You Say Geranium, I Say Pelargonium

“You like potato and I like potahto
You like tomato and I like tomahto
Potato, potahto, Tomato, tomahto.
Let’s call the whole thing off “*

* “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” – George and Ira Gershwin for the movie Shall We Dance.

One of my favorite perennials is the Geranium. “Geranium?” – you say? Geranium is an annual. Well actually the Geranium that most people plant in their flowerpots is really the Pelargonium.

The Pelargonium is a genus of about 200 species of flowering plants. They are perennials in tropical areas like southern Africa. In Canada they are annuals. I love them because they can tolerate some drought and heat, and just a little frost. In my garden, I can neglect them a little, and they keep on blooming with a little deadheading. They last into October, and even November now – they tolerate some frost and last just a little longer than the rest of my plants in pots – but after a full frost they are officially done! I brought a few in and placed them in my basement for the winter. After a few months I remembered them and brought them upstairs to my kitchen. They are quite “leggy” – that are a lot of long green stems. They are yearning for the sun, but that’s OK. They survived without any attention for 2+ months. I will cut them back and fertilize them in the spring and place them straight back out on my porch.

Neglected Pelargonium in my dungeon/basement
Cutting back the Pelargonium

It is very confusing that geranium is also the name of a genus of Cranesbill plants. There are approximately 422 species of Cranesbill. In my previous garden they spread by division, runners or seed. They required little special treatment and spread happily. I rarely watered them, they were lucky if they received any fertilizer, and I cut them back with scissors after they had a full bloom. After this, they bloomed a little bit less – but sproradically bloomed through to October. They have five petal flowers, (Mine in fuschi and light pink, but also in blue and white) and split leaves. Some of my Cranesbill were heavenly scented.

Yesterday, I ordered some Pelargonium in Inspire Mixed to start inside from Vesey’s seed, but I’m missing my Perennial Geraniums (Cranesbill).

Vesey’s Inspire Mix Geraniums
June Blooms
At the base of the pink roses we had perennial geraniums in the same colour in our previous garden

I didn’t see any Cranesbill in my local garden centres last spring, and I didn’t bring any transplants from our previous garden, which makes me quite sad! So I thought, why don’t I try to start some of these indoors, but do you think I could find Cranesbill seed? After scouting through all of my catalogs, I found some at Prairie Moon Nursery in Minnesota. Plant world in the UK had all sorts of varieties, but I’m not sure how hardy they would be. Vesey’s offers cranesbill roots/plants, but I wanted to try seeds. So from Prairie Moon, I ordered Geranium Maculatum and Geranium Carolinianum. These are wildflowers, not as vibrant and domesticated as my previous Cranesbill, but I will start with these, and add plants when and if I see them!

Geranium maculatum - Wild Geranium
Geranium Maculatum
Geranium carolinianum - Carolina Cranesbill
Geranium Carolinianum

I guess I can’t go visit my previous home and split perennials in the middle of the night…….

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