Zonal Geraniums

Learn more about this incredibly popular plant, which is a common choice for home gardeners throughout the United States.



Pink geraniums (Pelargonium zonale) in mixed pots, July

Photo by: Michael Davis

Michael Davis

It may come as a surprise to know there’s more than one type of geranium. In fact, there are several different kinds. Zonal geraniums, the most popular and widely known geraniums, are actually not geraniums at all. The tall-stemmed flowers with ball-shaped blooms are actually Pelargoniums as classified by their genus or Pelargonium × hortorum according to their species. And while they are in the Geraniaceae family, they differ from wild geraniums and ivy geraniums — most notably in their overall appearance and color range. In addition to the name zonal geraniums, they are often called garden or common geraniums. These are the type of geraniums you find in local garden centers and nurseries. They get the zonal name from the alternating bands of color that form “zones” on their leaves.

When and Where to Plant

Zonal geraniums thrive in flowerbeds and containers alike. Just make sure to place them in a full-sun or partial shade environment. They like to receive at least six hours of sunlight each day. In most zones, they are grown as annuals, but in the warmest of climates they can be perennials. They are also easy to overwinter. For example, you can bring containers indoors to care for them during the winter months. If you have geraniums that are planted in beds, you can dig up the entire plant, prune it back to the base, and store in a cardboard box in a cool, dry area until spring. You’ll need to check the plants every couple of weeks and be sure to remove any mold during their time indoors to keep them healthy. Additionally, geraniums are also relatively easy to propagate if you’re looking to start a new plant.

Care and Maintenance

As noted, geraniums are heat-loving plants. Just as they prefer sunlight to shade, they do not do well when overwatered. Instead, they thrive with a moist soil that is allowed to dry out between waterings. If you want to fertilize your plants, use a water-soluble fertilizer once per month. To continue to see new growth, you’ll also want to deadhead the plant as blooms fade.

Color Varieties

Years ago zonal geraniums were found in white, red and shades of pink. However, thanks to science, zonal geraniums are now available in a range of hues. The latest cultivars come in coral, purple and even yellow. In addition, you’ll still find a large variety of different shades of the traditional red, white and pink.

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