Saturday, March 20, 2010

Wild Geraniums, Porch Geraniums and Pelargoniums

It isn't enough that common names and botanical names are sometimes interchanged. We're never sure whether a gardener is referring to Geraniums commonly called Cranesbill -- the REAL geraniums botanically -- or Pelargoniums which was the only Geranium I ever knew until I was grown. Mama's Geraniums had big red balls of summer bloom, in a flower pot. We didn't know the Cranesbill kind in the Sultry South.

When I moved to South Georgia, I learned about Wild Geranium, which is a real geranium species, but treated as a weed here. It has the little cranesbill seed pods and comes up everywhere in spring. If it is in a rich flower bed, it makes big leaves and little pink blossoms that look somewhat like the pictures of desirable geraniums that I've only seen in photos because they don't thrive here. Wild geranium dies when the sun gets hot and the weather sultry. Cranesbills will suffer the same fate here.


Wild Geranium on a compost heap, not yet in bloom here.

It isn't enough that we have common names and latin names for plants; sometimes you have to sort through some local names, too.


The other geranium that I learned about is the Porch Geranium, which some people plant around their porch for summer bloom. They have lovely blue, sometimes pink blooms composed of multiple small florets in a huge ball. By now you may have guessed that Porch Geranium is a folk name for Hydrangea macrophylla.

2006
Hydrangea serrata 'Woodlanders' and Hydrange macrophylla in bloom
with a pot of pink hydrangea -- the same blue, rooted in potting soil.
Hydrangeas are putting on new growth here.
Show is New growth on H. macrophylla
'Mariesii Variegata' lacecap.

Hydrangeas will follow the big show of azaleas, starting in May.

21 comments:

  1. I didn't know about the perennial geraniums either until I started gardening in my own yard. I've never heard of Hydrangeas being called porch geraniums though. Mine are about at the same stage as yours.

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  2. I have the wild geranium. Those things spread like wildfire and stink when you pull them up.

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  3. I absolutely love Hydrangeas, but they are difficult to grow here. So, I just content myself with viewing those of my fellow bloggers :-)

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  4. haha, I also call my Pelargoniums as Geranium. To be honest, before I started my blog not long ago, I hardly know much plant names, especially the botanical names. Quite complicated for me :)

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  5. We have the wild geranium here too. Very pretty. Since it's so attractive, there was a year I let it go, and I'm still pulling up huge numbers of seedlings everywhere. It doth spread!

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  6. I never knew that this difficulty also existed in English!
    In Dutch, Pelargoniums are commonly called 'geraniums' too, and only 'real' gardeners know that true Geraniums are crane's bills.

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  7. Fascinating that in your parts "porch geranium" means "hydrangea". We have the same confusion of names here in Germany - "geranium" is used for both pelargonium and for wild geraniums. Some people have taken to calling the latter "pelargonium geraniums", just to make the confusion complete. As for me - I like both of them. Thanks for an informative post. Barbara

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  8. Well, I did not know that hydrangeas were called Porch Geraniums too. That is interesting. You are always teaching me something. I love your blue Porch Geraniums especially the lace capped.
    Hydrangeas are one of my favorites.
    That is a variegated hydrangea? Oh, I will have to check it out but it will probably not grow in zone 5.
    Have a nice weekend!
    Lona

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  9. Porch geraniums??? Wow, I even have 2 of them and never knew! I wish I could get ahold of some of the wild geranium... I actually like it better than the standard ones you see constantly in garden centers. But, so far, no luck.

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  10. That wild geranium looks an awful lot like something that has popped up in my garden, but I have never seen it flower. I'm wondering if it has been introduced over here and turned into a garden escapee!
    I do love cranesbills - mine just manages to hang on through the worst of summer, but pops back later!

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  11. I love the old fashioned red geraniums that my Mama grew too. They would march like soldiers across the front of her house.

    I have a hard time growing geraniums, certainly cannot grow the porch geraniums. The wild geraniums grow with great abandon here, however. I treat them like a weed. Never, never let them go, they will take over!

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  12. Geraniums, porch geraniums and hydrangeas ... Now, I think common names are even more confusing than botanical names. The flowers are lovely though.

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  13. Wow! I have never, ever heard of hydrangeas being called porch geraniums. I love hydrangeas, AND geraniums, AND pelargoniums too, though they all have very differing places in my garden plans. The cranesbills please me because so many of them are quite durable and long blooming and their foliage is just great too. Lacecap hydrangeas and Paniculata grandiflora types are my favourites.

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  14. I love all kinds of geraniums! Your hydrangeas are gorgeous.

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  15. I have been pulling up the wild geranium by the hundreds. Now I know its name. Thanks for another informative post!

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  16. Porch geraniums, and the sultry south.

    I love that term, but have never heard of them being called porch geraniums. Well I live and learn.

    Jen

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  17. Nell, Porch geraniums is a new one for me, too. Regional differences in common names are so interesting. If I understand the history correctly, the Pelargoniums and Geraniums are distant cousins and were once all considered part of the genus Geranium. You are so right, though, about those hardy geraniums not liking heat. I took a division of Geranium endressii 'Wargrave Pink', which blooms profusely from late spring until fall in my Maine garden, and transplanted it to my Gettysburg, PA garden, where it stops blooming as soon as the serious summer heat arrives. -Jean

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  18. I always hear about geraniums being so hardy, carefree, and long-blooming - not quite so for me. Half don't make it, and the other half keep chugging along, but don't make much of a show. I must be doing something wrong...

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  19. Geraniums do very well for us here. So do Pelargoniums. Hydrangeas of any kind, not so much. They might like our summer, but it is too brief, cool, and followed by a very chilly, dark autumn and winter. I've seen many overwintered at greenhouses and they look wonderful.

    Christine in Alaska

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  20. I just had to send this link to my husband. He is always calling hydrangeas "geraniums" - lol. He knows the difference in the plants, he just gets the names confused. Now he can call them geraniums all the time and still be right (sort of).

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  21. I like my perennial geraniums. I have some like yours, and others with a bit different kind of foliage and color of blooms. They aren't invasive here, but one of them is a bit spready. I just keep it in bounds. I've never heard of hydrangeas being called porch geraniums. I have read books where they mention different common names for some plants.

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I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.



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