Ivy geranium

Ivy geraniums

The geranium (Pelargonium) is one of the most showy and easily grown flowering plants to grow in the garden -- or as a house plant. There are many types of geraniums. Here is some information about the plants and how to grow the geranium indoors or out. There are many types of geranium, or Pelargonium.

The most well known is the Zonal geranium that grows with long, tall soft stems, rounded wavy leaves and big balls of clustered flowers in bright colors. Many of these geraniums can take temperatures that drop into the mid 20'sF.

Martha Washington or Regal Geraniums will grow into 4'-5' bushes smothered in bi-colored blooms of pinks, purples and whites. They can survive only light frosts, so if you can't grow them outside, grow them as a house plant in a pot with as much sun as possible.

Ivy or creeping geraniums will clamber over walls and ramble over the ground as a fine ground-cover plant. The leaves are thicker and more waxy than the zonals and tend to have more of an ivy shape. Also studded with colorful clusters of flowers, these geraniums are great for cascading down hanging pots or hills. The ivy geranium seems to be the most hardy of the Pelargoniums, handling an occasional drop in cold to the low 20's F.

Showy or fancy-leaved geraniums have colors in designs and patterns on the foliage, often as decorative as the colorful flowers. Some of these are considered to be under the zonal category of Pelargonium, but most don't like temperatures much below freezing. The scented leaved geraniums have different shaped leaves, are easy to grow and when rubbed have the distinctive scents of mint, chocolate, rose, cinnamon, apple, citrus and more. They have pretty flowers, too. My favorite is the chocolate mint that begs to be petted with its velvety leaves and then rewards you with a powerfully delicious aroma. I find most of these geraniums can take an occasional light frost. They're fun to grow in good light and do well as house plants where their scents can be appreciated.

There are even succulent geraniums that look like they belong in the cactus garden and varieties with odd shaped brightly colored leaves called 'Stellar' geraniums.

None of these are actually true geraniums. The true geranium, commonly known as 'Cranesbill' has many cultivars that are wonderful for the garden, too, but it is a very different plant than the Pelargonium. The true geranium has finely cut, billowy foliage and blooms with singular pink, blue, purple or white flowers. It prefers shade in warm climates and makes a lovely ground-cover plant.

Give all geraniums plenty of sun unless you live in a hot, dry climate where some shade will be appreciated. They like a rich, moist loam and should be watered well, drying out a little between waterings.

Design with geraniums in decorative pots for indoors or outside. Grow the taller types in the middle or back of the outdoor garden. Tumble the creepers down hillsides and walls or hang them in decorative baskets. Grow trailing geranium varieties in pots along stairways, on patios or inside the house for colorful accents.

Geraniums are easily grown from stem cuttings, but you can also grow them from seed. They bloom more than many other garden flowers and demand little attention. They are perennials, but if you live in a cold-winter climate, you can grow them as annuals.