Care of a Martha Washington Geranium

TheGardenLady received this question from Helen.

My daughter gave me a Martha Washington Geranium plant. I kept it indoors for a while then put it outside in the sun. The leaves wilted and turned yellow. I did water it before putting it outside. What is wrong with it?

When plants are kept indoors, they generally do not get the kind of intense light that they get when placed in the sun.  I imagine that your Martha Washington Geranium was kept in a bright, light windowed area of your home.  When you take a plant outdoors it should be acclimated to the intensity of the sun gradually.  You can do this by putting it out in a shady area of your garden and then gradually moving it to a sunnier location for  brief periods  of the day, until your plant is able to tolerate the full force of the sun.  And even then, though the Martha Washington Geranium needs full sun, it cannot tolerate the intensity of the  midday and afternoon sun or its leaves will burn.  So get your plant its needed six hours of morning sun.

If your plant was taken out of the pot and planted in the ground when you took it outdoors, it needs rich soil that drains well.  If you left it in the pot, use a potting soil with peat and vermiculite as the main ingredients. The  pot should be at least 8 inches in diameter and have drainage holes in the bottom or sides. Martha Washington Geranium does NOT like to stand in water so do not keep the draining tray under it when outdoors. They like moist but not wet soil, so only water the top two inches in the pot.

To keep your Martha Washington Geranium healthy and to promote flowering, you should fertilize it every two weeks.  Buy a fertilizer that does not have too much nitrogen in it.  On each container of fertilizer you will see three numbers.  Choose a fertilizer where the first number is half the second two numbers.  The first number stands for Nitrogen, the second number stands for phosphorus and the last number stands for potassium. So you might see something like 4-8-10.  That 4 is for nitrogen which is half of the phosphorus and less than half of the potassium. Follow all package directions regarding how to apply the fertilizer.

Follow these instructions and your geranium should improve and flower.  When the flowers die, cut them back and discard the dead flowers.  This is called dead heading. 

Dead heading encourages the plant to produce more flowers and helps prevent disease from the rotting blossoms.  If you see any disease on your plant, cut off the diseased part and discard.  

2 Replies to “Care of a Martha Washington Geranium”

  1. I usually put my regular geranium in the basement for the winter and they come back every year.
    I got a Martha Washington this year and I was wondering if I can do the same with it. Will it come back next Spring also?

  2. I wintered my Martha Washington geraniums in my basement. They did come back but slower.

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