Calliope geraniums produce summer color

Published 10:47 am Monday, April 3, 2023

By Dr. Eddie Smith
MSU Extension Service

I believe the geranium is one of the most popular landscape plants in the South.

I see them at almost every garden center or nursery I visit. I also remember as a kid seeing my grandmother’s potted geranium in a container on her front porch. It had bright-red flowers.

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Some of my favorite geraniums are in the Calliope series. This is one of the most popular varieties suited for baskets, containers and gardens.

Plants in the Calliope series most closely resemble zonal geraniums in leaf structure and form. They have a vigorous, semitrailing, strong branching growth habit and semidouble flowers that provide long-lasting color. They are good choices for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds to your yard.

Calliope is a cross between upright zonal and trailing ivy geranium.

Red is the most popular color, and Calliope Large Red doesn’t disappoint. This variety grows to about 14 inches tall at maturity with a spread of 20 inches. Its foliage tends to remain dense right to the ground. This selection has outstanding flower color and is a rich, deep, velvety red.

My favorite geraniums have red flowers, but Calliope doesn’t stop with this traditional color. It comes in a wide range of colors. Cascade Violet has intense-colored, semidouble flowers. Large Orange Splash has clusters of coral-orange flowers.

Geraniums like lots of sun and are heat- and drought-tolerant. Always plant them in well-drained potting mix, and water only when the soil is dry to the touch. Be careful not to overwater, as geraniums don’t like wet feet.

They are heavy feeders and need plenty of fertilizer to meet their nutrient needs. Feed them with a water-soluble fertilizer like 20-20-20 every two weeks, or with a controlled-released fertilizer every four to six weeks.

If you are looking for a plant with variegated foliage, try Wilhelm Langguth Geranium. It is not a Calliope, but it has large clusters of showy red flowers with unique variegated foliage. It will add visual appeal to your hanging baskets, containers and landscape beds.

When geranium flowers are fading, don’t forget to deadhead. Do this by pinching or pruning the flower stalk at the base, where it is attached to the plant. This process encourages more flowering.

Be sure to check your local nursery or garden center for Calliope geraniums this spring. You know you will be getting plants that will bring you lots of color and enjoyment all summer.