This page shows the versatility of our favourite plant by classifying the many different types of Pelargoniums that are available along with some descriptions and photographs.
A. Zonal Pelargoniums (Pelargonium x hortorum).
(1) Zonal Pelargoniums – mostly bush type plants grown for the beauty of their flower and often the one most confused by being wrongly named ‘Geraniums’ particularly in summer bedding arrangements etc. Often made worse by the fact that Americans still widely use this incorrect naming. Zonals include the following groups of plants: ‘Basic’, ‘Dwarf’, ‘Miniature’, ‘Micro-Miniature’ along with Genetic Hybrids such as the ‘Stellars’ section and Hybrid Ivy leaved varieties that display little or no ivy leaf characteristics. i.e. the Deacons group.
(i) Basic Plants – Mature plants with foliage normally exceeding 7” (180mm) in height above the rim of the pot. For exhibition these should be grown in a pot exceeding 4.75” (120mm) in diameter but not normally exceeding 6½” (165mm).
(ii) Dwarf Plants – Mature plants with foliage more than 5” (125mm) above the rim of the pot, but not normally more than 7” (180mm). For exhibition should be grown in a pot exceeding 3½” (90mm) but not exceeding 4¾” (120mm). Below: A show plant of the Dwarf ‘Bold Cherub’
(iii) Miniature Plants – Mature plants with foliage normally less than 5” (125mm) above the rim of the pot. For exhibition should be grown in a pot not exceeding 3½” (90mm). Below: Miniature ‘Erwarton’
(iv) Micro-Miniature Plants – Mature plants with foliage normally less than 4” (100mm) above the rim of the pot. Usually no separate classes for these in exhibition and will therefore normally be shown as Miniature Zonals.
(v) Deacon Varieties –Genetic hybrid similar to a large Dwarf. For exhibition (when shown in a separate class), usually grown in a pot not exceeding 5” (125mm), otherwise as for Dwarf Zonals.
(vi) Stellar Varieties – A relatively modern genetic hybrid originating from the work done by the the Australian hybridser Ted Both in the late 1950’s and 1960’s from crosses between Australian species and Zonal types. Easily identifiable by their half star-shaped leaves and slim petalled blooms. Single varieties tend to have larger elongated triangular petals whereas doubles tend to have thin feathered petals that are tightly packed together. For exhibition purposes there is a separate class for Stellar varieties, but being Zonals could be shown in an open class for Basic, Dwarf or Miniature Zonals (unless otherwise stated). Below: the Stellar variety ‘Grandad Mac’
(2) Fancy Leaf Zonal Pelargoniums – besides having green leaves with or without zoning, this group also have variable coloured foliage that is sometimes used in classifying for exhibition purposes, i.e. ‘Bicolour’, ‘Tricolour’, ‘Bronze’ or ‘Gold’. Other foliage types are: ‘Black’ or ‘Butterfly’. There are an increasing number of these plants with stunning blooms to add to their beauty.
(a) Bicolour – includes those with white or cream veined leaves or those with two distinct colours with clearly defined edges, other than the basic zone.
(b) Tricolour – (May be Silver Tricolour (usually called a Silver Leaf) or a Gold Tricolour).
(i) Gold Tricolour – Leaves of many colours including red and gold, but usually with clearly defined edges of golden yellow and having a leaf zone, usually red or bronze, that overlays two or more of the other distinct leaf colours, so that the zone itself appears as two or more distinct colours. Below: Tricolour ‘Warrenorth Emerald’.
(ii) Silver Tricolour or Silver Leaf – These tend to resemble a normal bi-colour leaf plant with two distinct colours usually of green and pale cream or white; the third colour is usually made up of bronze zoning. When this zoning overlays the green part of the leaf it is deemed to represent a silver colour. Below: The Silver Leaf ‘Vectis Embers’.
(c) Bronze Leaved – Leaves of Green or Golden/Green with a heavy bronze or chestnut coloured centre zone which is known as a medallion. For exhibition purposes, when exhibited in specific ‘Bronze’ Leaf class – Must have over 50% of leaf surface bronze coloured. The dwarf plant ‘Overchurch’ which has a heavy bronze medallion.
(d) Gold Leaved – Leaves coloured golden/yellow or green/yellow but not showing a tendency to green. For exhibition purposes, when exhibited in specific ‘Gold’ Leaf class – Must have over 50% of leaf surface gold coloured.
(e) Black Leaved – Leaves coloured black, purple-black or with distinct large dark zones or centre markings on green.
(f) Butterfly Leaved – Leaves with a butterfly marking of distinct tone or hue in centre of leaf. This can be encompassed in many of the coloured leaf varieties.
(3) Zonal Pelargoniums have many flower types as follows:
(a) Single Flowered – each flower pip normally having no more than five petals. This is the standard flower set for all Pelargoniums. Below: the dwarf variety ‘Brookside Serenade’ which has a single flower set.
(b) Semi-Double Flowered – each flower pip normally having between six and nine petals. Below: the dwarf ‘Just Beth’ which has a semi-double flower set.
(c) Double Flowered – each flower pip composed of more than nine petals (i.e. double the standard flower set) but not ‘hearted’ like the bud of a rose. Below: the dwarf ‘Dovepoint’ which has full double blooms.
(d) Rosebud or Noisette Group – each bloom fully double and ‘hearted’. The middle petals are so numerous that they remain unopened like the bud of a rose. Below: ‘Happy Appleblossom’ a Rosebud variety with butterfly marked leaves.
