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The Difference Between Garden and Pot Geraniums

Rachel is a passionate plantsperson, YouTuber and author living in Ireland. She grows a wide range of hardy subtropical and tropical plants.

Pelargonium 'Lord Bute'

Pelargonium 'Lord Bute'

What Type of Geranium Should I Buy?

Buying geraniums can be confusing. I hope to clear up some confusion about geraniums, so you don't buy the wrong plant on your next garden center visit. When people talk about geraniums, they can be referring to one of two very different plants.

  • Garden geraniums are hardy and make great border plants.
  • Pelargoniums make colorful pot displays that need winter protection. Confusingly, the pelargonium common name is geranium.

Learn how to tell the difference between geraniums and pelargoniums since both are sold as geraniums.

Geranium × johnsonii 'Johnson's Blue'

Geranium × johnsonii 'Johnson's Blue'

How to Spot a True Geranium

True geraniums are herbaceous perennials that come mostly from the Northern Hemisphere. Because they come from temperate zones, geraniums are hardy, and they make welcome additions to any flower bed.

With few exceptions, geraniums have soft stems and are deciduous. This means that they die back completely in winter so that nothing is visible above the ground. This is how they deal with the cold temperatures.

Geranium flowers have five petals that are either white, pink, purple, blue, or nearly black, and their leaves tend to be broadly circular in form. Geraniums will grow in most soils as long as it's not waterlogged.

Pelargonium 'Paccrio' (Angeleyes Orange)

Pelargonium 'Paccrio' (Angeleyes Orange)

How to Identify Pelargoniums

Pelargoniums, on the other hand, are subshrubs and have woody stems. They come from South Africa in the Southern Hemisphere, having evolved in warmer places where plants cannot withstand frost. They need to be grown in pots and protected in winter by moving to a sheltered position.

With very few exceptions, pelargoniums are evergreen, which means they hold on to their leaves through winter. Although their flowers are similarly shaped to those of geraniums, pelargonium flowers are colorful and have a more extensive palette, including red and orange, and are held in clusters. Pelargoniums need well-drained soil to grow.

Geranium 'Anne Thompson'

Geranium 'Anne Thompson'

Differences Between Geraniums and Pelargoniums

Geraniums are hardy, and pelargoniums are tender. Geraniums are perennial, while pelargoniums are woody subshrubs. Geraniums are deciduous, but pelargoniums are evergreen. Geraniums have a muted color palette, whereas pelargoniums are more colorful.

I hope this information will help you when deciding what to buy and where to use it. Happy growing.

Pelargonium 'Amber Pearl'

Pelargonium 'Amber Pearl'

Geraniums vs. Pelargoniums

Differences between garden geraniums and pot geraniums (pelargoniums).

GeraniumsPelargoniums

Hardy

Tender

Perennial

Woody Subshrubs

Muted Color Palette

Brighter and More Colorful

More Garden Inspiration

© 2021 Rachel Darlington

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