It is impossible to find plants that would be more associated with colorful windowsills than the familiar pelargoniums. This is a classic from the classics, a favorite plant that is appreciated for its aroma, beauty, ability to predict the weather and unpretentiousness. Tirelessly delighting inflorescences with their umbrellas, geranium pelargoniums never go out of fashion. They are absolutely versatile crops that are the best place to start your acquaintance with the world of indoor plants.
Pelargonium is not geranium!
Indoor pelargoniums are ranked among decorative flowering plants, although representatives of the Pelargonium genus are very diverse, and in some species, not flowering at all is considered the main charm of the plant. And although there are few decorative deciduous species of pelargonium, they are irreplaceable and unique in their own way.
It is not difficult to find the origins of the confusion with the name of pelargonium, which today remains one of the strangest phenomena in the world of floriculture. We have this charming and easily recognizable, not winter-hardy indoor and seasonal garden plant from the genus Pelargonium (Pelargonium) they like to call them geraniums so much that they are considered almost the hallmark of genuine geraniums – representatives of the genus Geranium (Geranium).
They are confused, combined, replaced, only exacerbating the situation by the constant change of the official name and mixing individual species with each other. Even the botanical names of pelargonium and geranium are synonymous: geraniums are often called cranes, and the botanical name pelargonium comes from the Greek “stork”.
Pelargoniums and geraniums are different plants in almost everything from growth shape to leaf shape and flowering type, but at the same time they are strikingly similar. They are united by belonging to the same family, aroma and fruit, but it is still quite easy to distinguish between representatives of two genera. To facilitate the task, many geraniums are called garden or hibernating geraniums, which allows them to quickly be separated from the much less hardy and not hibernating pelargoniums.
In indoor culture, true geraniums are not grown, using the vibrant, varied and flowering collection of plants from the Pelargonium genus to decorate a wide variety of rooms.
Beauty from Africa – captivating pelargonium
Pelargoniums are members of the family Geranium (Geraniaceae). Unlike garden geraniums, pelargoniums are thermophilic plants that came to us from a mild climate and are naturally found in the subtropical zone. South Africa is considered the homeland of all pelargoniums.
It is the origin that determines the thermophilicity of plants: despite the fact that pelargoniums are used in landscape design, they are not crops that can winter in open soil in regions with severe winters. Pelargoniums require protection for the winter by transferring them indoors. Pelargoniums are competitors of bright summer plants and plants with a completely different sphere of use from garden geraniums.
Pelargoniums are herbaceous evergreen shrubs and perennials with a fibrous compact rhizome, forming bushes from 30 to 60 cm high.Strong, lignified shoots of pelargoniums are not accidentally not visible under the mass of leaves: sloppy and bulky, they can ruin the entire type of plant in a neglected state.
Among the pelargoniums, there are also species with more delicate stems. Leaves on long petioles in all pelargoniums seem exquisite. In some species they are round, in others they are reniform, in others they are feathery. A solid edge is more common than a jagged edge, almost always waviness creates an effect of greater elegance. Lacy or solid, the leaves of pelargonium always look festive, thanks to the bright shades of color, with different zones and stripes, repeating the shape of the leaf itself, and a velvety, special edge.
Pelargonium flowers rarely bloom one at a time. They are collected in 2-3, and sometimes in several dozen flowers in apical umbellate inflorescences on thin pedicels. The special texture of the petals emphasizes the asymmetrical structure and shape of the individual petals – from oval or round to almost elongated-lanceolate.
Beautiful veins appear on the bright, delicate petals of pelargonium, and in most varieties, contrasting dark spots also appear on the two upper or two lower petals. The pelargonium color palette includes unique shades of pink and red, including inimitable fruity, watercolors and two-tone options.
Pelargoniums bloom from spring to autumn. Some varieties – only a few weeks, others – more than six months delight with their bright inflorescences.
