Geranium Guide

How to Fix Leggy Geraniums (Pelargoniums)

 

Learning how to fix leggy geraniums is important to the geranium lover because fixing leggy geraniums often translates into improved plants and better blooms. If you have grown geraniums for some time and never took the time in pruning it,  chances are, a time may come sooner than later when you’ll end up with a very tall geranium plant. As the time goes by, the leaves will start falling from the bottom all the way to the top, with the end result of having an ugly, leggy geranium with just a few leaves on the top.

Causes of Leggy Geraniums 

Many gardeners are familiar with leggy seedlings which occur as a result of young seedling plants stretching out as much as they can so to reach light. However, in this article we are addressing adult geranium plants that become tall and leggy overtime. What causes exactly geraniums to become leggy with leaves and flowers only at the end of long branches?

This is a great question. As with seedlings, lack of sufficient light may also cause an older geranium to start stretching. This is why it is often recommended to have geraniums in a sunny spot as they sure love the sun.  When placed in the shade, geraniums will try their best to stretch out in search of the sun which causes them to become spindly.

However, there may be other mechanisms at play.  Even with light and sun, some geranium plants, as they grow old, tend to develop brown stems that may look almost dead with just some green growth on the tip. This is often the result of lack of “training.” Training from a young age is something professional gardeners implement for the purpose of obtaining bushier, nicer looking geranium plants.

Did you know? Prevention is worth a pound of cure! Since a sign of geraniums receiving insufficient light are plants that begin bending towards the window and elongating, a good way to prevent leggy geraniums is by turning the pots regularly.

How to Fix Leggy Geraniums

Preventing geraniums from getting leggy from the get-go is a good practice for the geranium lover. Make it a habit to periodically pinch off or cut back the growth tips as young geranium plants are growing. This stimulates the plant to branch out at the sides and grow bushier over time which also leads to a larger production of flowers. It’s best practice to cut directly above a branch or growth bud.

When a geranium plant is adult and has never been cut back, it’s too late for pinching the delicate growth tips. More drastic measures will be needed. You would therefore have to cut the plant back to about a third to a half in order to allow lower shoots to encourage the older stems to send out new growth from the base. At that point, you would start training the new growth by pinching.

Many geranium growers cut back their leggy geranium plants immediately after flowering. As drastic as this may sound, this will often encourage the plant to generate more blooms in just a few weeks. Many gardeners will also cut back their geranium plants hard (almost to the ground) in early November before the winter so to let them rest.

Making the Best Out of It 

Source: Gardener’s Chronicles of America, Volume 23-24 Public domain

When cutting back a leggy geranium it’s a good time to also take the opportunity to repot the plant into fresh soil. Make sure to loosen up the root ball before replanting so to promote aeration and good nutrient absorption.

When cutting back a leggy geranium plant, it is also a good time to use the cuttings and try to make them root. Several gardeners report more success in getting the tips of their geranium cuttings to root in the fall compared to the rest of the year. Following is a guide to help you succeed: how to grow geranium cuttings.

There is ultimately nothing to lose in trying to grow some geranium cuttings. If you succeed, you’ll end up having lots of plants which is ultimately what a geranium lover dreams of. And the best part is that now you can start pinching them back from the get-go so you won’t end up fixing any more leggy geraniums. A win-win!

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