Gardeners turn to annual plants to infuse quick color into their garden combinations. The geranium (Pelegonium sp.) has held onto its reputation for bold colors over many decades by responding to summer with gutsy bright hues that fade only when cold temperatures arrive.
Whether you want the annual geranium to string along a large perennial landscape or in a pot on the hard surface of a patio, their bold colors speak with “Wow.”
New geranium varieties seem to come out less frequently, than other notable annuals, but the selection of older traditional geraniums lives on in a diverse collection.
At least every few years, though, new winning geraniums come to our attention. Together, the choices give home gardeners a broad palette of colors to brighten their summer places.
All-American Selections New Annual Geraniums
In 2015, All-America Selections named two annual geraniums part of the organization’s list of national winners that will be out in 2016.
Not since 1991, when Pelargonium ‘Freckles’ won, has AAS named a national geranium as a winner. Two of the Brocade series geraniums join Freckles, and many that won decades earlier in a notable selection you can rely on to bring color to a garden.
Two National Flower Award Winners make it for the 2016 summer season:
- Pelargonium ‘Brocade Cherry Night’ has large leaves marked with the characteristic zonal imprint. Each leaf of Cherry Night has a bronze zone rimmed by the slightest of bright green. Its flower color is dark pinkish cherry.
- The orange semi-double flowers of Pelargonium x hortum ‘Brocade Fire’ is set against a backdrop of bi-colored foliage. Each Brocade Fire leaf has the deeper zone outlined by a wider green margin.
Pelargoniums Vary in Leaves and Flower Forms
Within the genus of Pelargonium is a collection of varieties that gardeners plant year after year. Though related, the leaf and flower forms among Pelargoniums vary. The most popular species and cultivars are grouped in the scented geraniums, zonal geraniums, ivy geraniums, and the Martha Washingtons.
The Pelargonium gravelolens is mostly known as a scented geranium. The plant is grown for their intricately cut heart-shaped leaves 2” – 4” wide, which give off strong fragrances. Many varieties of scented geraniums are rough to the touch. The flower head, called an umbel, is composed of many florets set on long stems.
Scented geraniums are the most fragrant of the garden choices and are often categorized with herbs as each group has similar uses. The flowers of Pelargonium ‘Angel’s Perfume’ are burgundy with a lemon scent and rest on a background of cool-green foliage; the plant grows 12” – 14” tall.
People use the plants to flavor food or drinks, or dried to make potpourris; P. x fragrans is a nutmeg scented geranium and P. tomentosum has a strong of fragrance of peppermint and large silver-grey leaves perfect for these purposes. Gardeners set out scented geraniums like the lemon scented Mabel Grey to dissuade buzzing insects in a garden.
Pelargonium x hortum is commonly referred to as a bedding geranium found, along with ivy leaved geraniums, seen in multipacks at plant nurseries. The bedding geranium is also called a zonal geranium and always has soft leaves, as opposed to most scented geraniums. The zonal geranium is found in a multitude of colors and in white, these are just a few colorful Pelargonium:
- P. ‘Freckles’ has a pink hue with a dark rose center in each floret.
- P. ‘Big Red’ grows twice the usual size, making it an impressive plant holding big red blooms. The plant may be grown from seed.
- P. ‘First Yellow’ is, truly, the first-ever geranium with yellow flowers. First Yellow produces double blooms on a plant that reaches 12” – 15”.
- P. ‘Peppermint Twist,’ not to be confused with the scented geranium of herb plantings, is a short plant. Its height makes this type a nice edger for at the front of a planting bed. The cultivar has been around for many years, and the flower has white petals, which are marbled with a candy-red tone.
- P. ‘Ringo’ is a series with eight colors. Nursery production favors this geranium because of its viable germination. Although a hybrid F1 plant, home gardeners who enjoy starting plants from seed may consider this geranium for its high success rate.
Pelargonium peltatum is the ivy geranium, recognizable by its trailing habit and glossy leaves that have a leathery texture. We like to use ivy geraniums in hanging baskets and window boxes where the pots sit perched up high. A classic ivy geranium is P. ‘Summer Showers’ that spreads 12” wide. Gardeners can also grow this plant from seeds.
Pelargonium domesticum refers to specimens known as Martha Washington or regal geraniums, and are often found in flowers shops with their big pots dressed-up in foil, especially during the holidays.
For gardeners who like these geraniums in their gardens outside, a few considerations will help. Martha Washington geraniums are bigger plants. For their size and their intolerance of mid-summer heat, Martha Washington geraniums should not be treated as you might bedding geraniums. The shades of blooms in a Pelargonium ‘Soft Spoken’ evolve from a pastel rose to a cherry red. The upright form has a height and spread of 12” – 14.”
How Annual Geraniums are Different from Perennial Geraniums
The Geranium of perennial gardens is a hardy plant that is meant to live season to season. The plant forms a ground cover and can creep along among its neighboring flora infusing its simple blooms as it goes.
By contrast, the annual geranium is generally an upright plant. Pelargonium has big blooms meant to sock in a “wow” factor of summer color into gardens. Though the scented geranium is the exception, the fragrant version of Pelargonium provides riotous scent.
The annual geranium plant has a mounding habit.
Though technically a tender perennial and hardy in zone 10, geraniums flower from early spring to late summer, depending on the local climate. Pelargonium is a native plant only in South Africa.
Annual geraniums can be grown indoors all year, if you give it enough bright light, but most gardeners treat them as annual flowers.
On a scale of difficult-to-grow, annual geraniums are easier. They require full sun to flower well, but will tolerate afternoon shade.
The annual plant should be planted in moist-well-draining soil and fertilized with a low concentration of a balanced fertilizer or time-released pellets sprinkled in when planted.
Some experts list annual geraniums as drought tolerant once the plants are established, also called “rooted-in well.” For annual geraniums’ appearance and health sake, deadheading is a good habit to include in your plant maintenance schedule.
Annual geraniums are grown from seed or, vegetatively, by leaf or stem cuttings, which are then rooted. Gardeners, who like to grow their plants from seed and sometimes save seeds from the previous year, may find some of their favorites are hybrid plants, or labeled F1.
To grow seeds “true” and produce flowers the same as the original plants of last year, you will find more success by starting with new seeds the next year.
Annual Geraniums Boast Summer Colors
The annual geranium (Pelargonium sp.) is loved for its boastful character in the summer garden. For gardeners, the color choices are plentiful.
However you grow annual geraniums, the impact of their bold flowers is worth spending the summer with. The colors of geraniums will grab your attention and their easygoing nature could entice you to take care of them all year long.