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Geranien verschiedenster Farben und Formen.

The world of geraniums: their varieties and uses

Anyone who thinks geraniums are boring hasn’t looked close enough, they’re not just simple red flowers in window boxes. These versatile plants have much more to offer for your balcony or garden.

When you learn more about the different species, you can plant varieties exactly to your liking and discover the WHOLE world of geraniums.

This article will teach you:

  • Surprising features of geranium leaves and flowers
  • The charms of scented geraniums
  • Everything about zonal (upright) and ivy (trailing) geraniums
  • How regal pelargoniums bring summer into the living room
  • All about angel pelargoniums

Let’s start with an insider tip. There are geraniums that almost nobody knows about.

Fancy leaf geraniums - unsung beauties

Admittedly, ornamental leaf geraniums – commonly known as “fancy leaf” types – don’t flower as much as some of the more common varieties. However, they do have beautifully coloured foliage and sometimes intricate patterns such as yellow, dark red and green stripes.
Upright and trailing geranium varieties also have exciting foliage. Like all geraniums, fancy leaf varieties prefer a warm, sunny location and regular watering, as well as the right amount of fertiliser. How to fertilise geraniums.

Why plant fancy leaf geraniums?

Fancy leaf geraniums bring variety to mixed summer arrangements. There are so many different species that some people even collect them.

Lachsfarbene Geranien in Metalltöpfen auf Tisch neben Pflanzgabel.

The hidden abilities of scented geraniums

The group known as “scented geraniums” covers a wide range of geranium species.

These varieties all have tiny glandular hairs on their foliage that release essential oils when touched. They can smell of apple, peppermint, lemon, beeswax, pine, rose, chocolate or countless other aromas.

To find out whether you have a scented geranium, rub the leaves and take a sniff.

Frau riecht an violetter Duftgeranie.
Pinke, grüne und weiße Geranien in Tontöpfen auf Fensterbrett.

The three best-known types of scented geranium

  • Rose Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)
  • Peppermint-scented Geranium (Pelargonium tomentosum)
  • Citron-scented Geranium (Pelargonium citriodorum)

Scented geraniums grow wide and bushy. It is best to plant them individually in beautiful pots and arrange these pots in groups, such as on a set of steps. Or you could treat yourself to a “herb garden” in the kitchen!

Scented geraniums don’t have the most spectacularly large flowers, instead, they usually grow green and bushy. Place them in a location where you’ll catch their scent every time you walk by.

Scented geraniums love full sun and not too much water in their pot. When fertilising, half the concentration of normal geranium fertiliser is sufficient, as their smaller flowers mean they don’t need as much. Pruning the shoots regularly will lead to bushier growth.

Uses for scented geraniums

Scented geraniums often look best when many different plants are placed together. Some varieties, such as those with a scent of lemon or pine, are said to repel mosquitos, so place them near your favourite evening spot. The leaves can also be used for cooking, adding flavour to sweet dishes and refreshing drinks, or can even be chopped up for a colourful summer salad. Their leaves can also be dried and used as potpourri, bringing summer into your home all year round.
Health food shops and pharmacies sell geranium oils for various purposes, but you cannot make these at home.

Violette Duftgeranien in altem Steintopf.

If you’d like to start collecting different fancy leaf and scented geraniums, it’s even more rewarding if you’re able to overwinter them. Our overwintering instructions will work for all types of geraniums.

Handy tip: How to overwinter geraniums

Before the first frost, cut your geraniums back by about 15 centimetres. Move them to a light but cool place away from frosts, most likely indoors, ideally where the temperature is between 5 and 10 degrees Celsius. In winter, water only when the soil has dried out, very rarely. In March, take the geraniums out of their winter spot and prune back any new growth. Repot your geraniums in fresh soil. Check the roots and generously prune any dry or rotten parts. After watering, place the pots in a warm place with plenty of light at about 18 degrees Celsius, where the geraniums will grow new roots and leaves. After the last frost, they can go outside.

We’ll now put the spotlight on some of the more commonly-known varieties of geraniums.

Geranien und Petersilie in grauen Tontöpfen neben Steinen, blauem Krug, bunten Tassen und Schale mit Früchten auf Betonplatte

Zonal geraniums – staples of pots and flower beds

Zonal geraniums (botanical name, Pelargonium zonale) grow bushy and upright with thick, fleshy stems. Their leaves are hairy, a little serrated and stems have nodes.

The flowers of zonal geraniums grow in dense, cone shaped groups known as umbels. Together, they form the familiar ball-like flower heads. Zonal geraniums flower from May until well into autumn.