The aroma of pelargonium is definitely familiar to everyone. The modern combs of pelargonium are characterized by a rich palette of aroma shades that transform the simple sweet-spicy-floral aroma of “geranium” into an almost perfumery masterpiece. Lemon, orange, cedar, nutmeg aromatic notes of certain varieties of pelargonium enchant. And every type of plant smells differently.
Types of indoor pelargonium
Pelargoniums should be chosen according to the color of the inflorescences, the shape of the leaves and, most importantly, their taste. Today, plants are represented by a huge number of hybrid varieties, allowing everyone to find their ideal window sill decoration.
Pelargoniums are conventionally divided into plants with carved and rounded leaves, large and small inflorescences, multicolored and purely colored varieties. Of the dozens of natural species in room culture, the most spectacular plants are used – pelargoniums with clearly recognizable features that stand out against the background of competitors.
Some of the best indoor pelargoniums include the following types.
Pelargonium zonal (Pelargonium zonale)
The visiting card of the genus and the most common plant today. Despite the fact that mainly hybrids of zonal pelargonium are on sale, it is still easily recognizable against the background of its competitors.
Depending on the variety, straight, strong, woody shoots from below can be limited to 20-30 cm in height or exceed 50 cm.The leaves of the plant that gave it the name are distinguished by their rounded-kidney shape, wavy edge and a pronounced zone of slightly more brown, purple or whitish color, repeating the shape of the leaf and giving it even more originality.
Long peduncles are crowned with large umbrellas or hemispheres of inflorescences of large, graceful flowers. The color of zonal pelargonium includes all shades of pink, from rare apricot and salmon tones to more intense ones. Among the pelargoniums there are zonal and variegated varieties, hybrids with improved flowering.
Pelargonium grandiflorum (Royal Pelargonium – Pelargonium grandiflorum)
The most spectacular of the flowering species of pelargonium, which became famous not only for the large size of the flowers, but also for the many inflorescences, under which the greenery is practically invisible.
Shoots up to 40 cm high create lush spreading bushes that gradually change, unpleasantly surprising with the extinction of old branches. Rather tough, unevenly wavy, pubescent leaves with a finely toothed edge can be either dazzlingly bright or muted in color – from olive to brownish-green.
Large flowers are often decorated with contrasting spots on the petals, collected in inflorescence shields. The color palette of this pelargonium is so wide that it even includes lilac, violet and almost black colors, not to mention all the possible variations of the white-pink-carmine scale.
Large-flowered pelargonium is more capricious than other species, but it is also much more refined. It is better to choose varieties of this beauty according to your taste. Brighter leaves and pink flowers with ink spots “Mozart” make a completely different impression than the emerald-leaf, with white-crimson graceful flowers of the pelargonium series “Type-Top”… For everyone there is a favorite variety of large-flowered beauties.
One of the most beautiful indoor species. The touching veins on the petals of flowers, the transition between pale lilac-lilac and almost white color, the watercolorism and femininity of the capitate inflorescences, in which 7-11 flowers are collected, are unique.
With a shoot height of up to 60 cm, the bushes seem brighter and slender than those of competitors. Irregularly wavy leaves with a bright color accentuate the elegant classic appearance. This type of pelargonium also conquers with its aroma, reminiscent of beautiful garden roses.
Pelargonium most fragrant (Pelargonium ear, Pelargonium odoratissimum)
She became famous, first of all, for her aroma, reminiscent of fresh lemon zest. This plant attracts not with its nondescript flowers, but with bright curly leaves in bushes similar to spheres. Thin shoots fancifully branch, and leaves with a pinnately incised shape sit on very long petioles.
When properly formed, the lacy, whimsical, visually light and very lush bushes of this “ear” pelargonium look very elegant.
Pelargonium fragrant, or Strong-smelling (Pelargonium graveolens)
Without exaggeration, the most fragrant type of indoor pelargonium. Essential oils contained in the leaves and clearly manifested by any contact and rubbing, are felt at close range with normal air humidity, even without contact with the leaves.
