Pelargonium (Geranium)

Pelargonium, commonly known as Geranium, is a genus of about 250 species, as well as many hybrids and cultivars. The genus belongs to the family Geraniaceae and is native to South Africa, Australia and the Middle East. The genus includes annuals and perennials, shrubs and subshrubs, succulents, and both evergreen and deciduous species.
Pelargoniums come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. They are prized for their versatility and colorful flowers which are often bi-colored with decorative stripes. They are great for containers, baskets or trailing down over balconies.

Name meaning

The genus name comes from the Greek word “pelargos”, which means “stork”, which alludes to the resemblance of the shape of the fruit to the beak of a stork.

Pelargonium symbolism

Pelargoniums symbolize friendship, happiness and positive emotions.

Interesting facts about Pelargonium

Pelargonium or Geranium?

Although Geraniums and Pelargoniums are both part of the Geraniaceae family, they are two distinct genera. They are often conflated, but in reality they are quite different plants. The problem occurred in the 17th century when the early botanists lumped Pelargoniums together with a group of similar plants already known as Geraniums. While both genera were originally classified as Geraniums, they were later separated into two genera. The famous botanist Carl Linnaeus grouped Geraniums and Pelargoniums together, but in the 18th century botanists agreed that they were different genera. Unfortunately, the reclassification was not widely accepted for a long time, and there is still confusion over nomenclature. The majority of species that are known as Geraniums are in reality Pelargoniums.
While they have similarities, they also have some significant differences in growth, appearance and seed dispersal mechanism. Most Geraniums can withstand cold temperatures, while Pelargoniums are less tolerant of cold weather and may be damaged by frost. Both genera have flowers with five petals, but there are differences in floral morphology. In general, Geraniums have five very similar petals that are radially symmetrical, while Pelargonium flowers have two upper petals that are different from the three lower petals, giving them an asymmetrical appearance. One thing is sure, they are both beautiful and look stunning in containers, baskets and window boxes.

Different Types of Pelargoniums

There are many different types of Pelargoniums and they are further divided into types based on leaf and flower shape, size, scent and growth habit. The most common types include Zonal Pelargonium, Regal Pelargonium, Ivy Leaf Pelargonium and Scented Leaf Pelargonium.

  • Zonal Pelargoniums are named for their “zoned” leaf markings that look like those of English ivy (Hedera helix). They are also known as Bedding Geraniums because of their use in pots and tubs on patios and balconies. These plants are characterized by their rounded leaves and clusters of many individual flowers held on long stems. They come in many beautiful colors and are well-known for their long flowering period. Pelargonium zonale is a parent species of many of the Zonal Pelargonium hybrids.
  • Regal Pelargoniums have some of the most colorful flowers in the entire genus. The eye-catching flowers are similar to Azaleas in shape, size and color. These plants develop a shrubby habit and are more upright growing. Regal Pelargoniums are less tolerant of poor weather, which means they are both frost tender and heat-sensitive. They have a spectacular appearance that will surely brighten up your garden. Pelargonium ‘Fareham’ is one of the most representative species of the Regal Pelargoniums.
  • Ivy Leaf Pelargoniums are named for their ivy-shaped foliage. They also have lovely, delicate flowers with different patterns and interesting colors. They are great for hanging baskets, window boxes and pots where they can cascade over the edge like a waterfall. Many of the Ivy Leaf Pelargoniums today are hybrids of the Pelargonium peltatum, which has been cultivated as an ornamental for over 300 years.
  • Scented Leaf Pelargoniums have scented leaves with an interesting shapes and textures. They have a wide range of scents to choose from, such as Rose, Eucalyptus, Lemon, Orange, Apple, Ginger, Oak and many others. Not only do they have attractive and scented leaves, the flowers are beautiful and attract butterflies and bees. They have smaller flowers than some of the other varieties, but they grow trouble-free and always perform well. This group of plants include Pelargonium capitatum, Pelargonium tomentosum, Pelargonium x asperum, Pelargonium ‘Charity’ and many other beautiful varieties.

Benefits and Uses

Pelargonium has a history of medicinal use for a variety of conditions. Many species were documented as being used by traditional healers in South Africa to treat wounds, fatigue, diarrhea, dysentery, colds, fevers and tuberculosis. Today, these plants are used to relieve symptoms of respiratory tract infections such as cold, cough, pneumonia, flue, bronchitis and sinusitis.
Pelargonium sidoides has long been used as a natural antibiotic.

Scented Leaf Pelargoniums are usually edible and are widely used in kitchen recipes. The flowers can be used as a flavouring in salads, jellies, desserts and cakes. The leaves are also edible and can be used as a leaf vegetable. They make attractive garnishes for food and drink.

Not only do they look pretty, these beautiful flowers also repel insects thanks to the essential oils contained in their leaves.

Pelargonium Plant Data