By removing withered flowers from zonal geraniums, you can encourage them to form new blooms even faster. The best way to do this is to break off the entire stem of the flower that has faded.

Rote Geranien in verschiedenen Töpfen auf Holztreppe in Garten.
Grüne und rote Geranien in Flechttöpfen auf grün angemalten Reifen auf Holzboden.

Uses for zonal geraniums:

  • Plant in individual pots and tubs on the balcony or terrace
  • Upright central plants in balcony boxes
  • Hanging baskets
  • Flower beds
  • Planted at graves
  • Cut flowers

The height reached by zonal geraniums can depend on the variety and how much space they are given to grow. Some remain relatively small at 25 to 30 centimetres, but others grow up to 50 centimetres high. Their width roughly spreads to become the same as their height.

Looking for zonal geranium ideas? Click here!

Ivy geraniums – balcony dreams come true

For geraniums that create incredible cascades of flowers that hang from balconies, look for varieties named ivy geraniums (botanical name, Pelargonium peltatum), sometimes known as trailing geraniums. Depending on the variety, they form hanging stems up to 1.5 metres long.

Without flowers, you can recognise ivy geraniums by their smooth, shiny, waxy foliage, the shape of which is reminiscent of ivy. Their stems are thinner than those of zonal geraniums, which makes them a little more sensitive to wind.

The flowers of ivy geraniums bloom between May and mid-autumn, and appear as cascading groups of small flowers, unlike the ball-shaped and upright flowers of zonal geraniums. With most varieties, you can prune the flowers by hand, but if this seems too much effort you can also find so-called self-cleaning varieties where faded flowers fall off by themselves.

Violette Geranien an Holzgeländer. Im Hintergrund sind rosa Geranien in Pflanzkübel auf Tischneben Tasse.
Pinke, rote und orangene Geranien in metallischem Pflanztopf.

Uses for ivy geraniums:

  • Window boxes
  • Hanging baskets
  • Underplanting for tub plants

You can see how beautiful ivy geraniums look in baskets here.

Regal pelargoniums – stunning flowers

Regal pelargoniums (botanical name, Pelargonium grandiflorum) are often considered the most beautiful pelargonium variety. Their flowers are large and come in unique patterns such as veined, ombré and bi-colour petals, available in a wide array of different colours, often with a dark eye in the centre.

For many years, regal pelargoniums have been the only type of pelargonium commonly used as houseplants. They flower early in the spring and appreciate a bright place indoors. During summer, you can place regal pelargoniums outdoors in a spot protected from wind and rain, and they will also grow well in partial shade.

Their leaves are usually serrated. There are varieties with smooth, fragile leaves, while others are soft and hairy.

Weiße Geranien in türkisem Pflanztopf in hellem Raum.
Pinke Geranien in Flechtbehälter auf weißer Kommode vor weißer Wand neben pinker Teekanne.

Uses for regal pelargoniums:

  • Houseplant
  • Sheltered places outside
  • Cut flowers

Can geraniums be used as cut flowers? Yes! Click here to find table decoration ideas with geranium flowers.

Angel pelargoniums – butterfly-like flowers

Angel pelargoniums are small flowered geraniums with delicate, dainty flower heads, which are also usually bi-coloured with flowers that have a dark eye in the centre.

Angel pelargoniums remain rather small at 20 to 30 centimetres tall, but make up for the lack of size with their number of flowers.

Uses for angel pelargoniums:

  • Containers, balcony boxes and individual pots
  • Hanging baskets
  • Flower beds

And what about the colour?

Geranium flowers come in many different colours. Some varieties are so dark they’re almost black, moving through a wide spectrum of shades from vibrant pinks and oranges through to muted, pale and pastel tones as well as bright whites. They are also available as two-coloured, patterned or with stripes and speckles. Their flowers can grow in round clusters or in hand-like forms, and some resemble rosebuds or violets. Petals sometimes appear long, narrow, wide, round, jagged or heart-shaped. Single-flowered geraniums look wonderfully natural while semi-double flowers add a touch of colour, and double flowers give your balcony or garden all the flower power it needs.

There really is a vast range of geraniums on offer – something new for everyone.

Hybrid geraniums - the super geraniums

Hybrid geraniums combine the best of zonal geraniums and ivy geraniums. Breeders crossed them with the aim of creating super-flowering, easy-care, robust and heat-tolerant plants. Mission accomplished!

Uses for hybrid geraniums:

  • Tubs
  • Window boxes
  • Hanging baskets
  • Planted at graves

 

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Rote Geranien an Geländer eines kleinen Balkons mit schwarzen Möbeln.
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