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Geraniums from seed ... here's how.

Is it worth the trouble to grow geraniums from seeds instead of cuttings? Since seeds are becoming more available to home gardeners, we decided to find out. Our conclusion: it can be both rewarding and disappointing.

In any event, it takes patience: the first bloom won't appear for at least five or six months. But you'll end up with attractive plants that have compact form, excellent branching, and abundant flowers.

Even so, you may be disappointed when some seeds refuse to sprout. And plants will require tedious coddling.

Sow seeds about 1/8 inch deep in potting mix or expandable peat pellets. Since seeds are expensive (a packet of five costs about $1), you'll probably want to sow one seed in each pot or sixpack cell. For best germination, put them in a warm (about 75[deg.]) spot in the kitchen, or use a bottom-heating cable (heating soil to more than about 65[deg.] could kill the seeds).

Keep planting medium moist, and cover containers with clear plastic or glass. To keep head down, prop up glass when seedlings first appear.

Some sprouts should appear in a week to 10 days; some slowpokes take a week or two longer. Once seedlings are up, give them plenty of light, either in a greenhouse or indoors from fluorescent lights left on about 12 hours during the day. A sunny windowsill will also work, but plants may get leggy and bloom later. Feed with a vary dilute solution of liquid fertilizer.

When plants have several true leaves, move to 4-inch pots, planting at same depth as before to help prevent stem rot. Let soil dry out somewhat between waterings. Keep the geraniums in containers, or move them into the garden in spring after frost danger is past. To avoid burning tender leaves, place the plants in a protected spot away from direct sun for at least two weeks before setting them out in the garden.

Seed sources. Occasionally available on seed racks, geranium seeds are also sold by many mail-order nurseries. We list four firms offering a wide variety; write for their free catalogs. W. Atlee Burpee Co., Warminster, Pa. 18974. Geo. W. Park Seed Co., Box 31, Greenwood, S.C. 29647. Stokes Seeds Inc., Box 548, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240. Thompson and Morgan, Box 100, Farmingdale, N.J. 07727.
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Date:Nov 1, 1984
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