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Do Scented Geraniums Prefer Sun or Shade?

Scented geraniums or pelargoniums are generally sun-loving plants, but light requirements can vary based on individual species, with some pelargoniums tolerating and even thriving in part shade.

Regional climate can also influence the light preferences of these plants. In very hot climates, afternoon shade is welcomed by scented geraniums, while in cooler climates, these plants grow much better in full sun.

Then there are indoor pelargoniums whose light requirements also need tweaking compared to those grown outdoors.

If this sounds confusing to you, don’t worry, I’ve created an easy-to-follow breakdown of pelargonium light requirements to get you up to speed with the most common questions about scented geranium light exposure.

How Much Sunlight do Scented Geraniums Need?

Because scented geraniums favor full sun over other light conditions, it’s safe to say that they need as much sunlight as they can possibly get. Especially if they’re grown indoors.

For pelargoniums grown indoors, you need to aim for at least four hours of direct sun exposure daily to ensure a balanced and healthy development.

Generally, 4-6 hours of direct light per day is considered enough for scented geraniums.

For scented geraniums that are grown outdoors — whether in containers or planted in the garden — you need to make sure they get bright light for the most part of the day.

In hot climates, with strong sunshine throughout the day, it’s not crucial for your pelargoniums to receive direct sunlight.

Or if they do get direct sunlight in the first part of the day, they can benefit from a bit of shade in the afternoon.

The situation is different in cooler climates, where pelargoniums can be grown in full sun all day, without worrying about potential risks of sun damage.

You also need to make an individual assessment of your scented geranium’s light tolerance.

If you plant it in a location with part shade and your plant isn’t growing or blooming as it should, you might need to relocate it to a sunnier spot.

Likewise, if your pelargonium is showing signs of sun damage, you need to reduce the amount of sun it’s receiving by moving it to a different location.

Where Should You Plant Scented Geraniums?

Scented geraniums are versatile when it comes to planting locations. If in choosing the best location for your scented geraniums, you’re guiding yourself by how much sun they’ll get, I’d say aim for a sunny location for most types of scented geraniums.

Other than this general guideline, you can plant pelargoniums in pots to keep in windowsills, garden beds or borders, or even to grow indoors.

When growing indoors, make sure to find a bright location, where the plant can receive a couple of hours of direct light per day.

If you have a garden with shade, scented geraniums will have a hard time growing and blooming. One of the first signs of a scented geranium not getting enough light is that they’ll grow leggy.

Will Scented Geraniums Survive and Bloom in Shade?

Because there are different degrees of shade, the answer to this question depends on how much light geraniums can still receive despite being planted in a garden that’s perceived as shady.

If the plants receive dappled light for the most part of the day, they may still be able to grow and bloom. If they receive bright indirect light, they can grow and develop blooms.

Grown in deep shade, scented geraniums will become leggy, frail and fail to produce blooms.

Therefore, you should not plant pelargoniums in gardens with deep shade since these plants thrive only if they’re exposed to full sun or bright indirect light for the most part of the day.

That said, some cultivars of scented geraniums can grow without problems in partial shade and a few will even tolerate some shade.

Shade Loving Scented Geranium Varieties

If your garden isn’t the epitome of a sunny location, yet you still want to grow geraniums, there are a few varieties that will either prefer partial shade or will tolerate some shade.

There are two types of scented geraniums that fit the description of being shade-loving pelargoniums:

  • Royal pelargoniums
  • Zonal pelargoniums

Shade-loving may be a bit of a stretch in describing these cultivars as they both need some level of full sun, it’s just they’re not exclusively dependent on it.

Of the two cultivars, the Royal pelargoniums with ‘Lord Bute’ and ‘Dark Secret’ as popular examples prefer partial shade, that is, direct sun in the first half of the day, followed by partial shade in the second half of the day, when the rays of the sun are the strongest.

Zonal pelargoniums (Pelargonium x hortorum) will tolerate some shade and grow to develop blooms despite of it, but they do need some direct sunlight at least for a couple of hours per day.

If you’re not sure how your scented geraniums will behave in different locations in your garden, there’s nothing stopping you from experimenting with different locations until you find the best spot for your plants.

If you’re growing pelargoniums in pots or containers, this is something that you can easily test and see which location would work best for your plants based on how much sun they’re getting.

Scented geraniums that do poorly in shade will grow leggy in search for more light and fail to produce blooms.

If your plant is otherwise developing normally and blooming regularly, it means it likes the location you’ve chosen for it.

Wrap Up

There you have it, scented geraniums do prefer sun over shade, although some varieties have been cultivated to tolerate various levels of shade.

These plants will not grow in deep shade, let alone bloom without access to full sun or at the very least indirect bright light.

Part shade can work for royal and zonal cultivars that don’t require as much light as other pelargoniums.

Ultimately, your plant will let you know if it’s getting too much or too little sun by showing symptoms of sun damage or lack of enough sun, helping you to find a better location for them.

Updated: March 18, 2021

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