Start the gardening season with Europe's top summer favourite: How to recognise the best quality geraniums when buying care Use Press releases When will summer finally return? Summer comes when the birds chirp, the rain gets warmer and the thought of walking barefoot is on our minds. A look at nursery greenhouses shows it won't be long now: Geraniums as far as the eye can see! Year after year, more than 26 million Europeans enjoy flowers on their balconies. Geraniums remain Europe's number one summer favourite. To get the balcony season off to a good start, the experts at Pelargonium for Europe (PfE) explain how to recognise the best horticultural quality when buying geraniums and how this is achieved. People love versatile geraniums with good reason. Countless varieties and colours offer something to suit every taste. Once planted, they effortlessly transform sunny to semi-shady balconies and terraces into magnificent seas of flowers from spring to autumn. They can even easily cope with long periods of heat. Geraniums are so easy to care for that they won't even mind if you're not at home as much this summer as in previous years. Quality factor 1: Bushy structure, strong shoots Beautifully bushy. This is what the best quality plants for gardeners should look like. If a geranium has many branches and so many leaves on strong stems that you can hardly see the compost in the container, it satisfies the first quality criterion. A bushy, branched growth habit is genetic in modern geranium varieties. The way geraniums are grown in nurseries also contributes to their bushy structure. If, for example, it is very warm in the greenhouse on dull March days, the geraniums grow quickly but not very compactly. Moderate temperatures produce better quality plants, but it takes longer until the plants are ready for sale. Quality factor 2: Plenty of buds If a few flowers are showing colour and more flower buds are on the way, the second criterion is fulfilled. A gardener-quality geranium will have plenty of buds. Geraniums grow and bloom best when the sun shines down unclouded from the sky. Around 25,000 to 30,000 lux (a measure of light strength) are considered optimal - light of the kind you would expect on a really nice early summer's day in full sun. Only, geraniums start life in January, when there is still no sign of the early summer sun. A gardener who loves their geraniums starts production early, treats the plants to well-cleaned greenhouse panes and waters sparingly so they develop slowly and robustly. Quality factor 3: A decent pot size Garden quality geraniums grow in decent pot sizes. The plant should be well-rooted enough that the root ball doesn't fall apart when the container is removed. Geraniums in pots of 11-13cm are best suited for planting in balcony boxes. These plants have enough root mass to take off right away, but at the same time will still fit well in standard flower boxes. Extra-large geraniums, which are sold in pots measuring more than 13cm in diameter, are better suited for planting in containers. You need a little more patience with plants that come in 6-packs. It easily takes a few weeks for these to reach the development stage of their bigger relatives. And when is the best time to buy geraniums? From mid-April onwards, greenhouses are filled with the popular summer bloomers. As soon as there is no longer a threat of frost at night, geraniums can go outdoors permanently. In our latitudes, this is usually the case from mid-May onwards . Sheltered spots around the house can be planted as early as the beginning of May. If you buy and plant earlier, you can protect your summer friends from freezing with bubble wrap if there is a risk of frost.