Facts About One Species of Ivy Geranium – Pelargonium Peltatum
Pelargonium peltatum is one of approximately 200 different species of the genus Pelargonium. These various species exist as succulents, shrubs, and perennial plants, and are most commonly known as geraniums. These are not the same plants as those of another genus, Geranium, which includes the species we commonly know as hardy geraniums, which unlike the various species of the Pelargonium genus, are not evergreen. Plants belonging to the Pelargonium genus are also known as storksbills, due to the shape of their seed heads. The word pelargonium in fact comes from the Greek word for stork. Most species of this genus are native to southern Africa, with several being native to Australia.
As far as Pelargonium peltatum, or P. peltatum is concerned, this species is native to southern Africa, and is most commonly referred to as the Ivy Geranium. It grows as a low bush that is typically around 2 feet high with a 3 foot spread. Like the other species of the Pelargonium genus, P. peltatum is an evergreen plant.
Ivy Geranium Growing Conditions
The Ivy geranium is a warm weather plant. It is winter hardy in USDA Zones 11 and 12, although one source indicates that some varieties are winter hardy in Zones 9 and 10 as well. These plants usually do well in Mediterranean climates, or in climates such as that found in the San Francisco Bay area. This plant is often classified as a tender perennial. Elsewhere, ivy geraniums are usually grown as annuals, but some growers keep the plants out of doors in containers during the summer months, and bring them in to use as house plants during the colder months of the year. These plants will do best however if they are kept in a cool dark place during the winter, and allowed to go dormant. They will flower more vigorously the following growing season than they will when used as house plants. When planted in containers, one does usually not need to worry about re-potting. These plants do not seem to mind being root bound. Some growers believe that when they do become root bound, they tend to bloom even more profusely.
Ivy geraniums will bloom repeatedly during the summer months, and in climates where they can be grown as perennials they will often bloom the year around. There are a number of varieties available, and a corresponding number of different blossom colors. The most common blossom colors are scarlet, red, red-purple, rose, and pink. There are also varieties featuring white or near-white blossoms. This plant is also grown for its foliage, and is sometimes used as a ground cover, even when grown as an annual.
While these plants can be used as border plants, they seem to be at their best when placed in hanging baskets, from which they may trail 3 feet or more. They flower most vigorously when exposed to full sun, but some varieties may not do well when continuously exposed to the hot summer sun over a lengthy period. As is the case with most container plants, ivy geraniums need to be watered frequently. Ivy geraniums have succulent leaves, and are therefore somewhat drought tolerant, but they will often be at their best when watered the same as one would water most container plants.
The Care and Feeding of Ivy Geraniums
The plants are heavy feeders, so they require periodic applications of fertilizer, with a liquid fertilizer usually being the best choice. Because they are such heavy feeders, they are sometimes susceptible to an iron deficiency, which mostly affects newer growth. Insects rarely bother this plant, except for possible infestations of mealy bugs or red spider mites, and occasionally, aphids. When any of these infestations occur, hosing the plant off will usually resolve the problem. It should be noted that when hosing a plant off, or when watering it, that activity should not be done too late in the day. If water is allowed to stay on the foliage overnight, especially when the weather is warm, the foliage may take on a blistered appearance.
P. peltatum, or ivy geraniums like a fast draining, highly organic soil, so they will do best when planted in containers when an organically rich potting soil is used. They also prefer a soil that is slightly alkaline. If planted in a poor soil, or a soil that drains poorly, root rot will often become a problem. Once root rot or stem rot takes hold, a plant will have to be discarded, as it will be too late to try to save it.
Ivy geraniums are a landscaping staple in southern California. These plants have taken the place of English ivy and periwinkle in many locations. English ivy and periwinkle are considered to be invasive species in the state of California, while the ivy geranium is not. The Ivy geranium, though widely used, is not suitable for erosion control, and is planted mostly in flat areas. When planted as a landscaping plant, there is one cautionary note worth mentioning. Pelargonium peltatum appears to be a favorite food of deer.