Geraniums have been popular ever since the day of our great grandmothers. As early as the 19thth century these summer beauties adorned balconies, terraces and garden all over Europe. But anyone who thinks there isn’t anything interesting left to say about the classic of bedding and balcony plants should think again. This text reveal ten little known facts about the geranium.
1. A genuine South African
Geranium – a name that sounds like typical Bavarian farmhouse facades, a traditional German balcony boxer. But the geranium is actually an immigrant. It was originally a native of South Africa, where more than 250 wild species of the plant still grow. The first geraniums did not come to Europe until the17th century. From the Netherlands the plant then embarked on its triumphant advance across the globe.
2. Living by the wrong name
From the botanical perspective the geranium is not a member of the Geranium family. To gardeners and botanists “geranium” refers to a winter-hardy perennial shrub. The popular summer bloomers, on the other hand, are known among the experts as “pelargoniums”. The confusion about the name can be traced back to the 17th century. At that time, the first pelargoniums which were brought to Europe from South Africa were called geraniums, due to their similarity to the domestic perennial plant. Not until the 18th century did botanists recognize the differences between them and gave the genus from South Africa the name Pelargonium. Yet in many countries the correct name has never been adopted in common parlance.
3. Cultural commodity and symbol of homeland
Astonishingly enough, not only people in Germany but also in other European countries consider the geranium an integral part of their culture and a symbol of their homeland. The Swiss have even elected this easy-care blooming beauty their national flower. One wonders if there is a connection: In the 19th century pelargoniums were flourishing all across Europe, at a time when a feeling of national pride was growing in many countries.
4. Stylish room deco
Geraniums not only adorn balconies, terraces and gardens, they also make stylish room decorations. In particular the regal geranium was originally cultivated as a houseplant, and it also goes well with modern interiors. But other geraniums, such as angel and scented-leaved geraniums, also feel at home in a sunny spot indoors, where they create a gaily-coloured summer feeling. Or a really easy solution: just a few geraniums-stems in a vase or in a bouquet.
5. Culinary qualities
Bon appetit! The leaves and flowers of scented geraniums are edible. Thanks to the essential oils in their leaves, they lend not only decorative touches but also a fine aroma to meat dishes, salads and desserts. For examples, varieties with a lemon aroma add zest to salads, sorbets or tea. Rose geraniums lend a sophisticated note to puddings, cakes, jams or desserts, while geraniums with a peppermint scent are a wonderful addition to homemade lemonade. And creative cooks will put to good use to the many other aromas of scent-leaved geraniums, which range from apple to orange and peach to chocolate and cinnamon. Let’s get cooking!
6. Healing powers
Geraniums are not only decorative, but some also have healing powers. The roots of the Cape region pelargonium, for example, were used by the indigenous people of South Africa to treat respiratory disease, and to this day are a main ingredient of the natural remedy “Umckaloabo”. The essential oils in certain types of scented geraniums help alleviate depression and stress.
7. Natural insect repellent
Certain scent-leaved geraniums can effectively ward off insects, thanks to the essential oils contained in their leaves. At the slightest breeze or the lightest touch, these plants release their perfume. What may be a pleasant smell to us humans will send mosquitoes, wasps and other pesky insects on their way. The best insect repellents are geraniums with lemon and orange aromas.
8. Immense spectrum of varieties
Most people know geraniums as those bright red or white balcony boxers.
Fact is, this plant is much more than that: The geranium is astonishingly versatile with its huge diversity of colours, leaves and flower shapes, sizes and growth forms. They not only bloom in red, white and pink, but also in many modern shades such as pink, violet, lilac, apricot, orange and yellow. And they come in a wide range of bicolour variants.
9. Bountiful blooms even without a green thumb
Geraniums are perfectly suited for people who can’t or don’t want to spend a lot of time caring for their plants.
Because hardly any other plant is as easy-care and durable. Even those who do not have a green thumb can achieve a beautiful display of flowers with minimum time and effort.
10. Record breaker
When given proper care, geraniums can achieve record-breaking size. In the internet one can find specimens that have supposedly achieved heights of five metres or a circumference of more than ten metres.