By Wayne Handlos, Ph.D.

We are not born with a knowledge of this group of plants. Following is a short-hand approach to the

major types of Pelargoniums.

Zonal Geraniums. These are also known as bedding geraniums which is their primary

use in much of the US and Europe. The leaves are roundish and some have a darker, c-shaped

band in the leaf. Flowers are borne in dense clusters on long stalks. They may be single (5 petals),

semi-double or double. They come in a variety of colors from white to dark red with an infinite number of shades

of pink, orange, scarlet. This favorite group has given rise to a variety of additional types including speckled and

striped petals (bird's egg, New Life and paint-box types), forked petals and leaves (stellars), rolled petals (

poinsettia types), etc.


Ivy Geraniums. This group consists of plants with elongate stems that tend to flop on the ground

or grow up through surrounding vegetation. They are particularly well suited to growing in hanging

baskets or raised planters. The leaves are often smooth and shiny and have 3-5 large teeth or

pointed  lobes. The flower color range is similar to that of the zonal geraniums.


Fancy Leaf Geraniums. If the leaves of a plant are variegated in some way (most commonly

with a whitish or yellowish margin) they qualify as fancy leaf geraniums. The greens may come

in various shades, giving rise to yellow, chartreuse or 'golden' leaves as well as the very dark green found in

many recent cultivars. The most colorful types are found amongst the zonal geraniums where the dark colored

band is superimposed on the green and white patterns in the leaf.


Regal or Martha Washington Geraniums. These have the large, often-patterned flowers borne

 in few-flowered clusters. The leaves are usually coarsely toothed and may be pleasantly scented.

The petals may be ruffled or fringed and may be quite gaudily colored and patterned.


Scented Leaf Geraniums. This group contains any plants which produce glandular hairs which

secrete scented compounds (usually called essential oils). Many of the species geraniums are naturally scented

but breeders have crossed various types and selected some for essential oil production. This is particularly true

for the rose scented geraniums whose oil is produced in commercial quantities and used in the perfume and

cosmetics industries. Depending on which chemicals predominate, the scents are variously described as rose,

lemon, lime, citrus, nutmeg, peppermint, apple, champagne, cinnamon, coconut, pineapple, etc. The less

pleasantly scented leaves are referred to as 'pungent.'


Angel Geraniums. Angels are in many ways miniature versions of the regal geranium although the

lower colors are not as spectacular or varied as those of the regals.


Species Geraniums. These are the plants as found in nature. They are adapted to diverse soil and climatic

conditions. They vary in habit and stature; some are quite unruly while others are of large stature. Many are adapted

 to survival in the deserts of South Africa so may be tuberous, succulent or spiny.

2019, Central Coast Geranium Society (CCGS )