Martha Washington Geranium Care – Growing Regal Geranium

Martha Washington Geranium

Martha Washington Geranium is named after the wife of the nation’s first president. Ironically, the flowers are native to South Africa.

In any case, you may have seen it labeled as regal geranium, which in one of its common names. Botanically, it is known as Pelargonium domesticum.

Martha Washington Geranium are known for their stunningly beautiful blooms that bring lots of color wherever you place them. They’re available in white, pink, purple, maroon, red just to name a few.

The plants themselves get to about 1 to 2 feet tall. And, they’re commonly grown as indoor plants. That’s because they don’t blooms as much or as large outdoors.

Complementing their lovelry flowers are dark green foliage.

Martha Washington Geranium Plant Care

Martha Washington Geranium Light Requirements

Martha Washington Geranium require plenty of light to grow their best and produce beautiful blooms. Giving them at least 6 hours of sunlight daily is ideal.

But, you want to keep them away from direct sun. This is especially true during midday and the peaks of summer when the sun’s rays are most intense. This can cause its leaves and stems to experience sunburn.

That said, it doesn’t mind a couple hours or so of gently direct morning sun. This makes an eastern exposure a good spot.

In the west or south, you want to be more cautious because these areas receive afternoon sun.

On the other hand, lack of light will cause the plant to become leggy as it tries to reach out towards the light. You’ll also see it wilt.

With insufficient lighting, your Martha Washington Geranium won’t be able to produce as much blooms as it normally does.

 

Temperature

Martha Washington Geranium enjoy moderate to cool temperatures. But, they can be a little tricky especially if you want them to blossom.

The reason is they prefer cool nighttime temperatures and more moderate daytime temperatures to produce plenty of flowers.

As such, growing them outdoors often keeps them from doing so. Instead, they end up blooming once with less flowers.

As such, if you want them to blossom prolifically and bloom again, keep nighttime temperatures between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This is likewise true during fall and winter.

In the summer, they prefer temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Because of this quirk, you don’t see as much as this plant as you would others in its genus, despite if beautiful flowers.

That said, they are hardy to USDA zones 5 to 10. Again, because of their preference for cooler conditions, they do better in the lower zones of this range.

As a result, in order to have better control of climate conditions, most Martha Washington Geranium are grown as indoor plants.

 

Humidity

Humidity is less of a problem because they grow well in regular household humidity. As long as you keep relative humidity at around 40% or so, they’ll be happy.

But, you do want to be careful with dry or overly moist conditions. Both are not good for geraniums. If humidity is too low, you may see its leaves turn brown from the dryness.

On the other hand, too high humidity can increase the risk of mold and fungal problems.

 

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How Often to Water Martha Washington Geranium

Martha Washington Geranium need regular watering during their growing season. That’s because they grow best in moist soil But, you want to be careful not to leave them in wet or soggy soil.

To do so, it is important to allow the top layer of soil to dry between waterings.

The best way to test for this is to stick your finger into he soil down to about 2 inches deep. If the soil at this level feels dry, it is time to water. If it still feels moist, even a little bit, wait a day or more before testing again.

Doing this eliminates having to stick to a regular schedule which almost never works. That’s because the frequency will change depending on the time of year, how much sun there is in recent days and a few other factors.

As a result, you’ll often end up watering a few times a week during the summer. And, only about once every week or two weeks during wintertime.

By testing the soil, you can easily tell when to water and when not to water.

Similarly, after the plants flower, scale back of watering. But, don’t allow it to completely dry out.

When watering, it is a good idea to water thoroughly.

In containers, this means watering until the root ball is saturated. Then allow any excess moisture to completely drain. This will encourage roots to dig deeper to create a better foundation for your plants.

Similarly, avoid wetting the plant when you water. Instead, pour onto the soil. This is true for containers as well as in the ground.

Wetting the leaves and not allowing them to dry can lead to fungus infection. As such, you’ll see brown spots on foliage. If this happens, trim off the affected areas. You’ll also need to use fungicide if this doesn’t stop it.

 

Soil for Martha Washington Geranium

Martha Washington Geranium do best in well-drained soil. Ideally, they’re planted in rich soil that will help them bloom.

But, the most important thing to consider is that the soil should not retain too much water.

This means that outdoors, you want to avoid clay soil. If you do have heavy soil, it is a good idea to amend the soil beforehand or use a garden bed.

Similarly, make sure they get enough space. Ideally, keep about 8 to 12 inches of space between plants around it.

If you’re growing the plant in containers, good quality potting mix will work. Make sure that the pot has drainage holes at the bottom.

And, you want to use a container that’s at least 8 inches in diameter. This will give its roots enough room to spread out.

