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For many years the passion for geraniums, or rather for the pelargonium (и pelargonium the botanical name, geraniacee is the name of the family), has led the producers of plants to enrich the genus with numerous hybrids; double flower, colored leaf, with fragrant leaf. On the market it is possible to find most of the botanical species, originating from Africa, and the many hybrids.
To get to know these plants better, to know how to cultivate them and also, for those who want, to begin a real collection, we turned to a true expert in the sector Filippo Figuera, owner of the Malvarosa nursery, one of the professionals in the sector, who for years it occupies eslcusivamente of geraniums, pardon, pelargonium.
Our expert has dedicated a little of his free time to telling us how pelargoniums are cultivated, and how a nurseryman keen on geraniums lives.
They are rather simple plants to grow in our climate and this (together with their ability to produce flowers with good continuity) explains their popularity.
They adapt well to the Mediterranean climate (in the southern regions they often do not even need to be withdrawn), but also to the alpine climate.
They are very resistant to drought and ideal in the most torrid areas of our country. However, it must be pointed out that the most flowery can be seen in the mountain areas. This is because the geranium in order to give the best of oneself a lot of atmospheric humidity is needed, which during the summer can only be present in the Alps.
It is usually grown in containers because it is easier to collect during the winter. It is however possible to put it in the open in the most southern and warm areas of Italy. Indeed, if the climate allows it, it is absolutely advisable to keep them in the ground because they will give us a lot more satisfaction and less problems with pests and diseases.
However, since the cultivation in pots is the most widespread, it is important to face the problem of the substrate to be used. On the market there are often specific molds for geraniums. It is good to specify, however, that in reality they are not entirely suitable for their cultivation as they usually contain too much peat which, over time, tends to become "impermeable". In practice it loses the ability to absorb water that will escape directly leaving a dry substrate tending to overheat.
On the other hand, it is ideal to prepare a soil by using clays (which retain water) and making it more dry and draining with pumice, perlite or expanded clay.
The pots, to give maximum comfort to the plants, must always be rather large. We recommend at least 20 cm in diameter (however, ideal for growing and becoming impressive plants is 28-30 cm).
If we want to put the geraniums in the typical balconette it is also in this case better not to approach them too much one to the other. The minimum linear distance is 15-20 cm. Usually, as soon as they are purchased they look like small plants, but they tend to expand (especially the varieties falling from the balcony).
A frequent mistake found with i geraniums it is the tendency to water them too much.
These plants are very resistant to drought and need to be watered only when the substrate is completely dry. In this way the most frequent drawback will be avoided: root rot. A good way to understand if the soil is dry is to insert a finger in depth for at least 3-4 cm. In order for the plants to live at their best, it is advisable to thin out the waterings (and even the fertilizations) in the middle of summer (in warm climates) to allow the plant to go to rest and still give beautiful blooms in autumn.
It is important to remember that we must avoid wetting the leaves to avoid rot and cryptogamic diseases.
The ideal exposure varies greatly with the climate. Where the summers are hot it is better that the plants are in full sun only in the morning. In mountain resorts, on the other hand, they can easily be displayed in full sun even throughout the day.
Another reason for giving them large pots is their great need for nourishment which is necessary to support their growth and abundant blooms. In this respect it is possible to have different approaches. You can get good results by using slow release fertilizers (many find ideal ones for tomatoes, with a high potassium content) to be given every two or three months.
However, it is ideal to apply fertilizer regularly, even at every irrigation, by diluting a liquid fertilizer for flowering (or water-soluble) plants at lower doses than those recommended. In this way the plant will be stimulated in a constant manner, without sudden changes in nutrition (a system similar to that which would be obtained with fertigation). It is advisable, however, to take a break during the hottest periods to allow the plant to save its strength.
There are different types of pruning. First there is the one before the rest period.
In the North it is used to prune the plants before the arrival of the cold (usually they retire towards the end of October, before however the lows go below zero). They are also pruned very drastically and stored away in a dark (or poorly lit) place. A slight irrigation will then proceed from time to time. In the southern regions, on the other hand, at the beginning or end of the cold season, only cut the most lignified branches at the base, while the others are left longer by intervening at a node. Another period in which it is possible to intervene is before the great heat. You can proceed with a rather drastic pruning reducing the hair to reduce the exchange surface and therefore the loss of liquids. It is also important during the whole vegetative period to constantly trim the plants. This makes them fuller and more balanced. There will be more stems and flowers.
