Geraniums and Pelargoniums

Overview

The vibrant plants commonly called "geraniums" are actually pelargoniums. They are, however, related to true geraniums, which we also call cranesbills or wild geraniums. Despite their very different attributes, geraniums and pelargoniums belong to the same botanical family, Geraniaceae, and are among the world's most popular garden plants.

Garden expert John Feltwell discusses both members of this wide-ranging family, providing all the ...

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Overview

The vibrant plants commonly called "geraniums" are actually pelargoniums. They are, however, related to true geraniums, which we also call cranesbills or wild geraniums. Despite their very different attributes, geraniums and pelargoniums belong to the same botanical family, Geraniaceae, and are among the world's most popular garden plants.

Garden expert John Feltwell discusses both members of this wide-ranging family, providing all the information gardeners need to choose, grow, propagate, and design with geraniums and pelargoniums.

More than 250 full color photographs illustrate their beauty and charm, and the extensive A-Z plant directory describes 328 plants in detail. The book also contains:

  • descriptions of foliage and flowers for all varieties, such as wood and dusky cranesbills, zonals, ivies, Highfields, Stellars, Butes, Regals and many more
  • tips on how to choose the right place for the right plant
  • instruction on growing and propagating
  • how to deal with pests and diseases
  • mail-order sources.
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Editorial Reviews

Garden Showcase - Linda Beutler
An excellent entry into these two versatile plant groups. It's nice to have a new book that doesn't require a Ph.D. in botany to understand.
Houston Lifestyle and Homes
Everything gardeners need to know to select, grow, propagate and design with these flowers.
Houston Lifestyle and Homes
Everything gardeners need to know to select, grow, propagate and design with these flowers.
Linda Beutler
An excellent entry ... It's nice to have a new book that doesn't require a Ph.D. in botany to understand.
Garden Showcase
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781552094648
  • Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 3/3/2001
  • Pages: 128
  • Product dimensions: 8.25 (w) x 10.75 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. John Feltwell is trained in botany and zoology. A successful photographer of plants, he has written more than 30 books on gardening, ecology and conservation, including Clematis for all Seasons (Firefly, 1999).

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Read an Excerpt

Introduction:

This book is about geraniums — true geraniums, belonging to the geranium genus, and pelargoniums, that belong to the pelargonium genus. They are all popularly called geraniums, and they all belong to the same family. However, to aid interpretation in this book, the following guidelines have been adopted throughout.

The term 'geranium' refers to the genus Geranium, in which case it is in italics. If it is Anglicized, members of the Geranium genus are called geraniums. Similarly, pelargoniums are called 'pelargoniums' if Anglicized, or of the Pelargonium genus if referred to in a botanical sense. Pelargoniums are never referred to in this book as geraniums.

The family to which both geraniums and pelargoniums belong is the Geraniaceae (or Geranium family). The members of this family are, in general terms, closely related to the family Tropaeolaceae (nasturtiums), Oxalidaceae (the Wood sorrel and Bermuda Buttercup family) and Linaceae (the flax family).

The family Geraniaceae has about 750 species scattered widely around the world growing as annuals, perennials, herbs and shrubs. Members of the family occur mostly in temperate and sub-tropical climates, in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Members of the Geranium family are generally absent from the band of tropical vegetation that straddles the world on the equator, with the exception of Africa. That pelargoniums occur across the equator in Africa is not because they like tropical climates, but because they are only found there on high mountains and plateaus where the weather is much cooler. Pelargoniums have a preference for drier areas, since many are succulent, while some geraniums grow in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Characteristics of the family as a whole are that they tend to have jointed stems, often with glandular hairs, and their leaves may be simple or compound, sometimes with stipules. The flowers are usually regular, sometimes irregular often with nectaries. Flower parts are usually in fives, usually with five sepals, five petals, five female parts (ovaries) and five male parts (stamens) in two or three whorls. This is a basic structural plan of the flower, but there is much variation within the genera, as might be expected. Both genera have five petals and ten stamens. In Pelargoniums the petal number may be reduced to four or two, but the upper petals are usually larger than the lower ones. The similarity of the flowers of angel pelargoniums to violets and pansies is by chance; there is no connection between the Geraniaceae and Violaceae families.

There are eleven genera in the Geraniaceae family, of which Pelargonium and Geraniums are covered in this book. These two belong to one of the four sub-families called the Geranioideae, of which there are three other members, Erodium, Monsonia, and Sarcocaulon.

SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES

There are large differences between geraniums and pelargoniums. In addition to botanical differences, in Australia and the US geraniums are what are described as zonal pelargoniums, and regal pelargoniums are called geraniums. Pelargoniums have thick, succulent stems and are mostly frost-sensitive, dying during the winter period if not brought inside for protection. Geraniums have more delicate stems and are mostly frost-hardy, often dying to ground level but reappearing in the spring. Both groups can be grown from seed, although many pelargoniums are produced from cuttings. Geraniums are grown exclusively from seed and many are perennial.

Few geraniums are grown indoors, whereas pelargoniums make fine houseplants. Pelargoniums have a recognizable, pungent scent, but most geraniums are unscented.

Pelargoniums have captured the imagination of breeders for over 200 years and several thousand cultivars have been produced; geraniums have remained more species-based and there are fewer hybrids among them.

There are many similarities to consider as well. This is a reflection of their family connections. The reason for confusion between geraniums and pelargoniums is that there will always be an overlap when manmade classification is used. There are geraniums that look exactly like pelargoniums with typical soft felted stems and large rounded leaves. These are classified as Geranium potentilloides - which refers to a pelargonium masquerading as a geranium. The plant grows in the Temperate House of Kew Gardens in London and has been verified as being South Australian in origin with a range emcompassing temperate Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania.

However the biodiverse world of geraniums and pelargoniums has speciated, and however man has chosen to select albinos, forms, varieties and hybrids, the world of 'geraniums' is sufficiently large for the gardener to pick and choose certain gems and to find areas of personal fascination. I trust you will find sufficient interest within these pages to indulge this passion and maybe expand your horizons.

The color of the flowers is also similar, particularly pinks, reds and whites. The plants' habits share some similarities as well. Many pelargoniums and geraniums produce good bushy growth, which contributes to their continued popularity with gardeners around the world. Geraniums work well for groundcover, while pelargoniums are perfect for containers, bedding, or even for creating carpet bedding.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Introduction

Geraniums
- Introduction
- Flowers
- Foliage
- Geraniums in the Garden

Geraniums by Group
- Sanguineum Group
- Wood Cranesbill
- Meadow Cranesbill
- Geranium Palmatum
- Dusky Cranesbill

Pelargoniums
- Introduction
- Pelargoniums for the Place

Pelargonium Species
- Introduction
- Ivies
- Scented Varieties

Zonals
- Leaf Markings
- Fancy Leaves
- Zonal Flowers

Highfields
- Rosebuds and Tulips
- Commercial Series

Stellars, Startels and Cacti
- Single Dwarfs
- Double Dwarfs

Regals
- Hot Colors
- Cool Colors

Butes
- Angels
- Deacons
- Minatures

Cultivation
- Growing and Propagating
- Pests
- Diseases

A-Z

Index
Useful Addresses
Acknowledgements and zone chart
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