However, be careful not to use an overly large pot. Too much space means a lot of soil relative to the roots. So, when you water, all that soil will be saturated with water. This will leave the plant sitting in water for long periods of time.

if you purchase soil from the nursery, choose a peat-based soilless mix. If you prefer making your own, a combination of the potting soil you have at home along with some peat and vermiculite will do just as well.

The plant is not too fussy about the type of soil you use. So, you have a wide array to choose from. As long as it is able to stay moist and drain well, the plant will be happy.

martha washington geranium

source: wikimedia commons

 

Fertilizer

Martha Washington Geranium don’t necessarily need fertilizer if your garden has loamy soil. Similarly, if you incorporate compost into your potting mix, you can reduce or eliminate the need for fertilizer.

However, you need to make sure the plant receives enough nutrients. This is especially true in containers since most potting mixes are soilless.

They will need the sustenance especially in its growing season for grow and produce plentiful blooms.

As such, apply liquid fertilizer once every 2 weeks during spring and summer. This will help in producing large leaves and blossoms.

Because you’re focusing of flowering, you want to limit the nitrogen (N) ratio in the plant food you use. Ideally, use a high phosphorus product to encourage blooming.

Nitrogen promotes vegetative growth. As such, too high a concentration of it will turn the plant’s focus on its leaves and not its flowers.

Pruning

Martha Washington Geranium are not huge plants. But, they do get sizable in terms of flowers.

With the right conditions, you can expect them to reach 2 feet tall.

Just as importantly, they’ll live for years to come. But, they’ll often peak after their 3rd year. As such, patience is important.

That said, grooming plays a role in improving its longevity. As such, it is important to remove faded flowers. This will help reduce the chances of disease. And, it will allow the plant to produce more flowers.

 

Martha Washington Geranium Propagation

Martha Washington Geranium are propagate via stem tip cuttings. The best time to do this is during spring or early summer.

It is likewise a good idea to do so when you’re pruning since you’ll be cutting back the stems anyways during the process.

Here’s how to propagate Martha Washington Geranium.

  • Start by choosing healthy herbaceous (non-woody) stems. Ideally, you want to choose a healthy one with at least 2 or 3 leaves.
  • Remove the lower leaves that will go under the soil when planted. Only keep the top foliage.
  • Dip the cuttings in rooting hormone powder.
  • Then, plant the cuttings into sandy soil. Sandy soil is ideal for young Martha Washington Geranium. After they mature, they’ll transition towards regular potting mix.
  • You can likewise propagate Martha Washington Geranium in water instead of directly going straight into soil.
  • Cover the container with a plastic bag to increase humidity. This will help it grow faster in the initial stages.
  • Within 2 to 3 weeks, the cuttings will begin to grow roots.
  • Wait for the cuttings to grow a bit more. After that, you can transplant them to larger containers.

 

Martha Washington Geranium Winter Care

Martha Washington Geranium can be left outside through the winter if you live in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 10. They enjoy cool but not overly freezing temperatures. So, they’ll be able to tolerate the climate in these regions.

That said, if you live in the lower end of that range, you want to use mulch to heavy protect them from the cold.

If you live below zone 5, a better option is to take cuttings from the plant during the fall and plant them in rooting mix. This will allow you to grow them indoors through the winter.

And, once the threat of frost passes in spring, you can plant these outside.

If you prefer keeping your plant, dig it up and take the plant inside to store for the winter. You can then overwinter them in a cool, bright location indoors. Then plant them back outside once the warmer weather of spring arrives.

 

How to Repot Martha Washington Geranium

If you grow your Martha Washington Geranium is a container, you’ll need to repot it every few years. While its roots like a lot of room, they do very well be slightly root bound. As such, you can wait a little longer to repot.

Ideally, spring is the best time to repot or transplant it. This allows it to take advantage of the remainder of the growing season to grow.

As always make sure to use a container that has a drainage hole. Also, refresh the potting mix while you’re at it. This will help the plant grow faster. New soil is also looser which allows oxygen and water to easily get to the root.

 

Toxicity

Unfortunately, as beautiful as it is, the Martha Washington Geranium is toxic to dogs and cats. Similarly, you want to keep it away from young children.

Consuming the not only can cause irritation but also make them vomit and experience other gastrointestinal issues, albeit temporary

 

Pests and Diseases

Martha Washington Geranium are quite resistant to pests. As such, you’ll rarely experience pest infestation or even problems from these critters.

On the other hand, fungal disease and rotting can be issues. Thus, it is very important to be mindful with moisture and watering.

Similarly, deadheading faded flowers not only help promote more blooms but also prevent these diseases from happening.

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