Seed Geraniums Vs. Zonal Geraniums

Overview

Glowing, green foliage and bright flower clusters over a long season make zonal geraniums (Pelargonium x hortorum) some of the most popular home garden annuals. Equally comfortable in garden beds, window boxes or porch and patio containers, these are easy-care, sun-loving plants. After months of outdoor bloom, some of them adapt to overwintering indoors. Zonal geraniums include plants grown from seed and cuttings.

History

Zonal cutting geraniums have a murky ancestry, said Auburn University Extension specialist and associate professor Dr. J. Raymond Kessler, Jr. They may be descendants of South African pelargoniums species collected for cultivation in the late 18th century. The commercial success of cutting zonal geraniums continued to rise into the 1980s.

Seed Geranium History

During the early 1970s, Pennsylvania State University introduced hybrid geraniums that would grow true--with new plants duplicating the characteristics of their parents--from seed. Seed zonal geraniums now command their own market popularity, said Dr. Kessler.

Appearances

Zonal geraniums are mounding plants standing between 1 and 3 feet high. Seed plants are the smaller, more heavily branched variety. The flowers of both types occur in clusters on stems rising above their dense, rounded leaves. Foliage is solid green, or green marked with bands of differently colored pigment. Seed geranium clusters have large numbers of single flowers. Zonal geraniums' clusters have fewer, semi-double or double flowers. Flower colors for both varieties range from white to shades of pink, red, orange and purple. Some cultivars have bi-colored blooms.

Uses

Compact stature and regular habit make seed geraniums most appealing as mass garden bed plantings. More heat-tolerant than cutting zonal varieties, they're provide lots of reliable, late summer color, according to University of Vermont Extension professor Leonard P. Perry. Cutting zonal geraniums are early season performers and standout container plants.

Seed Geranium Propagation

Small, hard zonal geranium seeds germinate in 7 to 14 days if scratched before planting so water can enter them. Commercial growers plant them in flats or pots of sandy growing medium three months before the final spring frost date. They need consistently moist--not wet--soil. Seedlings perform best at 72 degrees F during the day and 65 degrees at night.

Cutting Zonal Geranium Propagation

Some zonal geranium cultivars require propagation from cuttings if the new plants are going to keep the characteristics of their parents. Three-to 4-inch cuttings taken from growing branch tips will root in well-watered, sandy medium and indirect light. Most zonal geraniums--seed or cutting--take between 95 and 110 days to flower, according to North Carolina State Cooperative Extension specialist Alice Russell.

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About this Author

Judy Wolfe has owned her own freelance writing business since 2006. She is a professional florist, holds a certificate in advanced floral design and had her Valentine's Day floral design published in "Super Floral Retailing." She is a travel writer for Chincoteague Island Vacations, MyGermanCity and Berlin Dude. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in literature from California State Polytechnic Univeristy in Pomona.