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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Sunday - July 26, 2009

From: Mt. Clemens, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Care of potted non-native geraniums
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in lower Michigan (Mt. Clemens) and recently purchased 2 small, potted geraniums. They are a beautiful vibrant red in color. As the blooms wilt and turn dark, should I snip that part off the stem or just remove the darkened petals?

ANSWER:

There are three species of the genus Geranium native to Michigan, and we're betting none of them are the plant you have. They are: Geranium bicknellii (Bicknell's cranesbill), Geranium carolinianum (Carolina geranium), and Geranium maculatum (spotted geranium).  We'll show you some pictures of a couple of these, and we're sure you will agree that is not what you have. We are pretty sure none of this genus have bright red flowers.

The plants usually sold in the nursery trade under the name "Geranium" are, in fact, members of the Pelargonium genus, which is indigenous to South Africa. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we are dedicated to the care, preservation and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. However, while your plants will not appear in our Native Plant Database, we can tell you that it is always a good idea to clip off the stem of a bloom that has wilted, as well as leaves that are yellowing. This website from Flower Gardening Made Easy: Growing geraniums-Great in the garden and in pots, does, indeed, tell you in the first paragraph that they are actually talking about pelargonium. From Google, here are more pictures of your plant.

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From the Image Gallery


Carolina geranium
Geranium carolinianum

Carolina geranium
Geranium carolinianum

Spotted geranium
Geranium maculatum

Spotted geranium
Geranium maculatum

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