The aroma is considered not just the main, but the only pride of the plant, although the flowering of this type of pelargonium is very pretty. Due to the smell and its effect on the psychological and emotional state, fragrant pelargonium is ranked among the room healers.
These are large, fast-growing, fairly sprawling semi-shrubs that can stretch up to 1 m without control. The densely branching stem allows you to create spreading bushes. And the lobed, pinnately notched, covered with a unique velvety edge, lacy and graceful leaves with a dazzling shade of green color create a seemingly solid lace pillow.
The flowering of fragrant pelargonium is more nondescript than that of its counterparts, but do not underestimate it. Small, just over 1 cm in diameter, flowers with a light purple or dark pink color are collected in miniature shields.
Pelargonium ivy (Pelargonium thyroid, or English, Pelargonium peltatum)
One of the most beautiful species, in which ampelous forms and varieties are found much more often than simple upright growing, which served to spread a completely different name or nickname – creeping pelargonium.
The ribbed shoots of the plant gradually droop, creating beautiful cascades and lush bushes hanging from the containers. The original shiny leaves with an unusual texture are quite fleshy, flaunting with their rounded leaf plate, consisting of five lobes, something, indeed, reminiscent of ivy. A reddish-brown border around the edge emphasizes the shape of the leaves.
Long, drooping peduncles are crowned with inflorescence shields. The palette of colors of this pelargonium includes classic, pure watercolor shades of white-lilac-pink-red gamut.
Domestic pelargonium (hybrids Pelargonium x domesticum and base plant Pelargonium domesticum)
A large and showy plant, renowned primarily for its flower size and perfect leaf cushions. With the height of peduncles up to half a meter, the plant seems massive and creates hemispherical cushions, above which dense inflorescences rise, creating a kind of second tier.
This type of pelargonium has very large flowers, up to 5 cm in diameter, with an asymmetric structure and two dark spots on the lower petals that emphasize the beauty of the flower. Pink, white, fuchsia, red, crimson shades in combination with all variations of cherry spots, kraplaka and burgundy in colors turn every home geranium into a dazzling sight.
The plant is valuable for its long, relentless flowering, which can last up to 6 months, covering the entire warm season.
Curly Pelargonium (Pelargonium crispum)
Spectacular decorative leafy look with highly branching, thin, but very strong shoots. Lush bushes about half a meter high flaunt heart-shaped, with unevenly jagged-wavy edges, densely spaced leaves.
Flowers bloom in 2-3 pieces on short stalks, stand out with narrow petals and graceful shape. This pelargonium also has a unique lemon aroma and is considered one of the most fragrant.
Growing conditions for indoor pelargonium
Unpretentiousness is the main reason for the popularity of pelargonium. To successfully grow these plants, it is enough to take care of just one factor – the correct bright lighting. This plant is undemanding to temperatures, hardy, even for wintering it needs only a relatively mild drop in air temperature. Pelargoniums thrive in living rooms and offices.
The dormant period in the development of indoor pelargoniums is expressed only relatively – it is just a period of stopping growth and flowering. At the same time, coolness is only a desirable condition for this stage in plant development. The key to a good “rest” of pelargonium is the cessation of feeding and the reduction of moisture.
Lighting and placement
Without exception, all pelargoniums are light-loving cultures. They are not afraid of semi-shaded locations and diffused light as much as the direct sun. But the intensity of flowering, the size of flowers and inflorescences, and the total duration of the period during which pelargoniums will delight with their flowering, directly depend on the lighting.
When growing fragrant pelargonium, it can be placed even in the depths of rooms, near workplaces, where the plant will play the role of a kind of phytotherapist. If they want to achieve the brightest and most abundant flowering from pelargoniums, it is better for them to prefer sunny windowsills or at least bright places. For large-flowered pelargonium, only brightly lit places are suitable.
