
Some of Jay’s varieties were award-winners at the show, including “Queen of Hearts,” a striking plant with bold scarlet flowers that are maroon in the middle; and “Pink Fizz,” which has a delicate pink flower and an elegant presence.
I bought Pink Fizz as well as a couple of other varieties. They’re pretty small right now but my guess is by summer, when they’ve erupted with blossoms, I’ll be saying plenty of oohs and ahs.
Jay’s top 5 reasons why geraniums make a terrific addition to a Valley garden
- Once established in the ground (they do better in the ground than in pots), they are drought-tolerant.
- When it gets hot, several species, including the bright orange and maroon-hued hybrid “Amelita,” continue to flower though summer. If you want blossoms that can tolerate heat, stay away from varieties like “Martha Washington.”
- Rabbits do not eat geraniums.
- There is great value with geraniums because they are easy to propagate. You can snip off a cutting and then put it in the ground to create another plant. (Best done when there are no flowers on the cutting.)
- They have interesting characteristics. Some varieties are scented. One smells like lemon; another smells like a rose. One scented variety, “Citronella,” keeps bugs away.
For more go to geraniumsociety.org