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Known for their speedy growth and eye-catching blooms, ivy leaf geraniums are an excellent choice for a hanging basket.
Pelargonium peltatum, also known as ivy leaf, trailing, or cascading geranium, is a member of the Geraniaceae family.
P. peltatum, a South African herbaceous perennial, was introduced to Holland and England in 1704. The fact that they are only winter hardy in Zones 9-11 quickly led to their adoption as an annual, and this practice continues to this day.
Flowers bloom all summer long in cascades of brilliant color on plants with prodigious growth patterns, spreading to a dramatic six-foot width.
Leaf shape is similar to ivy’s, with some varieties having variegated foliage and flowers that bloom in shades of apricot, lavender, orange, pink, and purple as well as the standard white.
Plants of this type can be used as a ground cover in hotter climates, but they can also climb, creep, trail, and spread in Mediterranean gardens and flowerbeds as well as window boxes, hanging baskets, and other containers.
“Inflorescence” refers to the clusters of flower heads arranged in an umbel-like shape that are looser and less dense than zonal varieties.
Pelargonium is derived from the Greek word Pelargos, which means stork. The set fruit resembles a stork’s beak, just like its close relatives the garden geranium and the cranesbill geranium.
Growth Habits by Variety
Commercial cultivars of Ivy Geraniums are now available in over 75 different colors, growth habits, and plain or variegated foliage varieties.
It’s possible to find cultivars that can withstand high temperatures, as well as “self-cleaning” varieties, which don’t require deadheading.
The following are the four most common types:
Large double or semi-double flowers adorn traditional ivies, which have fleshy, thick-leaved leaves.
Although the flowers are beautiful, they tend to be less plentiful than cascade varieties.
Many single flowers with green or variegated leaves can be found in the Cascade or Balcony types.
The cascades are more prone to branching than traditional cultivars and tend to be more compact.
Miniature and True Dwarf
Dwarf varieties, such as mini cascades and true dwarfs, resemble cascades but grow more compactly.
In addition, the flowers are smaller and fewer in number.
Ivy-zonal hybrids have combined the zonal variety’s flowers and leave with the ivies’ vine-like habit.
Compared to traditional and zonal types, the flowers are semi-double.
Where to Purchase
You can buy ivy geraniums at your local garden center in the spring and summer, or you can buy seeds and stock online. Burpee’s mixed-color heat-tolerant seeds, available on Amazon or directly from Burpee.com, are an excellent starting point.
Try Outsidepride’s all-white seeds, which can be purchased on Amazon.com.
You can also buy plugs or seedlings in 4-inch pots online, such as Joe’s Crazy Plants’ eye-catching bicolor ‘Contessa’ burgundy, a zonal-ivy hybrid. Amazon also carries this selection.
You can begin planting as soon as you get your seeds or stock.
Starting from Seeds
Geraniums can be started from seed, transplanted, or cut.
They need to be started indoors in mid-to-late January because of their slow growth from seed.
Listed below are the steps you should take:
- Using dampened paper towels, spread half of the seeds across the surface. When you’re done with the first half, fold it over to cover the seeds.
- The damp, folded towels should be placed in a zip-top bag and sealed to retain the moisture. During the next 24 to 48 hours, seeds will sprout.
- A light starter soil mix should be filled into the pots or trays to a height of about an inch. When water is added, the organic and sustainable coconut fiber wafers expand to make 12 quarts of soil, which can be purchased through Amazon.
- Seeds should be sown and covered with another 1/4-inch of soil, then the process is complete.
- Set containers in a saucer of water and mist the soil with a spray bottle to absorb the water from the bottom.
- The seedlings need bright light and temperatures of at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit to thrive.
- As soon as they reach a height of 3 to 5 inches, you can either move them to a larger container or directly into the garden.
How long does it take to grow a flower from seed to full bloom? About 12-16 weeks. Stem cuttings can be used to start new plants more quickly.
Stem Cuttings for Easy Propagation
All pelargoniums, including ivy geraniums, are among the simplest plants to propagate from cuttings. Photographs like these are best taken in the final stages of autumn, just before the first frosts appear in your area.
Here are a few pointers to help you get your new plants off to a healthy start:
- Choosing a healthy, mature plant to cut from is the first step.
