Geraniums reign
Good Organic Gardening|September - October 2021
MORE THAN A WINDOW-BOX DISPLAY, THESE HARDY PERENNIALS AND THEIR CLOSE RELATIVES STAR IN THE GARDEN
Jennifer Stackhouse

Geranium & pelargonium label

Common names: Geranium, pelargonium

Botanical name: Pelargonium × hortorum and other species and hybrids

Family: Geraniaceae (geranium family)

Aspect & soil: Full sun; well-drained soil

Best climate: Subtropical, Mediterranean, temperate, cool

Habit: Perennial

Propagation: Cuttings

Difficulty: Easy

Topping the list of easy-to-grow ornamental plants would have to be the common geranium, also called zonal geranium (Pelargonium × hortorum).

This great beginner plant is also a good one to grow if you’re on a budget because it’s so easy to propagate. Just break off a stem, remove some of the larger, lower leaves, stick the cutting in a pot or even in the ground and you’ll probably grow a new plant in a few weeks.

But there’s more to geraniums than cheap and cheerful. They grow well in pots (or indeed any container), bring bold colour to a garden and grow readily in places many other plants struggle.

They are very much part of Mediterranean gardens and thrive in hanging baskets set against walls or in an olive oil container beside some steep steps on a Greek island for a vibrant splash of red. If you want to create your own overseas holiday while the real ones are grounded by COVID-19, plant up pots of geraniums and imagine you’re in Greece or the south of France.

Despite their common name, these plants are classified in the genus Pelargonium and so are not part of the Geranium genus of garden perennials known as species geraniums (see box Species Geraniums, page 58).

The confusion of names began in the 18th century when the first pelargoniums were introduced to Europe as geraniums. The name was due to the similarity of these new flowers to those of species geraniums already growing in gardens in Europe and the UK.

Once botanists got involved, the new “geraniums”, which came from South Africa, were classified into the Pelargonium genus. Gardeners have never quite got over it.

MEET THE GERANIUMS

As well as the easy-growing zonal geraniums there are other pelargonium relatives that deserve mention for their colour and ease of growing.

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