Flower of the Hour: Geranium

Bright, cheery and easy to care for, Geraniums (Pelargoniums) have always been a popular choice for garden beds, hanging baskets and pots. With the right care and attention, they’ll reward you tenfold with endless blooms all summer and through to autumn – so it’s not surprising that around 40 million geraniums are planted in UK gardens each year.

Once established, these fabulous plants are also resistant to drought, (which is fortunate given our current heatwave) and they will continue to grow beautifully through hot spells, filling our gardens with vivid colour.  This garden favourite has also had something of an image makeover too. Recently it stole the show during Chelsea Fringe, in a stunning installation at the trendy Zetter Townhouse, and was the star floral attraction at the glamorous Claridge’s Summer Party this month.

Masses of potted geraniums created the backdrop to the Claridge's Cuban-themed, mid-summer staff party
Masses of potted geraniums created the backdrop to the Claridge’s Cuban-themed, mid-summer staff party

Claudia De Yong, award-winning Landscape & Garden Consultant who co-designed the installation at the Zetter Townhouse, festooning the doorway with over 200 geraniums, explains her affection for this popular plant.

“Geraniums provide such great value in outdoor containers and window boxes but also in the borders. They add a splash of colour right through the summer months, their lush foliage adds texture to the garden and they just keep on giving, even coping with adverse weather conditions.  It was wonderful to have the opportunity to use them in a surprising way and show everyone just how spectacular they are.’

Geraniums not only bloom in red, white and pink, but also in many other shades such as pink, violet, lilac, apricot, orange and yellow, as well as a wide range of bicolour variants
Geraniums not only bloom in red, white and pink, but also in many other shades such as pink, violet, lilac, apricot, orange and yellow, as well as a wide range of bicolour variants

And how to best care for them?

“Plant them in soil with is well-drained but moisture retentive, with good air circulation but away from strong winds and where they will receive around 4-6 hours sunshine a day. Geraniums also make great companions for underplanting the bare stems of roses or even a grapevine. They also go well with Lobelia and Alyssum.”

How much do you know about this colourful trooper we all know and love? Here are five geranium facts:

1. Geranium is a native of South Africa, where more than 250 wild species of the plant still grow.

2. Natural insect repellent: Certain scent-leaved geraniums can effectively ward off insects, thanks to the essential oils contained in their leaves. The best insect repellents are geraniums with lemon and orange aromas.

3. Geraniums can be used as a cut flower, too. Simply place a few stems in a vase of fresh water and care for them as you would your usual cut flowers.

4. The leaves and flowers of scented geraniums are edible. Thanks to the essential oils in their leaves, they can lend a unique aroma to meat dishes, salads and desserts.

5. Healing powers: Geraniums are not only decorative, some also have healing powers. The roots of the Cape region pelargonium were used by the indigenous people of South Africa to treat respiratory disease, and to this day are the main ingredient of the natural remedy “Umckaloabo”. The essential oils in certain types of scented geraniums are also said to help alleviate depression and stress.

Geranium. A colourful addition to a table display