Growing Regal Geraniums: Caring For Martha Washington Geranium


The pelargonium x domesticum [pe-lar-GO-nee-um] x [doh-MESS-tik-um] is more popularly known as Martha Washington geranium or regal geraniums.

This plant stands out in the geranium family, thanks to its striking color pallet and foliage. You can add color to any garden with this bold plant.

While these geraniums are named after the wife of the first president of the United States, they are native to North Africa with the first hybrids originating in Europe.

These bushy plants are commonly grown as annuals and tend to bloom in the later winter or early spring around Mother’s Day. If you want more color during the winter, you should learn how to care for this regal plant.

Martha Washington geranium with purple bloomsMartha Washington geranium with purple blooms
Purple flowering Martha Washington geranium

Martha Washington Geranium Care

How Big Do Martha Washington Geraniums Get?

The Martha Washington geranium can grow quite large. In fact, it can reach two feet in just one year.

You can grow these plants outdoors but the plants are first and foremost an indoor plant.

When grown outdoors these geraniums typically only flower once and produce fewer flowers.

They prefer well-drained soil. When the plant is young, you should use sandy soil. However, a mature Martha Washinton flower grows well in normal potting soil.

These plants are recommended for USDA hardiness zones 5 – 10, but the blooms tend to last longer in cooler environments.

If you decide to grow the plant outdoors in a garden bed, space the plants at least 8” to 12” inches apart. When growing in a pot, the pot should be at least eight inches in diameter.

Don’t forget about drainage. The pot needs to have drainage holes to keep the soil from remaining too moist.

Flowering

While the plant can still grow quite large indoors, the flowers tend to get bigger when grown outdoors. The benefit of growing indoors is that you can often “force” the plant to flower throughout the year.

The plant blooms in the summer, producing large, colorful flowers.

Light and Temperature

The Martha Washington geranium requires plenty of sunlight. However, you should avoid direct sunlight.

The main rule is to ensure that the plant receives at least six hours of sunlight each day. If they don’t get enough light, the foliage will start to droop and wilt.

In the summer keep the temperature in the low to middle 70° degree Fahrenheit range and winter temperatures between 50° and 60° degree Fahrenheit.

Watering and Feeding

You need to water this plant frequently throughout the growing season.

During the summer, plants may need watering several times per week.

When the plant starts to go dormant during the winter, you may only need to water once every one or two weeks.

Liquid fertilizer is recommended twice per month during the summer if you want to produce large blooms and foliage.

Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers as they will encourage growth and not blooms.

However, this quick-growing plant doesn’t really need too much encouragement to grow.

Soil and Transplanting

The Martha Washington geranium grows best in well-drained soil. Regular potting soil is preferred.

If you have a large geranium, repotting isn’t always easy. The best solution is to propagate the plant by taking cuttings.

If you do need to transplant a mature geranium, you should do so just before the summer, before the plant begins growing swiftly.

You should also trim it down and remove cuttings, which can be used for propagation.

Drops of water on Martha Washington geranium flowerDrops of water on Martha Washington geranium flower

Grooming And Maintenance

Grooming is recommended, as it helps increase the longevity of the plant. Remove spent flowers helps produce more flowers and reduce disease as blossoms rot.

For more read our article on Deadheading Geraniums

While these plants can last for years, they tend to peak after three years.

Sooner or later indoor geraniums will need cutting back as they grow larger and with an open, unshaped appearance.

Also, the flowers begin to get smaller with weaker spindly top shoots.

This “look” means it is time to prune the plant. New shoots will appear, the plant will have a better bushy shape and It will return to full flowering.

How to Propagate Martha Washington Geraniums

To propagate Martha Washington geraniums, trim the plants back and use all the “not too woody” tip cuttings.

Four-inch tip cuttings with one or two pairs of leaves root best.

  • Place cuttings in water or dip the bottoms into a hormone rooting powder
  • Pot cuttings in a well-draining sandy soil
  • Cover pots with plastic bags (include some air holes)
  • Cuttings should take root within two to three weeks
  • Once rooted plant cuttting in a new pot

Martha Washington Geranium Pests or Disease Problems

Yellow Leaves – When the soil is too dry plants begin to exhibit yellow leaves and brown spots.

Remedy – Water thoroughly and monitor soil moisture.

Weak Growth – usually shows up when plants do not get enough light.

Remedy – Move the plant to a better location with more light. Make sure the plant does get shade.

Weak Basal Shoots – Bacterial infection can weaker plants.

Remedy – The best solution is to throw the plant away. DO NOT use the plants for cuttings.

Fungus And Rotting Stems – When plants are placed in damp, dark areas – they may experience fungus and stems begin to turn dark and rot.

Remedy – Throw the plant away. DO NOT use the plants for cuttings.

“Balls Of Cotton” – When plants have white “balls of cotton” on leaves and stem axils expect to find mealy bugs.

Remedy – Treat with Neem oil or Insecticidal soap.

Lots of leaves and not many flowers. Too much fertilizer. Plants are being overfed with high nitrogen fertilizer.

Remedy – Reduce fertilizer. Starve the plants a bit.

Master Growing Martha Washington Geranium

Martha Washington Geranium can be incredibly beautiful given the right conditions and is worth the effort to master its care.

Unlike other regal Pelargonium, Martha Washington Geraniums are first and foremost an indoor plant.

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