Article by David Marks
Geranium ‘Orion’ is a perennial geranium which has a life expectancy of many years. They can be left to their own devices for six or seven years and may then benefit from being divided into two individual plants which will then live for many more years after that.
Orion very nearly failed to come to the market. It grew as a chance seedling, from its parent Brookside, on the nursery of Brian Kabbes in Holland. The story could have ended there but another Dutch nurseryman, Coen Jansen agreed to submit Orion to the RHS hardy geranium trials which started in July 2002 at Wisley.
The RHS judged the geranium ‘Orion’ to be “a stunning cultivar” and it was awarded the RHS AGM in 2004.
Use the checklist below to decide if Geranium ‘Orion’ is suited to your preferences and garden conditions:
- They grow to roughly 1m / 3ft 3in inches high, the leaves first appearing in early April. They will spread to around 1 metre / 3 foot in three years.
- Masses of violet-blue flowers appear starting in May or early June. The flowers are large for a perennial geranium (4cm across) and continue to appear until late October. There is a lull in flower production around late June time but in early August it picks up again. This second flush can be encouraged by
- The leaves die down in October / November time.
- Geranium ‘Orion’ has a dislike of water-logged soils but they grow in all types of ground from clay to sandy soils. They grow quickest in soils which are nutrient rich.
- They tolerate full sun to semi-shade conditions. The best flower colour occurs in a sunny position.
- Left to their own devices, they will spread easily and grown around and through other nearby plants. They can easily be pruned back on June or November time to keep them in shape if you want.
- They are low maintenance if the soil is kept moist.
- No parts of the plant are poisonous to humans.
- They can successfully be grown in large containers.
- They are fully hardy in all parts of the UK down to -22°C / -11°F.
picture coming soon
WHERE TO BUY GERANIUM ORION
Almost all garden centres will sell Geranium ‘Orion’ so there is no difficulty in obtaining them. They are also widely available online.
Our recommendation for a reputable online supplier with a five year guarantee would be Crocus. They have served us well and supply healthy, good sized plants which are extremely well packaged. Click here for their page on Geranium ‘Orion’ in 9cm or 2 litre pots.
HOW AND WHEN TO PLANT GERANIUM ORION
Planting from pots is the most reliable method as described below
- Choose a sunny to partial shade position. Somewhere where the soil is normally moist but not waterlogged.
- If the soil is heavy or is not free draining add lots of well rotted compost to the area and dig it in well.
- It can be planted all year long if the soil is not frozen and you can water well when conditions are dry. Mid March to April and mid September to October are the best times to plant potted geraniums.
- Dig a hole twice the width of the rootball. Sprinkle in a handful of blood, fish and bone and work into the ground.
- Place the plant into the hole, filling in with soil so that it is at the same depth as was in the pot. Fill around the rootball and firm the soil down gently but firmly. Water well to settle the surrounding ground around the rootball.
HOW TO CARE FOR GERANIUM ORION
The key need of geranium Orion is a moist but not waterlogged soil, this plant is not drought resistant. If conditions are very dry, water well. They also prefer a soil slightly low in nutrients so a feed in spring and autumn with a handful of fish, blood and bone will keep it in good condition.
In rich soils geranium Orion will spread quite quickly after it has become established. If this is a problem trim it back to size in late June. This will also encourage it to flower into autumn. If you have the time, deadhead the flowers occasionally which will also encourage new ones to form but this is by no means essential.
When the first flush of flowers is coming to an end, prune the plants so that only an inch or two remains. Simply gather the stems in your hand and cut them off.
This pruning will encourage new leaves and stems to appear and a second flush of flowers. When the second flush of flowers finish you may want cut the plant down again in the hope of a third flush of flowers. It will certainly do no harm.
picture coming soon
HOW TO DIVIDE GERANIUM ORION
If, after five years or so, the number of flowers produced starts to decline, then it may be time to divide your geranium Orion. The best time to do this is in Spring, April is normally about right.
Before dividing it, make sure the plant is well watered the day before. Trim off all the foliage and flowers (if any) to about 15cm / 6in from the rootball. Because these plants spread very easily you may well be surprised to find out just how small the rootball is.
Dig up the rootball with a fork keeping as many of the roots attached as possible. Then it’s simply a matter of cutting the rootball into two or three equal parts. This can be done by prising it apart with your hands or literally cutting it with something like a hacksaw.
Replant each of the parts in their new positions to the same depth as the original plant and water in well. Don’t feed until the plant has developed new leaves.
GROWING GERANIUM ORION IN CONTAINERS
Geranium Orion plants can be grown in large containers if you have the time to keep them watered. They flower for longer than the vast majority of other plants and shrubs. Their stems tend to droop nicely over the edges and the central part will provide a bit of height up to 50cm / 20in.
Because of their preference for a well drained but moist soil they will need to be watered regularly and good drainage holes in the pot or container are a must.
A 45cm / 18in wide container is about the smallest advisable. The larger the container the happier the plant will be it will require watering less frequently. A container 30cm / 12 in deep is fine but again, the deeper it is the less frequently it will need watering.
Feed your plant in spring and autumn with a good handful of fish blood and bone. It will also be beneficial to feed it once a month with a liquid plant food such as Miracle Gro or similar. Geranium Orion is fully hardy in the UK so frost will not be a problem even when grown in a container.
One nice container planting idea we have seen is to under plant with snow drops or daffodils. By the time your geranium wakes up from its winter rest the daffodils or snow drops will have died down.
PESTS AND DISEASES OF GERANIUM ORION
Geranium Orion is very strong growing and in normal conditions is a pest and disease free. The few problems you might encounter are listed below.
This may be a problem with plants grown in containers but geranium Orion is no more susceptible than other plants. See our page here for diagnosing and treating vine weevil.
Occasionally hardy geraniums can suffer from mildew, see our page for diagnosing and treating this problem.
GERANIUM ORION SUMMARY
Below we list the key strengths and weaknesses of Geranium Orion.
|HARDY||(to -22°C / -11°F)|
|SHADE||Yes, full or partial|
|POT / CONTAINER||Yes|
|FLOWER TIME||June to October|