In this respect it is important to always proceed with a careful cleaning of withered flowers to stimulate the plant to produce others.
Geraniums are generally reproduced by cutting. The process is really simple and allows you to get new plants year after year (even some manuals recommend reproducing plants in time to keep them young every year and not keeping old plants). Proceed in spring or autumn, taking an apical branch of about 6-10 cm by cutting at a node. It is cleaned from the basal leaves keeping only a small one at the top. Put it in a jar with very light soil. The aerial part must be kept constantly humid (not the soil, however). For this purpose, a transparent plastic bag can be used. A new plant is obtained in about two months. At the household level, seed reproduction has also become widespread. This is because we succeeded in obtaining seeds that maintain constant the varietal characteristics and with a high germination capacity. This allows us to obtain varieties that are not very widespread at national level (such as the highly requested one) geranium yellow).
The most common diseases are caused by various molds that can hit the collar and the leaves.
In these cases it is very important to regulate irrigation, remove the affected leaves and place the plants in ventilated areas. Eventually you can intervene with specific anticryptogamics.
They can also be attacked by various insects (whitefly) or mites. The problem that occurs most frequently in recent years is the attack of the "butterfly of the geranium" Cacyreus marshalli.
This deposits the eggs inside the plant causing the branches to dry out.
Unfortunately to combat it effectively it is necessary to use systemic insecticides. The most comfortable formulations are those in granules or in tablets to be inserted periodically in the substrate.
Speaking very generally, there are three varieties that are most commonly found on the market:
- Pelargonium zonale: a woody, bushy plant with heart-shaped or round leaves. The flowers are carried in globose corymbs. They are the most widespread and known.
- Pelargonium peltatum ("ivy"): plant with thin, long stems and numerous knots. The leaves are similar to those of ivy. They are used as hanging typically on balconies or in suspended containers.
- Pelargonium macranthum: they have woody stems and trilobate leaves. The inflorescences are collected in umbels and the individual flowers are very large.
Behind the beauty of the geranium plant significant healing and beauty properties are hidden. From the distillate obtained by squeezing its leaves and its flowers it is possible to obtain a very precious essential oil which has been used as a natural medicine for centuries: as a cicatrizant, anti-haemorrhagic and antiseptic, useful for treating wounds and sores.
One of the most recent uses of this precious essential oil concerns the field of beauty in particular home remedies: besides being present in specific creams on the market, it is also possible to apply it directly on the epidermis to nourish it and protect it. Very effective for reducing stretch marks, scars, cellulite, acne and pimples, but also to combat unbearable menstrual pain: it is sufficient to dilute a few drops of geranium oil with almond oil and massage the painful part (lower abdomen) for a few moments.
The geranium does not require particular soil conditions, thanks to its natural characteristics. Favored by the particularity of having very strong and resistant roots that allow it to grow and develop well in most environments and soils.
A useful suggestion to favor a good growth of this plant is to orientate oneself on light and very soft soils that allow water to drain easily and naturally, avoiding that this can stagnate and create dangerous conditions for the life of the plant . Mixing a good amount of peat in the soil can be vital for the geranium, which still needs to be watered frequently, possibly daily especially in the hottest periods: it is important to keep the soil always well moist. In many areas, the geranium is cultivated as an annual plant It is a perennial that if winter is not too hard, it survives without problems this season and the following spring can still give beautiful flowers. During the winter especially in the coldest areas of Italy it is therefore good to treat the geranium plants to ensure that they do not suffer excessively and do not perish or even worse die.
In the cold season it is therefore necessary to first repair the plants from the cold, placing them in a sheltered and heated area where they are present at least 15 ° C. We also need to ensure that plants have good lighting because the geraniums they are a species that needs a lot of light. We therefore place the plant in a bright and warm area of the house, such as a window or better yet a heated greenhouse on the balcony.
Once this is done, it is advisable to proceed with the pruning of the plant, an intervention aimed mainly at cleaning the geranium, removing dead branches and general pruning. Fungicide treatments are another important intervention at this time of year. An antifungal treatment can be useful in this period to eliminate and prevent the presence of any mushrooms on the geraniums.Watch the video