Pelargonium x hortorum (pe-lar-GO-nee-um x hor-TOR-rum) is a group of geraniums commonly called Brocade Geraniums or Zonal Geraniums.
Although we call them geraniums, they are actually in the genus Pelargonium.
They belong to the plant family, Geraniaceae. Like all geraniums, their ancestors are wild Pelargoniums (Geranium africanum) that originated in South Africa.
The genus name, Pelargonium, is drawn from the Greek word for the stork, Pelargos, and refers to the beak-like shape of the seed heads of these plants.
The specific epithet or hybrid name, Hortorum, is Latin and means “of the garden” or “pertaining to gardeners”.
Are Brocade Geraniums Annuals or Perennials?
Zonal Geraniums are tropical perennials that can be grown as annuals in cold climates. Alternately, they can be overwintered in three different ways:
- Keep the plant as a houseplant in a cool, sunny window through the cold months.
- Place container plants or plants placed in paper bags or cardboard boxes in a cool, dark place through the cold months (e.g. the basement).
- Take cuttings to grow through the winter and plant outdoors in the springtime.
Brocade Geranium Plant Care
Size And Growth
Well-cared for Brocade Geraniums can grow quite large and take up quite a bit of space in your garden.
Expect a height and spread ranging from 1′ to 3′ feet.
When you plant these Pelargoniums into the landscape, be sure to give them at least a foot of space all the way around.
Brocade Geraniums’ Showy Foliage
Brocade Geraniums’ foliage is big and showy, and as with all geraniums, deer resistant.
The leaves come in a wide variety of rich, deep colors marked with circular, zonal bands – hence the common name.
There are many different varieties of Brocade Geraniums, and you may see them called by these common names:
- Catalina: It has bright green foliage with white variegation.
- Crystal Palace: It has green foliage with chartreuse variegation.
- Red Happy Thoughts: It has green foliage with creamy variegation.
- Wilhelm Langguth: It has pale green leaves with deep green edges.
- Vancouver Centennial: It has star-shaped leaves in shades of purple and green.
- Indian Dunes: It has pretty copper-colored foliage with chartreuse variegation.
- Black Velvet Apple Blossom and Black Velvet Red: Both have deep purplish-black foliage with pale green edging.
- Mrs. Pollock Tricolor: It has leaves that are variegated shades of green, red, and gold.
Flowering And Fragrance
The fairly odorless flowers of Brocade Geraniums are very much like those of all sorts of Geraniums.
They grow in colorful clusters atop tall, slim stems in varying shades of red, purple, pink, orange, white.
As with all Geraniums, their flowers are attractive to pollinators.
The flowers are not the main calling card of these plants. The bright, variegated leaves are the main attraction.
Light And Temperature
Zonal Geraniums do well in partial to full sun settings.
They like cooler summers with temperatures holding steady around 60° degrees Fahrenheit.
However, they can get by in cooler settings and warmer settings. They are winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 10 to 11.
Watering And Feeding
Water Brocade Geraniums deeply about once a week when planted in the landscape.
If you’re going to water them, It’s good to remember these:
- Saturate the soil to about 8” inches depth.
- Plants in containers may need to be watered more often than once a week.
- Whether in the landscape or containers, use the soak and dry watering method.
- Allow the top couple of inches of soil to dry out before watering thoroughly.
- Excessive watering leads to fungus and rotting.
- Zonal Geraniums planted in the landscape can be fertilized with a general-purpose dry fertilizer, followed by a thorough watering.
- Use a dilute mixture of liquid fertilizer for container plants.
- Be sure to follow packaging instructions carefully to determine how often to fertilize in your area and with the product you have chosen.
Soil And Transplanting
In the landscape, amend the soil with organic compost and sharp sand to create a fertile, well-draining substrate for your plants.
For container plants, choose a breathable container that has ample drainage holes. (e.g. terra cotta)
Use a high-quality, well-draining commercial potting mix formulated for potted plants or container plants.
Grooming And Maintenance
Zonal Geraniums should be deadheaded fairly to promote abundant blooms.
When a few of the flowers in a cluster begin to fade, pinch off the entire cluster right next to the main stem.
Before you know it, more blooms will take their place.
Likewise, you should prune these plants fairly aggressively to promote bushy, vigorous growth and prevent the plant from becoming leggy and sprawling.
When you see old-growth, trim it away. When stems become dangly, trim them back.
How To Propagate Brocade Geranium
It is best to start these, and all, geraniums from cuttings.
For complete instructions, see our article, How to Start and Grow Geranium Cuttings.
When you try to grow Geraniums from seed, you are more likely to encounter problems such as:
- Botrytis Leaf Blight
- Root & Crown Rot
- Pythium Root Rot
- Flower Blight
- Crown Rot
Brocade Geranium Pest Or Disease Problems
As with most geraniums, well cared for Brocade Geraniums should have little or no trouble with pests or diseases.
Poor conditions will naturally cause weakened plants, which may be subject to invasion by common pests or root and stem rot.
If you live in a hot, humid climate or in an area that experiences a lot of rainfall, this can be quite problematic.
Plants that are kept in damp conditions or heavy, poorly draining soil are likely to develop fungal problems, such as gray mold or leaf spots.
Compromised plants may become infested by pests, such as caterpillars, aphids, and whiteflies.
Brocade Geranium Plant Toxic or Poisonous?
There are essential oils in Geranium foliage and stems that can cause mild skin irritation in some people.
However, Geraniums aren’t toxic, and they have lots of culinary, medicinal, and cosmetic uses.
Is Brocade Geraniums Plant Considered Invasive?
Brocade Geraniums are not listed as invasive, but if you live in an area where they can survive and thrive year-round, you should control their spread to prevent them from developing pest potential.
Suggested Brocade Geranium Uses
Zonal Geraniums make a beautiful addition to almost any garden.
Their gorgeous variegated foliage and pretty flowers bring drama, interest, and color to:
- Pathway Borders & Edges
- Patio Containers
- Hanging Baskets
- Window Boxes
- Flower Beds
Although their flowers are not the main focal point, adding Brocade Geraniums to your pollinator garden is an excellent way to attract butterflies and bees while adding dramatic effect.