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Geraniums and Pelargoniums


January 30, 2024


The Searles Gardening Team

Did you know that geraniums and pelargoniums are two different types of plants? They are very closely related but with some stand-out differences. Both have five petals on their flowers and a long, slender seed pod. They are from the same family but have different genus. Geraniums are herbaceous perennials, and pelargoniums are annual plants for many.

Once they have finished with their display of colour these are replaced by other flowering plants. There is a native pelargonium in Australia. Pelargonium australe is an endemic perennial herb found in most parts of Australia. The flowering time for geraniums and pelargoniums is usually from spring to autumn (depending on your region).

A simplified way to think of this is that geraniums are tough plants, and pelargoniums are more tender. Geraniums are generally more cold-tolerant and are always used as outdoor plants. Geraniums have often been used in herbal medicines and for essential oils. Geraniums are tough plants and usually have fragrant foliage and proliferate from cuttings.

Ivy geranium is a cascading ground cover variety and is gorgeous in rockeries and hanging baskets, where they can show off its flowing form. The upright variety with the darker band in the middle of the leaf is known as zonal geranium. The breeding between these two varieties has produced the Geranium ‘Big Red’, which has given a large flower in a shorter growing plant, which can keep its lower foliage and appear to drift down.

With pests and diseases, geranium and pelargonium are very similar; caterpillars are always on the lookout for chewing on the leaves or even eating into the buds. The main issues are usually fungal, with rust and powdery mildew being high on the list. Searles Trifend can resolve these issues and re-spray while the problems are present. Watering the soil, rather than the leaves, is a simple method to avoid disease issues and not letting them sit in saucers of water or become waterlogged as this will lead to rot.

General maintenance such as pruning to keep their shape and deadheading to keep the plants looking their best and fertilising during the growing and flowering months with a granular controlled release fertiliser such as Searles Robust Flower and Garden every six months. To encourage even more flowers, use Searles Flourish fortnightly during the flowering periods.