Growing Pelargoniums

Growing Pelargoniums

Flowers have their vogue. Growing Pelargoniums was first taken up enthusiastically in Europe in the late eighteenth century and have never suffered a complete eclipse, although there have been times when the genus was out of favour. There is some confusion between the names pelargonium and geranium.

The true Geranium is a cosmopolitan genus of which about eight species are native to South Africa, but are seldom cultivated as a garden plant. It is a member of the same family of the vegetable kingdom, named Geraniaceae, but the family was sub-divided for convenience of study by the French botanist LHeritier who gave one of the sub-divisions the name Pelargonium. The earliest Pelargonium to be introduced to Europe was probably P. zonale, which was sent to Holland by a Dutch Governor of Cape Colony in 1609. Modern species have been classified into quite distinct types.

zonal pelargoniumThe Zonal pelargonium is one of the most popular cultivars (cultivated varieties) because it can usually be grown outside in summer. The colour range goes from white through pink, red, salmon, orange, magenta to picotee and fancy, while the ivy-leaved flowers continue the colour range to purple.

Many scents and essences are distilled from the plants and the leaves of many are esculent and are used for culinary purposes and for garnishing. Zonal pelargoniums, known so often simply as geraniumsderive principally from that sub-genus Ciconium. They are partly shrubby and partly succulent; the wild forms straggle somewhat, as many of their cultivated descendants will do if not discouraged. The root system is fibrous. The leaves are large, 3 to 4 inches in diameter and roughly circular, except where they are attached to the stem, where they are cordate. In its single state the Zonal pelargonium has five petals, of which the upper two are generally smaller than the lower three. A curious furling of the petals, so that they have a quill like appearance, gives a cactus flowered sub group. In size, blooms vary from nearly 3 inches to less than § inch. The flowers are borne in umbels, the number of florets in a truss may be four or a hundred.

Habit is sometimes erect, sometimes almost prostrate, sometimes very large, reaching a height of 6 to 7 feet, sometimes miniature, not exceeding a few inches.

regal pelargoniumThe Regal pelargoniums.  Growing Pelargoniums of this type is mostly carried out in greenhouses and plant rooms. Their popularity has been of longer standing than the Zonal pelargoniums but because they are less successful as garden plants they are not so extensively grown. They are more shrubby and their leaves are unzoned, generally a darker green, much less fleshy and usually toothed. Instead of being held more or less flat as is the Zonal, the leaf of the Regal is often cupped. The basic colour of the Regal pelargonium is mauve and a further distinction is the marking of the petals, which are blotched, streaked and striped. They do not normally bloom for so long a period. There are very large growing kinds such as Corisbrooke, which has fringed, pinky-mauve flowers and dwarf, bushy types such as Sancho Panza. Quite large plants may be grown to cover walls on verandahs and plant rooms. During the winter they require a temperature of 70 to 10°C and should be watered very sparingly.

Ivy-leaved pelargoniums stem from the species P. peltatum, a native of South Africa. They are of shrubby character, with weak straggly branches and shoots up to 3 feet long, carrying ivy shaped, rather fleshy green leaves, 2 to 3 inches across. The heads of flowers are on 3 to 4 inch stalks from the leaf axil in summer. There are several selected forms such as Mme Croussewhich has pale pink, double flowers, L Elegante which has single, white, purple-feathered flowers and Abel Carriers with double, tyrian-purple flowers. They are good plants for pedestals, hanging baskets, or as climbers. Cultural needs are similar to those of Zonal pelargoniums, and they also flower in summer.

Scented leaved pelargoniums make delightful pot plants that can be grown indoors all the year. The flowers are hardly spectacular, but the leaves have a diversity of shape and perfume which is extremely appealing. P. crispum lactifolia has a fruity, orange scent and medium-sized leaves. P. mellisimum has tri lobed, lemon scented leaves and P. neruosum deep green, lime scented leaves with trailing branches. A strong rose scent is provided by P. grave0lensLadyPlymouth and an apricot scent by P. scabrum. The dark glossy, pointed leaves are deeply toothed, and the large flowers are rose-coloured. P. tomentosum has large hairy, heart-shaped leaves, redolent of peppermint. They require similar treatment to Zonal pelargoniums and propagating by cutting is easy, especially in spring and summer.

Coloured leaves have been bred from Zonal pelargoniums and in these forms, too, the flowers are less conspicuous and more sparingly produced. There are golden leaves which explain themselves and are provided by Robert Fish, which has pale yellow leaves and orange-scarlet flowers, and Beth Watts with pale golden leaves, pale pink flowers. Butterfly leaves have an irregular wing shape in the middle of the leaf.

The butterfly is usually a lighter colour than the body of the leaf; less common is the reverse arrangement. Happy Thought has green leaves, white or cream butterfly and crimson flowers. Crystal Palace Gem has yellow-green leaves, green butterfly and small rose-pir1k flowers. Bi colour leaves can be seen on Black Cox which has dark green leaves, zoned in black and rose flowers. Bronze Corrine has a chestnut zone on golden ground and bright scarlet flowers. Crampel Masterhas three colour leaves of olive green with a white centre streaked with gold. It has a pale green stem, streaked dark green, and vermilion flowers. So far this is the only three colour variation on the market. Mrs. Henry Cox has four colour leaves of pale gold, marked erratically with purple, red, cream and green. The flowers are rose-coloured. Sophie Dumaresquehas a broad zone suffused with bronze and crimson and bordered with a flame colour. It has red flowers.

The group called Uniques are most nearly related to the Regals. Their growth is shrubby and somewhat straggly, woody rather than succulent, their leaves are irregularly and deeply cut, and usually of a deeper green. The colour range at present contains few varieties; white, pink, scarlet, crimson and deep purple-mauve. They are not really showy enough for garden work and it is as plants for the windowsill or plant room that they are at their best.

Angel pelargoniums seldom exceed 10 inches and their flowers are large in relation to the size of the plant, the petals broadly obovate which gives the flower a round, full face of overlapping petals. Growing pelargoniums of this variety you end up with thick little bushes of slender herbaceous branches, well covered with small leaves and are excellent wherever there is sufficient light.

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