A versatile blooming wonder: The many manifestations of pelargonium

The pelargonium (the technical term for geranium) is the star of flowering balcony plants. Geraniums bloom continuously, are hardy and easy-care, and dazzle in many varieties and forms. Geraniums are divided into different groups, each containing a number of varieties.

Aside from the instantly recognisable trailing and upright classics, there are also interspecific geraniums, regal geraniums, scented geraniums, angel geraniums and fancy-leaf geraniums. These plants bloom in a huge array of colours and can have single, semi-double or double flowers, with either medium-green, dark-green or variegated foliage. Here is an overview of the remarkable diversity of this graceful blooming wonder.

The classics: upright and trailing pelargoniums

The classics among pelargoniums are the upright and trailing geraniums, zonal geraniums and peltatum geraniums. Upright geraniums grow straight up and have succulent, slightly fuzzy stems and leaves, as well as numerous small flowers that grow in large, almost ball-shaped flowerheads. The cascading umbels of the peltatum geranium or trailing geranium look particularly appealing in hanging pots and window boxes. They often have waxy, shiny leaves and somewhat spindly stems. While upright geraniums require regular deadheading by hand, the trailing ivy varieties are often “self-cleaning” – spent flowers simply drop from the stems.

Interspecific geraniums are hybrids of peltatums and zonals, some of which have an upright growth and some of which have long slender shoots.

The new cultivars are becoming increasingly popular, as they possess the many positive characteristics of both peltatum and zonal geraniums: They flower profusely, are robust and weather resistant and also extremely diversified. Interspecific hybrids can not only be planted in balcony boxes and planters, but many varieties can also be used for ground cover in flowerbeds.

Special geraniums: regal, scented or with lush leaves

Apart from the classics, there are a number of lesser known types of geranium. Among them are scented geraniums, regal and angel geraniums as well as fancy-leaf geraniums. Although scented geraniums often have less showy flowers, they make up for it with their fancy leaves and intensive aromas which can range from apple, lilac, rose and lemon to ginger and nutmeg to cola, coconut and chocolate. Scented geraniums are edible and can be used to add flavour to food and beverages, as a medicinal plant and even for repelling insects.

The regal geranium or “Pelargonium grandiflorum” is the beauty queen of all geraniums. It has particularly attractive, vibrantly coloured flowers, which often have a dark centre. Regal geraniums were initially cultivated as houseplants, since they begin blooming in early spring, unlike their classic outdoor cousins. Meanwhile there are also varieties that bloom in summer and will also thrive outdoors in a spot that is sheltered from the wind and rain.

The angel geranium or “Pelargonium crispum” is as captivating as the regal geranium with its extremely bountiful blooms and beautiful, bicolour flowers with dark centres. With a smaller size of only 20 to 30 centimetres, the angel geranium is a classic outdoor plant that looks beautiful in bowls and pots. It can also be planted in flower beds with light soil.

Last but not least, the fancy-leaf geranium. These mostly belong to the zonals and peltatums or scented-leaf geraniums and have beautifully patterned, vividly coloured leaves. Many fancy-leaf geraniums have pretty delicate flowers, which are not as showy as those of other geranium varieties.

Variety of flower colours and shapes

Geranium flowers offer an almost inexhaustible range of colours, sizes and shapes. Their colour spectrum reaches from white to pink, magenta, lilac and purple all the way to salmon, orange and yellow. Add to that the numerous shades of red, from bright pale-red to reddish-black burgundy tones, as well as numerous bicolour or patterned varieties with beautiful colour gradients, stripes and flecks.

The flowers may be single, semi-double or double, in sizes ranging from large to medium or small. Some flowers are shaped like butterflies, others are star- or finger-shaped. There are blooms with such an abundance of flower petals that they are reminiscent of rosebuds and those whose blossoms never open fully, making them appear like tulips. The so-called angel geraniums have enchanting small pansy-like flowers. A closer look at individual flower petals reveals a considerable variety, from long and slim to wide and round and jagged or heart-shaped.

Versatile foliage

The leaves of geraniums are also anything but boring. They can be leathery and smooth or fluffy and fuzzy, medium-green, dark green, grey-green or blueish-green. Upright geraniums usually have slightly hairy leaves that are marked with a brown ring. The leaves of peltatum geraniums, on the other hand, are usually smooth and shiny. Fancy-leaf geraniums, as their name suggests, have particularly diverse and interesting foliage.

The colours of their leaves range from green to reddish brown or brown in patterns of all different colours, with markings in a spectrum from red, brown and nearly black to white or yellow. The leaves of regal geraniums are mostly jagged, their surface sometimes smooth and broken, sometimes soft and fuzzy. Scented geraniums have scent glands on the undersides of their leaves, which produce essential oils. Depending on the type, they give off a variety of aromas. The leaf shapes of the scented geraniums are extremely diversified, from intricately jagged to disc-shaped.

The versatile geranium offers colours and shapes to suit any taste or style and they are perfectly suited to a country or urban environment.