(e) Tulip Flowered – having semi-double blooms that never fully open. The large cup shaped petals open just sufficiently to resemble a miniature tulip.
(f) Bird’s-Egg Group – having blooms with petals that have spots in a darker shade than the base colour, like many birds eggs.
(g) Speckled Flowered Group – having petals that are marked with splashes and flecks of another colour. See the picture of ‘Vectis Embers’ above.
(h) Cactus Flowered Group – having petals twisted and furled like a quill. In the USA are known as the Poinsettia Flowering.
B. Ivy-Leaved Pelargoniums (Derived from P. peltatum).
(1) Ivy Leaved Pelargoniums – Usually of lax growth, mainly due to the long thin stems, with thick, waxy ivy shaped leaves developed by the species P. Peltatum to retain moisture during periods of drought. Much used for hanging pots, tubs and basket cultivation. In the UK we tend to prefer the bulbous double headed types whilst on the European continant they tend to prefer the balcon single types for large scale hanging floral displays. Ivy Leaved Pelargoniums embrace all such growth size types including small leaved varieties and genetic hybrid crosses, which display little or no zonal characteristics. May have bicolour leaves and may have flowers that are single, double or rosette. Below: the double heavy flowering ‘PAC Tomcat’.
(2) Hybrid Ivy Leaved Pelargoniums – will include only those genetic hybrid varieties, which clearly display characteristics of both zonal and ivy leaved plants without being predominantly one or the other. Foliage and flowers – as for Ivy Leaved above.
C. Regal Pelargoniums (Pelargonium x domesticum)
Large bush type floriferous pelargoniums grown for the richness and beauty of their large flower heads. The majority of those grown today have been hybridised in the last 50 years and tend to be very short jointed and compact thus requiring little work to achieve a floriforous well rounded plant. They have serrated leaves, unlike the Zonal groups, without any type of zoning. The Regal Pelargonium group includes “Decorative” types which are the decendants of older, less compact, smaller flowered varieties that are more suited to outdoor conditions; and “Oriental” types, which are the result of crosses between Regals and members of the Angel group (see below). Some have bicolour foliage. In the USA they are often known as the ‘Martha Washington’ or ‘Lady Washington’ Pelargoniums. Below: show quality Regal plants. ‘Hazel Rose’ at the front and ‘Rosmaroy’.
D. Angel Pelargoniums
Cultivars, the majority of which, originate from a cross between P. Crispum and a Regal variety in the early part of the 20th Century. Angels have grown in popularity in the last 30 years or so due mainly to an explosion of new varieties being released by specialist nurseries resulting from the work done by dedicated amatuer hybridisers. These hybrisers have managed to obtain many new flower colour breaks and tighter growth habits resulting in smashing plants suitable for all sorts of situation. ‘Angels’ basically have the appearance of a small Regal with small serrated leaves and much smaller flowers. The group extends to include similar small leaved and flowered types but usually with P. Crispum in their parentage. They are mostly upright bush type plants but there are some lax varieties that can be used for basket or hanging pot cultivation. Often called ‘Pansy-Faced’ in the US. Some varieties have bicolour foliage. Below: ‘Quantock Kirsty’ is used extensively for show work.
E. Unique Pelargoniums
Bushy cultivars originating in the mid 19th century, all having P. fulgidum in their pedigree. May have bicolour foliage. Some types, popularly known in the hobby as ‘Hybrid Uniques’, have been crossed with Regal pelargoniums and, as a result of this cross, are much more floriferous. Below: Patons Unique’
F. Scented Leaved Pelargoniums
Grown chiefly for their fragrance, may be species or cultivars but all must have a clear and distinct scented foliage. Scent is emitted when the leaves are touched or bruised with some scents aromatic, others pungent and in a few cases, quite unpleasant. Several of the scented leaved pelargoniums are grown for the oil ‘geranol’, which is extracted from the leaves and is an essential oil much used commercially in perfumery. The scent of some species growing in their natural habitat, acts as a deterrent to grazing animals who appear to dislike the emitted scent. Conversely, it also attracts other insect life to visit the bloom and pollinate the plant. The scented leaves can be used for potpourri and they also have a use as flavourings in cooking. Occasionally scented types can be found in the some of the other groups mentioned i.e. the Angels having P. Crispum in their genes can often have a strong citrus scent.
G. Species Pelargoniums
The species are the forfathers of all the cultivar groups listed above and are, of course, a member of the genus Geraniaceae family (see Group page). In general, the definition of a species is that it breeds true, and is to be found doing this in the ‘wild’.
The majority of the pelargonium species are to be found in the Republic of S. Africa, mostly in the south western corner. There are also about 20 species in Eastern Africa and a few others to be found in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, Turkey, Iraq, and the South Atlantic islands of St. Helena and Tristan da Cunha.
Species pelargoniums have an incredible diversity of characteristics in habit, shape, size and colour, which probably accounts for them having retained their popularity for more than 300 years. Below P. Sidiodes.
H. Primary Hybrids
A Primary Hybrid is recognised as being the resultant plant from a first time cross between two different known species. Examples are P x ‘ardens’ – from P. lobatum x P. fulgidum (1810). P x ‘glauciifolium’ – from P. gibbosum x P. lobatum (1822). Usually, but not always, primary hybrids are sterile. Below: P x Ardens.
We hope this summary provides you with a good background to the Pelargonium genus. More information can be found elsewhere on this site and some of the links from it. Further information is also provided when you join the Society.