It is not surprising that the Pelargoniums are one of the world’s favourite garden plants. They are easy to grow and propagate, they have a long flowering period and clusters of blooms are large and colorful. These are the plants popularly known as Flowering Geraniums. There is also a much smaller group which are grown for their aromatic foliage rather than for their small flowers – the Scented-leaved Geraniums.
By far the most popular flowering type is the Common Pelargonium. It will bloom almost all year round if kept on a sunny windowsill at 55*F or more. Keep the compost rather dry – overwatering is the main enemy of Pelargoniums. The Regal Pelargonium is the glamorous member of the group. Unfortunately it has a shorter flowering season and it is not as easy to grow.
The Trailing Pelargonium is becoming increasingly popular. Its long brittle stems bear long-stalked flower clusters throughout summer and autumn if the plant is kept in a sunny spot.
Fancy-Leaved Geraniums belong to the sub group of zonal geraniums. Fancy leaved geraniums are able to tolerate part sun and part shade so they need to be planted accordingly. It is interesting to note that even when fancy leaf geraniums flowers are not blooming, its leaves will stand out which on their own look like green flowers. Some important cultivars or breeds of fancy leaved geraniums are Mrs Henry Cox, Black Velvet Series, and Black Velvet Rose. Have a look on the picture of fancy leaved geraniums on the side.
Secret of success
Temperature: Average warmth with cool nights; minimum 45*F in winter.
Light: Provide as much light as possible. Direct sunlight is essential.
Water: Water thoroughly, then leave until compost is moderately dry. Avoid overwatering. Reduce watering frequency in winter – compost should be barely moist if plant is not in bloom.
Air Humidity: Do not mist the leaves.
Propagation: Take stem cuttings in summer. Do not use a rooting hormone and do not cover. Sow seed in spring.
Pelargoniums and insects: Pelargonium species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Angle Shades. Pelargoniums are believed to deter mosquitoes.
Geraniums can be grown outdoors year round in warm regions, but are killed by winter’s frost in northern areas. In southern climates the grow year round. In fact, the plant can be moved indoors in cold winter climate areas and kept for outdoor planting next season.
Indoor gardeners will often take geranium cuttings of these plants that have been moved indoors and propagate the cuttings to grow new plants for the spring planting season.
Common Pelargonium is the type you are most likely to see. The bushy plants are usually 1-2 ft high, but some varieties can reach 4 ft or more. Buy plants which show no sign of wilting and have plenty of buds rather than open flowers. Once plants were raised exclusively from cuttings but nowadays there are many excellent varieties which can be raised from seed.
With care the flowering season in your garden can last nearly all year round. They must receive some direct sunlight and the compost should be kept on the dry side. Feed with a high-potash fertilizer at regular intervals and do not repot unless the plant is clearly pot-bound.
Regal Pelargoniums have the most colorful and ornate flowers of the geranium family. The brightly colored flowers are often seen adorning more formal planters and garden areas. They have more eye-catching blooms than the ordinary the Common types – each flower is larger, frillier and more colorful. An added advantage is that these showy varieties are less prone to disease – whitefly is the only pest problem which is a serious nuisance. There are fewer blooms and there is a limited flowering season which stretches from early spring to midsummer.