Pelargonium regal and zonal hybrids

A pelargonium in a pot with its dense heads of flower, beautiful leaves, and rare intensity of colour, makes a visual impact which is unique.

Pelargoniums are tender sub-shrubs available in a bewildering range of hybrids, almost all from South African species. They are classified into several sections, of which only the zonal and regal hybrids concern us here; the ivy-leaved and scented-leaved species are described in the following entry.

The zonal pelargoniums are the ones most appropriate for bedding, though they are just as satisfactory in urns or window-boxes, where they get protection from the wind. Rather stiff plants, they have large heads of flat single or double flowers, the dominant colours being scarlet, salmon, orange, pink or white. The leaves are flat and nearly circular, patterned with colour; some have concentric circles of yellow, red and green, others are splashed or bordered with colour.

The regal pelargoniums are more spectacular, for the flowers are three-dimensional, not flat, often crinkled and blotched or feathered with a contrasting colour, and the leaves are longer than those of the zonals, usually cupped, and more deeply cut. The dominant colour of the regals is mauve, not scarlet. To name varieties when hundreds are available is invidious, so I will suggest just two in each section which are deservedly best-sellers – of the zonals, pale pink ‘Morval’ and ‘Startel White’, with serrated petals and zoned foliage; and of the regals ‘Black Magic’, a very dark mauve, and ‘Princess of Wales’, which is strawberry pink with white frilled edges and white centres.

Pelargoniums are easy plants to grow in containers, giving great effect for little effort. Plant them in a loam-based compost, give liquid feeds every fortnight when in flower, and water as needed, but not copiously. All pelargoniums need full sun or they will not flower well.

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