Habitat: Temperate and tropical regions of the world, with many species from South Africa.
Cultivation: Pelargonium is particularly appreciated also for the simplicity of the care it need:s with very little water and a relatively poor substrate they will reward you with abundant blooms!
Curiosity: Its name derives from Greek and means “stork”, referring to the thin and elongated shape of the fruit, similar to the beak of a stork.
Pelargonium is a wide genus of around 280 species in the family Geraniaceae. These plants are widespread in both temperate and tropical areas of the planet, being actually native to Africa, with a high number of species coming from South Africa.
Pelargonium is popular also for its uses in aromatherapy. It has in fact many properties: rebalancing properties of the nervous system, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, soothing, astringent and antiseptic. Its functions also include stimulating the lymphatic system, toning the liver and kidneys. Among its main uses there are also the treatment of acne, burns, blisters, eczema, arthritis, neuralgia, sore throat. Some species, instead, have become extremely popular as garden plants and houseplants, appreciated either for their pleasant scent, and because it’s not so tough to grow them.
Pelargonium are often confused with Geraniums however, while Geraniums are usually herbaceous annual plants which die down in Winter and are mainly native to temperate regions, Pelargoniums are perennial plants, evergreen or deciduous depending on the specieus, often (especially the species from semi-arid areas) equipped with a caudex or with an enlarged rootstock.
Pelargonium is a wide genus, and it occurs in diverse growth habits: from herbaceous annuals, to shrubs, to succulents to caudiciform plants. Caudiciform plants are plants equipped with a caudex, which is an enlarged, wooden subterranean stems with the function to store water and nutrients to overcome the dry season. Caudiciform plants are in fact particularly widespred in semi-arid areas, with low rainfall levels, and a clear separation between a humid and a dry season.
The stem can be herbaceous or wooden, succulent or not, depending on the species. Also leaves are different according to the species, however, usually, the most frequent shapes are peltate (peltate is a botanical term which refers to the position of the petiole junction which, in peltate leaves, lies in the center of the leaves), and laciniated, which are profoundely etched and irregular kinds of leaves.
In some species, leaves are covered in a dense, whitish hair. Some species are particularly scented, such as P. odoratissimum.
In caudiciform species, the caudex often take on irregular, lumpy shapes (such as in P. alternans), or either a globose, more or less oval one (such as in P. carnosum).
Flowers are what have made these species so popular among ornamental gardeners. They are also the main feature that distingueshes Geraniums from Pelargoniums: they have a single symmetry plan, unlike Geraniums flowers which show a radial symmetry.
However they are different according to the species, a common feature is that they are always five-petaled and grouped in umbrella-shaped inflorescences. The lower three petals are different, usually bigger, than the upper two ones. The colours of the petal vary according to the species.
Fruits have the typical shape of a stork’s beak and are the main reason for the name of the genus.
VARIETY AND TYPES
Here below are some species of Pelargonium:
- P. albersii
- P. albidum
- P. albiflorum
- P. album
- P. alchemilloides
- P. alneum
- P. alnifolium
- P. aloysianum
- P. carnosum
- P. convolutum
- P. corallinum
- P. cordifolium
- P. lobatum
- P. laxum
- P. leptum
- P. mirabile
- P. moniliforme
- P. oblongatum
- P. praemorsum
- P. purverulentum
- P. rapaceum
- P. sulphureum
- P. superbum
- P. sweetianum
- P. triste
- P. xerophyton
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TIPS FOR GROWING
Here below are our cultivation tips:
- It requires plenty of light throughout the year, however, avoid direct sun rays, especially during the hottest hours of the day: they might burn the leaves!
- It is preferable to keep it at mild temperatures and never below 10 °C, for this reason it is better to shelter it during the winter period.
- Water moderately, only when the soil is completely dry. It is enough to water the plant once a week in spring and summer, once a month in autumn and to suspend watering completely in winter.
- A well-draining soil is an optimal solution, even better if further enriched with inert materials such as pumice or lapilli.
- They do not need frequent fertilization, it is sufficient to dilute the fertilizer with watering once a year.
- Repotting necessities depending on the species: often, the caudiciform species don’t need frequent repottings.
Propagation is carried out through cuttings during the Spring or either through seeds. Plant seeds any time of the year, however it’s more likely to succeed if you sow in Spring. Rooting cuttings of stems is another method. The preferable method depends actually on the species: in some species you have more probability of success with the cutting, and in others with the seeds.