How to Grow Martha Washington Geraniums


Learning how to grow geraniums, and how to grow Martha Washington Geraniums in particular, is a great way to add some beautiful flowers to your garden! Geraniums are a garden staple here in Edmonton, across the prairies, and frankly, all of Canada.  Geraniums are some of the toughest kids on the block — they take the heat, take the cold, they can handle our long days, and bloom far into September and even October if we are lucky.

Let’s take a look at geraniums in general and then narrow our focus on Regal or Martha Washington Geraniums specifically.

Why Even Grow Geraniums?

1. Geraniums are Colourful

Geraniums pack a solid punch of colour ranging from the brightest red to the softest pink and white.  Bright orange is the newest addition to the colour palette.  You can see geraniums from a mile away because of their colour power.

2. Geraniums are Hardy 

As I mentioned earlier, geraniums are one tough plant.  They take our chilly weather and thrive in our hot weather too.  

3. Geraniums are Easy to Grow

Once geraniums are placed in the right sunny environment, watered regularly when dry, and fertilized weekly with a balanced fertilizer like 20-20-20, 15-30-15, or a natural fertilizer like Nature’s Source, they will grow prolifically.  Remember to deadhead by taking off the old blossoms for continued blooming.

Martha Washington Geraniums are a Unique Class of Geraniums

Martha Washington Geraniums are also called Regal Geraniums or Pansy Geraniums and their names are used interchangeably.  They are a collection of geraniums grown from cuttings that is an older, heirloom geranium.  Regal Geraniums originate from South Africa and are named after the wife of George Washington, the 1st president of the United States of America, and were very popular in the early 1900s.

The most alluring feature of Regal Geraniums is their unique, velvety, bicoloured and ruffled flowers.  They bloom in the red, pink, violet, and white colour spectrum.  Many have white accents, either at the petal edges or in the center.  Some bicolors have accents in a lighter or darker tone.

This upright growing geranium has leaves that are somewhat serrated and even a little pokey to the touch. When crushed, the leaves smell lemony.

Pansy geraniums grow to heights of 30-45 cm (1-1.5 feet) and usually don’t need any support stakes unless they are growing lopsided.

Uses for Regal Geraniums

The main, and really only, use for Regal geraniums is to add beauty wherever they are planted! Martha Washington geraniums grow best in planted container arrangements or hanging baskets.  They display best with a mix of other plants that like this same environment. 

Where to Grow Martha Washington Geraniums

Growing Martha Washington geraniums can be puzzling for some home gardeners until they understand their unique growing requirements.

Martha Washington Geraniums differ from the other classes of Geraniums in that they aren’t fans of extremely hot weather.  Martha Washington geraniums like to grow in cooler weather and they may slow flowering when it gets too hot for them.  They set buds during 15 C nights, so the cool Edmonton nights are good for them.  

This is why it is best to grow Regal geraniums with a collection of other flowers that can take on the heavy lifting (blooming) during the hot days of summer just in case the Martha Washington geraniums slow down their blooming cycle.  When the nights cool in mid-August, they will start up again.

Martha Washington geraniums provide great early spring colour while other plants are just starting to think about growing, but they don’t like frost. 

Grow Martha Washington geraniums in an east, northeastern, or northwestern location where they receive a minimum of 6 hours of sunshine but get a break from the sun’s hot afternoon rays. 

Other Plant Care Tips for Regal Geraniums

Watering Martha Washington Geraniums is a little different from other geraniums. These geraniums are not as drought tolerant, so check them regularly and keep them moderately moist growing in fertile, well draining soil. However, ensure you keep them from staying wet or from sitting in drip trays with standing water.

Fertilize Martha Washington geraniums weekly with a water soluble fertilizer that has a higher phosphorus content.  Phosphorus is the middle number in the fertilizer number sequence.  Look for combinations like 15-30-15.  Avoid an even sequence like 20-20-20 has a little more nitrogen (that’s the first number) and will promote a lot of green leafy growth rather than encourage blooming.

Deadheading Martha Washington Geraniums, or removing old flower heads, helps to keep them actively blooming. Don’t pinch or cut back the plants because it can halt flowering. 

Recommended Varieties of Martha Washington Geraniums

There are many different varieties of Martha Washington geraniums that will add beauty to your garden. The Elegance series are common, beautiful  varieties that perform well for our area. 

Elegance Series Martha Washington Geraniums

  • Bravo
  • Burgundy
  • Cherry Splash
  • Claret
  • Imperial
  • Lavender Splash
  • Lilac Majesty
  • Purple Majesty
  • Red Velvet
  • Rose Bicolour
  • Royalty White

Where to Find Good Quality Martha Washington / Regal / Pansy Geraniums in Edmonton and Surround Areas:

The following Alberta businesses in the Edmonton and surrounding areas carry Martha Washington Geraniums: 

  • Greenland Garden Center (Edmonton / Sherwood Park)
  • Khulmann’s Greenhouse Garden Market (Edmonton)
  • Thiel’s Greenhouses (Bruderheim & Fort Saskatchewan)
  • Lac la Biche Home Hardware (Lac la Biche)
  • Landscapes, Lawns & Gardens (Vermilion)

Give these retailers a call today to see which ones they carry and don’t wait, they get snatched up quickly!

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