- Make several 4-5-inch-long cuttings just above a healthy set of strong leaves with a sharp, sterile knife.
- Remove all of the stem’s remaining leaves and blooms except for the top two or three.
- Allow the cuttings to rest for a few hours, or until the cut, the end begins to form a callus, out of direct sunlight.
- Light potting soil can be used to fill small containers up to 1 inch from the rim.
- As soon as the soil’s surface feels moist but not wet, place the containers in a saucer or tray full of lukewarm water.
- Allow containers to drain completely of any extra water.
- Dip the cut ends into a rooting hormone, if desired, after they’ve been moistened with water.
- Firm the soil lightly around each stem and plant the cuttings 1-3 inches deep in the soil.
- For the first two weeks, keep your containers out of direct sunlight in a well-ventilated area. Make sure the soil is well-watered but not saturated.
- If you gently tug on the stem after two to three weeks and feel resistance, you’ll know if roots have formed.
- Move cuttings to a sunny location and keep them moist at all times after they have established roots.
- A frost-free environment is ideal for successful transplantation.
When the weather warms up, take cuttings from plants that have survived the winter.
Care and Cultivation
Natural shady spots with moderate light and temperature exposure are ideal for P. peltatum plants in their native South Africa.
This is a full sun location for much of North America, but it’s moderate for South Africa. At the same time, afternoon shade is recommended for areas that are particularly hot.
You could also experiment with some of the newer heat-resistant varieties, such as the Cascade and Alpine series.
In order to get the best flower production, these are the ideal conditions:
- If temperatures remain below 80 degrees Fahrenheit, place the plant in full sun, but provide some afternoon shade if the temperature frequently rises above this level.
- Organic material such as well-rotted manure, worm castings, or mature compost with a sprinkle of the bone meal should be added to the soil before planting.
- Drainage must be maintained in all garden beds, borders, and containers.
- It’s important to water your plants on a regular basis to maintain a moderate level of moisture, especially in containers, where there is a lot of movement of air.
- Prevent watering in the late afternoon or evening if at all possible by watering first thing in the morning.
- As part of their care, use an all-purpose, slow-release fertilizer with a 10-10-10 formula.
- Although many varieties are now self-cleaning, it is still beneficial to deadhead regularly to ensure a steady supply of flower buds.
Overwinter for Spring Stock
Pelargoniums can be overwintered in a variety of ways.
For the winter, you can bring them inside and place them on a sunny but cool windowsill as houseplants.
Here are some pointers to keep in mind:
- Prune to a third of their original size and water plants sparingly until spring arrives.
- Trim a third of the growth in late winter and place it in a warm, sunny spot.
- You can use an all-purpose liquid fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, when new growth appears by diluting it (1/3 strength).
- Transplant to the garden when the weather is warming up.
As an alternative, containers can be sheltered from frost before they go into dormancy.
- Plants should be reduced by a third of their volume.
- The basement, root cellar, or any other frost-free location is ideal for storing containers.
- Don’t completely stop watering your plants. It is best to water your plants every month until the end of winter.
- Trim another third of their growth as the days grow longer, and then move the containers to a bright, cool location while continuing to protect them from the winter freeze.
- You can increase watering to once a week by putting in a slow-release 10-10-10 fertilizer. This 33-pound bag of Greenview fertilizer, available on Amazon, is a good option.
- A sunny spot in the garden is the perfect place to be once the weather warms up.
Because it promotes the most vigorous bloom set the following growing season, we recommend dormant overwintering over houseplants.
Pests and Problems
A few things to keep an eye out for when it comes to ivy geraniums are pests and problems:
Edema is a physiological, non-infectious disease in which water blisters or bumps appear on leaf surfaces, then turn brown and corky as the cells erupt.
Typically caused by excess moisture, edema occurs when the soil is too wet, and the uptake of moisture is greater than what is used in transpiration.
Overwatering can cause edema, and soil should be allowed to dry out to a depth of two inches before watering again.
Cool, humid, damp, and rainy weather can also cause edema. If this is the case, symptoms will usually clear up once warm, dry weather returns.
Stem and Root Rot
Stem and root rot are also caused by excessively wet soil from overwatering or inclement weather.
Remove any infected stems and reduce watering frequency.
Ensure your containers have an adequate amount of drainage material, and for in-ground plantings, add one part of sand to the planting mix.