Pelargonium, Part 2

Last week, I wrote about the confusing situation of Pelargonium and Geranium. If you missed that one, click here. There was too much information to include in one post, so here is the rest.

Pelargoniums, commonly called Geraniums, are grouped in categories, based on certain characteristics. I found conflicting information about these categories, but there are 4 groups that everyone seems to agree on. Those are Zonal, Ivy-Leaf, Regal and Scented Leaf.

Zonal Geranium
The most common type, these are found in gardens across the country. The name Zonal is said to be based on the darker zone of color that often forms a band of color on the leaves. It was used to separate cutting-grown plants from seed-grown plants. Apparently, in the past, seed-grown plants were not that great, and did not have the dark zone on the leaves. Today, seed-grown plants have improved, and each method accounts for about half the plants. Plus, you can buy plants with tri-color leaves, or variegated markings.  Flowers are most popularly red, but also come in pink, white, salmon and bicolor. The flower clusters are held above the foliage on long stems. They are mostly scentless, and have thick, succulent stems and fuzzy leaves. Years ago, people would dig them up, knock off the dirt, and hang them under the house for the winter. Now, we have heated and lighted basements, so that does not work as well.

Ivy Leaf Geraniums
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that these Geraniums have leaves that resemble the shape of ivy leaves. They also have a vine-like growing habit, so they work great in hanging baskets and containers. Leaves are smooth and leathery, and they can grow 3 feet high and 4 feet wide in one season. Flowers colors are less intense than the zonal geraniums, and the flower clusters are smaller, and less dense. Blooms appear from mid-summer to late fall and can be white, pink, red, lavender or magenta. These are also called Cascading Geraniums.

Regal Geraniums
Also known as Martha Washington, or French, these have large, frilly flowers in white, pink, salmon and purple in many different combinations. Growing 2-4 feet tall, they have woody stems, and stiff leaves. Unlike the other varieties, Regal Geraniums may require shade in the afternoon. They dislike intense heat and humidity and do well in cooler, northern areas. These bloom in late spring and summer, and will probably need more water than the other types, along with regular fertilizing. To keep these indoors through the winter, they must be brought indoors before there is any danger of frost.

Scented Leaf Geraniums
Once again, the special feature of this plant is fairly obvious from the name. This group includes a wide variety, with many different foliage types and habits. Leaves can resemble oak leaves, or be soft and finely cut. The one thing they have in common is that the leaves are scented.  The flowers are not the main attraction here, and they are smaller and less showy than other types. To take advantage of the scent, plant scented leaf geraniums indoors or in a sunny area near the patio. Scent rises when the leaves are in the sun, or when you touch them. Don’t overwater them, and take them indoors for the winter. Scented leaves can be used to flavor baked goods or teas, or used in sachets and potpourris. There are a lot of scents available, including apple, peppermint, apricot, nutmeg, strawberry, lime, orange, ginger and coconut. Some are used in perfume, with the rose scent being the most valuable commercially.


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One Response to “Pelargonium, Part 2”

  1. Kem Says:

    I hadn’t paid that much attention to geraniums/pelargoniums in the past. Had no idea there were that many varieties. Interesting post. BTW, my seed-grown black-eyed-susan vines are taking off now. They grew slowly for almost a month after being transplanted.

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