Pelargonium is a plant that depends a lot on habits. Subject to slow adaptation, it can bloom beautifully in northern rooms, but with a sharp movement, it may not bloom in partial shade at all. For any type of pelargonium, eastern and western window sills are considered optimal, and the possibilities of moving plants inside the interior are determined experimentally.
During the dormant period, when the lighting is reduced, most pelargoniums stop flowering. If you compensate for the reduction in light or rearrange the pelargonium to more illuminated places, you can stretch the flowering period for a longer period. Pelargoniums are not afraid of additional lighting, but sometimes it is enough just to put the plants on the south window.
Temperature control and ventilation
Pelargonium grows well in any residential and work premises with an air temperature above 12 degrees Celsius. During the period of active development, they will not be afraid of either standard or hot temperatures. True, high rates (from 25 degrees) reduce the duration of flowering, stopping the process of new bud formation.
For a dormant period for a plant, at least a slight drop in temperature indicators is necessarily provided. In winter, for all pelargoniums, it is recommended to lower the air temperature to 12-16 degrees Celsius, and for large-flowered pelargonium, the temperature is lowered to 10-15 degrees. But within the limits of any temperatures from 8 degrees and above, pelargonium will withstand the winter and, if properly formed, will return even the lost decorativeness.
Without exception, all pelargoniums love fresh air. They are not afraid of drafts (with the exception of the slightly more capricious large-flowered pelargonium), need regular ventilation and will not refuse to spend the summer outdoors – on the balcony or in the garden.
Taking it out into the garden and even dropping it in the soil, using pelargonium for outdoor pots is equally good for young healthy plants and for old, oppressed bushes. Growing near air conditioners or heaters is best avoided.
Home care for pelargonium
Pelargonium can be grown even by inexperienced growers. It is no coincidence that this plant is included in the lists of crops suitable for teaching children the intricacies of caring for a home collection of flowers. Pelargoniums, even at the flowering stage, can forgive some irrigation mistakes. They do not require any non-standard procedures, are responsive to care and allow you to literally observe the results of your efforts before our eyes.
Watering and air humidity
Pelargoniums love a standard watering approach. They are not afraid of short-term drought, they will not suffer even at the flowering stage, if as a result of the trip they are left without regular water procedures, but you should not abuse the plant’s endurance.
The more systematic and thorough the watering, the fewer extreme situations, the more abundantly pelargoniums bloom and grow faster. Pelargonium grandiflora is more sensitive to drought. It is not advisable for her to completely dry the earthen lump even in emergency circumstances, but other species are much less demanding.
These plants prefer stable, light soil moisture. Watering is carried out quite moderately, allowing the soil to partially dry out between these procedures. Stagnation of water, overflow is best avoided. If, as a result of negligence, the soil remains regularly moist, then the loss of the plant can be prevented by completely drying it.
In winter, for a dormant period, watering is reduced, still maintaining a stable humidity, but drying the substrate harder.
For watering pelargonium, it is enough to use ordinary settled water. Some varieties of large-flowered pelargonium are more sensitive to the characteristics of water and do not like accumulation of salts, therefore, it is better to always use soft water for this type of pelargonium.
One of the undoubted advantages of pelargonium is its resistance to dry air. This plant is not afraid of either office interiors or rooms with the usual sharp drops in humidity between seasons.
It is believed that fragrant pelargonium, and the rest of the pelargonium too, exhibit great aroma just in dry air. Due to the edge on the leaves, pelargonium should not be sprayed, but in summer, from a considerable distance, such procedures can help the pelargonium to cope with the heat.
Leaf polishes are never used on the plant. Dust from greenery is removed gently with a soft brush.
Top dressing and composition of fertilizers
Like any other indoor plants, pelargoniums are fed only during the period of active growth and development. For this plant, the feeding period is limited to March-August. Increased dosages or frequent feeding adversely affect flowering and plant health, cause too rapid growth, therefore, pelargoniums are usually fed once every 1-2 weeks.
