Pelargonium magenteum is a summer deciduous, semi-succulent perennial shrublet that can attain a height of 1.5 m under ideal conditions. The cordate, roundish leaves are 16 x 15 mm, greyish green, and in most cases are covered in short, whitish hairs. Branches, especially the older branches, are somewhat woody; younger branches are more succulent. Flower colour ranges from mauve to deep magenta with dark spots or stripes on all the petals. Pelargonium magenteum flowers from mid July to the end of August each year.
Distribution and habitat
Pelargonium magenteum occurs in the Koue Bokkeveld Mountains, the Biedouw Valley,and the Calitzdorp and Montagu areas of the Western Cape, in hilly terrain, often in rocky outcrops. The species tends to grow on eastern and southern slopes.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The name Pelargonium is derived from the Greek word pelargos, stork, and the species name magenteum is Latin for the colour magenta. The genus includes more than 200 species, most of which come from South Africa.
The spectacular magenta flowers are open throughout the day. Bushes that are in full flower can be seen some distance away as a result of the brightly coloured flowers.
In this genus the long, slender seed capsule splits open along the sides when dry, releasing the seed. Each seed has a long, thin, spiraling tail. The seed is carried a away from the parent plant by the wind. Once the seed lands it is able to bore its way into the soil. The one end of the seed is sharply tapered and with the wind blowing, the spiral/corkscrew mechanism aids this boring process.
Uses and cultural aspects
This water-wise, popular garden plant is successfully used in container and garden cultivation. It is mainly utilized in the Western Cape and thus is not really known in other provinces.
Growing Pelargonium magenteum
Pelargonium magenteum can be planted as a container plant, and looks particularly good in a terracotta pot in a courtyard. Remember the species is deciduous (looses its leaves in summer) so do not over water it during those long summer months.
Propagation can be done by means of seeds and cuttings. Sow seeds in April or May (winter). Prepare shallow seed trays containing well-drained, coarse river sand. First water the tray with a fine rose spray before sowing. The seeds should be sown evenly on the medium and covered with a thin layer of sand of about 3 mm deep. Keep seed tray moist, not wet. Transplant seedlings in September or October (spring) in a 1 pint? use metric bag in a well-drained mixture of 4 parts fine river sand, 2 parts coarse river sand, 4 parts well rotted compost, 2 parts perlite and 1 part vermiculite.
Cuttings can also be taken in April or May (winter) with a sharp knife; to enhance rooting success use a rooting hormone powder. The best results are obtained when cuttings are taken just as the plant comes into leaf. Cuttings should be approximately 50 to 100 mm in length. Cuttings taken in June will be ready for replanting in October of the same year. Use a well-drained potting mix, much the same as recommended for seedlings.
Reference and further reading
- Van der Walt, J.J.A. 1977. Pelargoniums of southern Africa, vol. 1. Purnell, Cape Town.
Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden
To find out if SANBI has seed of this or other SA species, please email our seedroom