10 Facts About Geraniums That Gardeners Should Know
Geraniums are popular plantings across the South. They add fragrant foliage and bright blooms wherever they're planted, whether that's in backyard gardens or in pots, planters, and containers. Read on to learn more about these regional-favorite flowers and try your hand at planting some this season.
The plants we know as "geraniums" aren't actually geraniums.
If you point to a geranium at a garden shop, you're actually probably identifying Pelargonium, a member of a group of plants which have commonly come to be called ‘geraniums.' Botanically speaking, true geraniums (those belonging to the genus Geranium) are a related genus of hardy flowering perennial shrubs. Those are also called cranesbills. Both geraniums and pelargoniums are members of the Geraniaceae family. (We'll continue to use "geranium" as the common name for the familiar flowering plant, as that's how it's widely identified.)
There are hundreds of known species of geraniums.
Geraniums are native to South Africa, and in the 17th century, they made their way to Europe, where they remain popular plantings.
Many geranium species have heavily scented leaves.
Geraniums are known for their aromatic green foliage, the fragrance of which varies from plant to plant. According to The Southern Living Garden Book, "Plants' common names usually refer to the fragrance of their leaves: Almond geranium (P. quercifolium), apple geranium (P. odoratissimum), lime geranium (P. nervosum), nutmeg geranium (P. x fragrans ‘Nutmeg'), peppermint geranium (P. tomentosum). Other geraniums produce fragrance that smells like roses and lemons.
Geranium leaves can be used in the kitchen.
Both the flowers and aromatic foliage of geraniums are edible and can be used for culinary purposes. According to The Southern Living Garden Book, you can "use fresh leaves of all types for flavoring jelly and iced drinks; use dried leaves in sachets and potpourri." They can be used to flavor sugar, iced tea, lemonade, pastries, pound cakes, and salads, too.
Geraniums are drought-tolerant.
These plants love bright sunny climates and moderate to regular watering, as long as they are planted in well-draining soil. They're relatively low-maintenance plantings and they're excellent choices for container gardening.
They love pots.
Geraniums thrive when they're contained in pots. Containers are a great home for geraniums, as pots keep the plants coralled and can also be easily moved to ensure geraniums are receiving enough bright sunlight. Some geraniums grow best with a bit of afternoon shade as well.
There are many species of geraniums.
Popular species to grow in the South include Pelargonium cordifolium, or heartleaf geranium; P. x hortorum, also called common geranium or garden geranium; and P. peltatum, or ivy geranium.
Martha Washington has her own geranium hybrid.
Pelargonium x domesticum is also known as Martha Washington pelargonium. These plants have dark green leaves that are heart-shaped. They produce clusters of showy flowers in white, pink, red, and purple hues. They're also known as Lady Washington pelargonium or Regal pelargonium.
Geraniums bloom in a rainbow of colors.
Of the common geraniums, ‘Orange Appeal' blooms in vibrant orange, ‘Mrs. Pollock' produces brilliant red flowers, and ‘Golden Ears' has eye-catching coral blooms. The ivy geraniums bloom in white, red, coral, rose, and lavender hues.
Heat can tire your geraniums.
According to the Grumpy Gardener, "High summer heat can take its toll on these plants. Many common geraniums stop blooming in sizzling weather, a condition known as "heat check." (They'll resume blooming when cooler weather arrives.)." Grumpy recommends avoiding this by planting heat-tolerant geraniums; these include the Americana and Orbit Series and the Cascade and Summer Showers Series.