For pelargoniums, both universal fertilizers and special fertilizers for flowering crops or organic fertilizers are suitable. When choosing dosages, it is better to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Pruning and shaping pelargonium
Without pruning, it is impossible to maintain the compactness and splendor of the pelargonium bushes. The shoots are exposed and stretched, the effect of the leaf cushion is lost, even with a one-time omission of the obligatory pruning.
Formation is carried out either in early spring or immediately after flowering, removing not only peduncles, but also shortening the main shoots to stimulate the growth of young side branches, and removing the oldest branches to rejuvenate old bushes.
Throughout the entire period of active growth, pinching remains the main tool for controlling pelargoniums. A simple shortening of the shoot tip or pruning at the level of each 8-10 leaves allows you to form a dense, beautiful, compact crown. In pelargonium, it is desirable to remove the lateral shoots developing in the axils of the upper leaves.
Transplant, containers and substrate
Pelargoniums are transplanted at standard times, in February-March, although in emergency cases, the transplant can be carried out in the summer. For them, it is not necessary to carry out an annual transplant: if the plant has where to develop, it is better to wait 1 year with a change in capacity.
Pelargoniums are not lovers of unlimited space. They are grown in compact, sufficient for development, but not too spacious containers, sometimes planting 2-3 copies together to get a more spectacular bush.
It is believed that pelargonium can be grown in any high-quality soil mixture. This plant is really not overly demanding on soils, as long as they remain loose, nutritious, structural, breathable and not prone to compaction.
For pelargoniums, you can purchase both special earth mixtures and a universal substrate. For pelargonium, drainage up to 1/3 of the pot is required. The addition of charcoal and inert materials reduces the risk of irrigation errors.
Pelargoniums are not afraid of transplantation. Plants are carefully transferred to new containers, trying to avoid unnecessary injuries and maintaining the same level of burial. After transplanting, watering is carried out very carefully, and top dressing is not renewed before the plant uses soil resources – within 7-10 weeks, depending on the characteristics of the soil.
Diseases, pests and growing problems
Indoor pelargoniums rarely get sick, but you cannot call them resistant to pests. Their fragrant leaves do not scare off aphids or whiteflies. Whiteflies are especially common on pelargonium leaves during cool wintering.
It is better to fight insects with insecticidal preparations, without mechanical washing. With severe waterlogging of the soil and content in very humid air, pelargoniums can suffer from powdery mildew and gray rot. The damaged parts of the plants are immediately cut out and thrown away, the plants are urgently transplanted and further additionally treated with preventive spraying or watering with a solution of insecticides.
Common growing problems:
- drying of leaves in very dry air and heat;
- the appearance of spots on the leaves in direct sunlight;
- stunted growth or other problems with improper feeding;
- lack of flowering with improper maintenance in winter, lack of dressing, pruning, conditional dormancy.
Reproduction of pelargonium
The main breeding method for all pelargoniums is cuttings. Plants are mainly represented by hybrid varieties, in which the characteristics are not preserved during seed propagation. Despite the fact that pelargoniums are widely represented in the catalogs of seeds of ornamental plants, and in terms of the speed of obtaining full-fledged flowering bushes, cuttings remain preferable.
Pelargonium cuttings are cut from semi-lignified non-flowering shoots, traditionally – at the end of summer, in August or September, if possible, cutting them off from the heel. Sections must be dried, and for planting they use a light, universal soil mixture. Pelargonium cuttings can take root in water, under a hood, or simply in a stably moist substrate. Ease of rooting allows you to choose a method of your choice.
Pelargonium seeds are sown together with the main annuals for seedlings – in the spring. They are slightly covered with soil, germinated on a light windowsill at an air temperature above 21 degrees. Seedlings dive into individual containers after the appearance of a full-fledged leaf, then they are reloaded and grown. Young pelargoniums can be grown in clusters.