Zonal geranium: cultivation and care

3 min read

An essential summer flower, the zonal geranium is adorned with its most beautiful colors to decorate our balconies, terraces and flower beds.

In summary what you need to know:

Name : Pelargonium x hortorum
Family : Geraniaceae
Type : Perennial flowering plant

Height : 35 to 45 cm
Exposure : sunny
Soil : Neutral to alkaline, well drained

Foliage : Deciduous – Flowering : Summer

Growing and caring for zonal geranium is very simple. Plant out in May for six months of continuous flowering.

  • Read also: All our articles about geraniums

Presentation of the zonal geranium

Right away, let’s get the truth straight! The zonal geranium is actually a pelargonium with zonal foliage (i.e. bicolor) that grows naturally in South Africa. Introduced in the 17th century in Europe, this pelargonium is hybridized to give rise to a zonal pelargonium, unjustly named zonal geranium by the botanist Linné. The term has remained… even if the name of geranium with zoned leaves is more appropriate. While the perennial geranium is rather a perennial plant that grows in the ground. In short, there is enough to lose your Latin but the essential is not there…

Geraniums of the zonal group therefore have rounded , slightly downy foliage, often marked with a more shaded area. Hence its qualification as “zonal”. It forms a compact bush with an upright habit that hardly exceeds 45 cm. Its stems, which lignify at their base, are solid, succulent and slightly velvety.

In summer, the zonal geranium is covered with single, semi-double or double round flowering umbels . These flowers display colors ranging from white to dark red, including pink, mauve, salmon… Some are even variegated.

Undemanding, the zonal geranium is ideal in planters or pots, but can also grow in beds in a compact mass. On the other hand, it is absolutely not rustic.

Plantation du pelargonium x gardens 

Although considered a perennial, zonal geranium is grown as an annual . It is indeed subject to frost and does not withstand temperatures below 2°C.

When to plant it?

Because it is chilly, it is best to plant this geranium only after the Ice Saints (after May 11, 12 and 13) in regions with the coldest winters. In the south of France or the Atlantic coast, it can join pots and planters from the first half of May.

Where to plant it?

The zonal leaf geranium likes sunny locations and fertile, well-drained soil . In pots or planters, a mixture of 2/3 garden soil and 1/3 special geranium soil is perfect. Count about twenty centimeters between each plant. And don’t forget the drainage balls at the bottom of the container.

The zonal geranium can also be grown in the ground in a bed or a border, in the company of low perennials such as bellflowers or dianthus .

Zonal Geranium Care

Easy to live with , the zonal geranium certainly is! Once installed in its pot or planter, this geranium only requires the removal of its faded flowers . This little maintenance allows the flowering to renew itself until October without interruption. You can complete this cleaning operation by pinching the stems which allows the plant to branch out.

Also watch carefully for the first signs of cryptogamic diseases which are generally due to excess humidity. You should never leave water in the saucers and especially expose the geraniums to the sun.

What watering to plan?

Although relatively drought resistant, the zonal geranium is a thirsty one! Watering will therefore be regular and will take place as soon as the surface of the soil is dry.

A regular supply of fertilizer?

The zonal foliage geranium is also a greedy plant that needs regular fertilizer . Every 10 to 15 days, you will need to offer it a fertilizer rich in phosphorus and potash. It is also possible to use a fertilizer with slow diffusion, every 3 months.

Propagate zonal geranium

By sowing

From mid-February, it is possible to sow the geranium in a mini-greenhouse or in a terrine, lined with seed compost. Be careful, the seeds are tiny.

  • Take each seed with a tweezer and place it on the soil, spaced from each other by 2 to 3 cm
  • Push the seed 1 cm deep with your finger
  • Plug the hole and tamp lightly
  • Water by spray
  • Replace the lid of the mini-greenhouse or cover your terrine with plastic or a glass
  • Put your seedlings in a bright room heated to 20°C

By cuttings

  • Take with secateurs, in summer, a 10 cm cutting with a node and 5 leaves
  • Delete the buttons if there are any and the 3 bottom leaves.
  • Plant the stem in a mixture of sand and potting soil.
  • Tamp the soil and water
  • Place your cutting in partial shade
  • Water regularly

And in winter, what to do with the zonal geranium?

It is a pity to discard zone-leaved geraniums as soon as flowering is over. Especially since it is easy to overwinter it if you have a minimum of space. In winter, potted geraniums can be brought indoors in a bright room where the thermometer shows a temperature of 5 to 13°C . They should be watered once a month.

When spring returns, all you have to do is fold them back before putting them back outside.

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