Pellies: Just Misunderstood Geraniums

Pelargonium 'Crystal Palace Gem' shows off its
central butterfly blotch
Geraniums as part of my wintertime repertoire?  Yes and no. The plants commonly referred to as geraniums have been living in our minds under assumed names. They are, and have been, correctly called Pelargoniums. I like their shortened moniker, "Pellies," and use it liberally because, let's face it, Pelargonium just doesn't trip lightly off the tongue.

Pelargonium 'Mosaic Silky' has veins to die for.
Admittedly, December isn't the best time to buy these tender beauties, especially in the Midwest. But it's a time when our outside world goes all Ansel Adams on us, and we really crave some color.

I sent for seven additional varieties from a mail order plant emporium that seems to be the most interesting game in town where pellies are concerned. has a huge selection of Pelargonium you've never heard of--which makes me want them even more.It's a huge family, consisting of varieties grown for their fancy leaves, those that look more like succulents, still others with flowers resembling Azaleas or even roses. In short, there is a pellie (or six) for every taste.

For growing indoors in winter, you can't beat the fancy leaved varieties.

Two of my latest acquisitions have a chartreuse tone going on. 'Crystal Palace Gem' is an old variety, named in the late 19th century, possibly in reference to the Crystal Palace that was built to house the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1861. And 'Mosaic Silky'? Who could ignore the lemon-yellow veins coursing along the chartreuse leaves? And although they both have respectably fancy flowers, I'm just fine without them for the time being.
Pelargonium 'Cy's Red' in November.

'Cy's Red' flowers, mid-May.
My first foray into the fascinating world of pellies was early March, when 10 varieties arrived on my icy doorstep. Well grown and well packed, they all perked up at different speeds and gave me something to look forward to, as they all were spring bloomers.

The most unusual and least attractive when not in bloom (IMHO) is 'Cy's Red', a gangly, awkward-looking plant that will stretch even further if not given adequate light. Come May, however, make sure you have it in a spot where you can appreciate the bi-colored flowers up close.

The Geranium family is huge and varied, which makes them even more fun to collect. I'll never have the time, space or money to "collect them all," but I'm pretty sure I won't get tired of them any time soon.


  1. I am not surprised to learn there are many varieties of Pellies. It seems that each spring when I go into the nurseries there are new varieties offered. I don't have a lot of sun so I don't usually grow them. I am more of a Begonia Babe. However I see these beautiful blooms and unusual leaves it makes me want to give some of the plentiful Pellies a try.

    1. You might want to give the fancy-leaf types a try. They don't seem to need as much sun as the others. Partial sun will keep the leaves colorful and promote a few flowers just for fun.