The flowers of this strikingly beautiful species range from rose
pink to all shades of red including pure white. Combined with its
decorative rounded foliage, long flowering period and ease in cultivation,
it is one of the most rewarding shrubs for the garden.
This erect or scrambling softly woody shrub, usually grows up to
1 m but it can reach heights of 3 m. The branches are almost succulent
and are usually covered with hairs, while the older stems harden
with age. The large leaves are often smooth and a characteristic
dark horseshoe-shaped mark is often present. The flower colour ranges
from rose-pink to all shades of red as well as pure white. The distinctly
irregular flowers are borne in a typically umbel-like inflorescence.
Pelargonium zonale flowers throughout the year with a peak in
This species is widely distributed in southern Africa. It occurs
from Piketberg in the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape, and as far
north as the Underberg in KwaZulu-Natal, and is particularly common
in the coastal areas of the southern Cape. Pelargonium zonale
grows naturally in valleys, kloofs and on the margin of indigenous
forest as well as rocky outcrops with scrub vegetation. The plants
are abundant and often a conspicuous feature.
of the name
The genus Pelargonium gets is name from the resemblance of
the shape of the fruit to the beak of a stork, pelargos in Greek.
The species name zonale refers to the horseshoe marking found on
the leaves, zona meaning a band or belt in Latin.
The genus belongs to the family Geraniaceae, which also includes
four other genera, Geranium, Erodium, Monsonia and Sarcocaulon.
There are ± 220 species within the genus Pelargonium,
and 80% of them are confined to southern Africa and about 80% of
these are confined to the south-western corner of the country.
Zonal pelargoniums and hybrids are often commonly called geraniums
or pot geraniums. This misnomer causes a lot of confusion. What
is actually a Pelargonium is also known as a geranium, and
what is actually a Geranium, is also commonly called geranium
or crane's bill. The two genera are easily told apart and are not
mistaken for each other, but a gardener going to a nursery, asking
for a geranium, but wanting a pelargonium is going to be surprised
when shown a plant of Geranium multisectum when they are
expecting to see Pelargonium zonale.
Pelargonium zonale is a parent of many of the zonal pelargonium
hybrids grown all over the world and is an integral part of any
pelargonium breeding program.
Growing Pelargonium zonale
zonale is an easy plant to grow, and does best in gardens where
frost is not too severe. It requires semi-shade to full sun conditions.
The plants should be pruned after flowering, and respond very well
to feeding with liquid organic fertilizers. They look very effective
when used as the back planting of a bed to form the main structure
of the design. Pelargonium zonale also grows well in containers.
Pelargonium zonale is usually propagated by means of tip
or stem cuttings, or seed. The optimum time for taking cuttings
is in autumn (March-May) and spring (September-November). Cuttings
should be cut below a node and dipped into a suitable rooting hormone.
The cuttings should then be places in trays filled with coarse river
sand. The medium should be pre-treated with a fungicide as preventative
measure for fungal attack. These cuttings should then be placed
into cold frames for rooting.
Seed can be sown in spring, summer or autumn.
VAN DER WALT J. J. A, 1977. Pelargoniums of Southern Africa,
Vol. 1. Juta: Cape Town
Ernst van Jaarsveld, Personal Communication.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden