Potted geraniums ( accurately known as Pelargoniums ) in Australia do not have the same panache in the garden world as the glorious displays of geranium window boxes everywhere across Spain and Italy. Here we love them anyway for their humble, almost comedic style and robust nature in our hot, dry climate. The no-fuss plant loved by all and growing in nearly every garden is so easy to grow and propagate. A simple, happy plant that flower all summer long in a superb range of colours.
Personally I love Pelargoniums simply because they are so beautiful and such a cheerful plant with delicate yet hardy blooms. A plant that anyone can easily grow and propagate without any special skills or indeed a green thumb.
Pelargoniums offer a huge diversity in colour and shape of the blooms from fine single minute flowers to perfectly round heads of Regal geraniums or velvety soft scented varieties. Blooms gloriously bright red to the brightest orange and magenta and everywhere in between to the faintest blush and softest lilac. There are over 200 different varieties to choose from and a myriad of shapes and styles.
Garden trends 2021
Propagation and growing our own plants from seed has become very popular this year as people move towards a more slow approach to gardening. What better way to start propagating than with pelargoniums. Simple, effective and easy to multiply.
Other favourites this year are transitional gardens. Gardens that flow from the outside on the patio or balcony and transition the green space inside. Gardening is not just for those that have wide expanses of land and pelargoniums are perfect for container balcony gardens. They like sheltered sunny spots which is why we see so many windows adorned with lovely different coloured blooms in various pots and containers all across Italy and Spain.
Pelargoniums are perfect for the tiny garden. Another trend and great garden idea that can make your small patio look bigger with vertical gardens, climbing or hanging ivy pelargoniums that flow down from above and look spectacular.
Pruning geraniums and pelargoniums is the trick to compact, bushy and thick plants with blooms galore. Prune hard once a year to stop the plants from getting leggy and let them dry out in between watering. These two tips are the key to healthy, beautiful pelargoniums in pots or the garden.
Pelargoniums and geraniums are easy to take cuttings from and grow a new plant with the same characteristics as the original – called the Mother Plant.
Take the cuttings from your best most healthy plants and cut a piece from the newest growth with a sharp knife just above a bud.
Dip the end of the stem into a rooting hormone.
Plant into prepared pots of good potting mix and keep them moist.
Transplant into larger pots once the roots start to take hold.
Care of Geraniums
Pelargoniums must dry out before watering.
Water less in winter.
Deadhead the flowers when finished.
Pinch the stems to promote a bushy plant.
Add compost to the soil in spring and autumn.
Add a water soluble fertiliser every few weeks at half strength NOT a Nitrogen fertiliser as it will cause the plants to grow more leaves and less blooms.
Do not fertilise in winter.
In spring repot pelargoniums to keep them healthy.
Experts advise to ‘Pinch’ pelargoniums in spring to make them bushier and more compact. Using sharp scissors, snip or pinch a centimetre or so off the end of the stem. Do the same on each stem throughout spring, and the plants will be fuller, bushier, and healthier.
Zonals are the most easily sourced pelargonium plants and are tough, strong, and upright with dark patterns on the leaves that deepen as the foliage ages. Zonals are mostly white, red, magenta, peach, blush, or two-toned. Cut off spent blooms as they age and let them dry out in between watering or rain. Available as individual plants at markets and nurseries and very easy to take cuttings and to propagate.
Variegated pelargoniums have brightly colored leaves rather than lots of blooms and look terrific all the time. They are unusual and provide a contrast so stand out in pots, on a patio or in the garden.
Seed pelargoniums are sold in nurseries as seedlings in punnets or trays. The plants below were an entire tray of seed geraniums that now fill six pots. They bloom continually especially if deadheaded and are extremely easy care. They do not grow as tall as zonals but are a good inexpensive choice.
Ivy Geraniums are stunning as hanging baskets and container or window boxes. They trail down with ivy shaped leaves and come in loads of different styles and shapes. Some are quite delicate with single blooms and others dense and two toned in colour. Remove the spent blooms and add an all purpose style fertiliser like charlie carp, seasol or even better -seamungus.
Hybrid Geraniums are the offspring of zonals when crossed with ivy style pelargoniums. The traits are that they have continuous blooms with a slightly trailing habit and good heat tolerance. These are often really bright gorgeous colours like magenta, burgundy, coral shades through to orange.
Martha Washington pelargoniums have blooms that are more exotic looking or showy with bright green foliage. Sometimes these are called regal geraniums and have bi coloured flowers often white and magenta or lavender and burgundy blooms. Regals are short lived and you may have been given one as a stunning gift although they do not always bloom again and prefer a moist climate and less sun than the other geranium varieties.
Last but by no means least and a real favourite are- scented geraniums. These are known more for their beautiful foliage and amazing scents. If you have never seen a Peppermint Geranium plant you are in for a treat when you find one. The leaves are smooth and soft as velvet with a sheen and delicious peppermint fragrance. The entire bush is low growing and the heart shaped leaves that have tiny hairs – gentle and soft to touch. They cascade down the sides of a pot and have tiny white flowers and the exquisite peppermint fragrance is apparent when the leaves are rubbed together or you walk past. There are many different types of scented geraniums like citronella, rose, cedar, chocolate, fruit, nut, spice and citrus geraniums.
Geraniums or pelargoniums are a symbol of friendship, happiness and positivity. They make you feel good. Either cascading down from a timber window box or hanging basket, sitting in terracotta pots on a balcony or window sill, or spreading like a carpet in the garden, pelargoniums are simple yet appealing in so many ways. From tiny blooms on a variegated plant to full and vibrant flowers on Zonals or sweet, beautiful rounded blooms in Apple blossom pelargoniums. They are all stunning, easy to grow and worth it to try out your propagating skills. You may be surprised how easy a green thumb is, after all.
Top Image Fine Art America
Header Image Regal Geranium a painting by Joanne Porter Fine Art America
Content Di Baker 2021
Images Di Baker or otherwise cited 2021