Ivy Geranium – Care Tips & Growing Guide
There are a lot of great plant species that are known for their beauty, personality, and popularity as houseplants. Few, however, can say they’re also geraniums. In fact, the ivy geranium is not in the geranium family and is technically a Pelargonium. However, it’s frequently referred to as “ivy geranium” because of its striking resemblance to ivy vines. Some of the most well-known ivy geraniums, used indoors and outdoors, are in this classic collection.
- Genus name: Pelargonium peltatum
- Common name: Ivy Geranium
- Plant type: perennial
- Origin: South Africa
- Height: 12-32 inches
- Flower color: red, lilac, pink, and white
- Propagation method: seed
- Soil type: well-drained and moist
- Bloom time: fall, summer, and spring
- Maintenance: Low
- Light: partial shade, full sun
- Soil: well-drained
Cultivation and History of
Ivy geraniums have been cultivated in Europe for over 300 years and are native to South Africa. The species is an invasive plant first called a “cultivation escape, garden thug, and naturalized” in the Global Compendium of Weeds. Since then, it has been added to that list.
The leaves of P. peltatum cause temporary dermatitis upon touch, lasting several minutes. Seeds spread the species, which can be propagated through cuttings but thrives in coastal scrubland habitats.
The species is found on lists of invasive plants in New Zealand, France, Greece, Andalucia (Spain), and Puerto Rico.
Ivy geraniums can be grown in containers, though a large one may be needed to hold the plant’s extensive root system. Your trailing ivy will dry out slowly in a big pot because it can hold a lot of water.
Ivy geraniums are lovely in window boxes or urn planters. However, the plants tend to break off easily, so locate your containers away from high-traffic areas that could be bumped into by people or animals.
Hold them by their root balls when you handle ivy geranium plants during potting. Although succulent and thick, brittle stems will break easily if you grasp the plant’s stem base, which may cause several stems to snap off. Also, potted ivy geraniums should be repotted every two years, or you can take stem cuttings to root and discard the original plants.
How to grow Ivy Geranium.
You can grow more ivy geraniums from seeds collected from your geranium plants. But if you want some variety, you are better off purchasing seedlings and using them as cuttings. Seeds should be covered with a fine layer of compost; some light helps speed germination.
Once the seedlings emerge from the soil and their true leaves have formed, they can be transplanted into pots filled with commercial potting soil. You should start seeds indoors in late winter or early spring. Germination will occur within one week, and flowering size can be achieved in three months.
Most commercial ivy geraniums have been created by propagating the plants asexually, which is also how you should go about reproducing your specimens.
It is best to start planting in the fall so they will have time to grow before planting outside their permanent locations. Here’s what you can do:
- Use a pair of clean, sterilized scissors to cut off a three- to four-inch section. Then remove the lower leaves from the cutting.
- The cutting should be placed in a small pot with moistened soil after being soaked in a rooting hormone. Put the pot somewhere brightly lit but not exposed to direct sunlight, and keep an eye on things so that moisture doesn’t become too much of an issue (you don’t want your little buddy drowning).
- When new growth sprouts, transplant it into a larger container filled with standard potting mix. If you’re growing tropical plants indoors over the winter and want to give them extra light, place their pots near windows.
Pruning and maintenance
To encourage healthy growth, prune your ivy geranium when it becomes leggy. This will create a more bushy plant and allow buds to form.
In frost-free areas, old perennial plants that have become woody may need to be cut back severely each spring to rejuvenate. Deadheading spent flowers will encourage the plants—which can produce new blossoms well into fall—to keep blooming for many years.
Cultivars to Select
Today, so many cultivars are available that people continue to be drawn to the classic ivy geraniums. Some of the most popular varieties include:
- ‘Temprano Butterfly,’ with its bright pink petals and high count, is striking.
- ‘White Mesh’ has green leaves with white veins contrasting sharply against the foliage.
- ‘Crocodile ivy geraniums’ have a distinctive leaf pattern, with white veins running through dark green leaves.
- Mahogany’ is a bicolor cultivar that produces red and white flowers.
- ”Royal Amethyst’ is a hybrid with early-blooming lilac flowers on heat-resistant plants.
Other varieties, such as Beauty of Eastbourne, Sybil Holmes, King of Balcon, and Cornell, remain popular.
Ivy geraniums don’t mind if they get a little sun. They can even do without full sun, but they need at least 4 hours in the spotlight each day to flower well.
You might think rich soil is integral to ivy geraniums, but it isn’t. What’s crucial is that the soil is loose enough for air to reach plant roots—and a mixture of sand and clay, or soil with plenty of humus, provides that kind of drainage and root aeration. Growers generally agree that standard commercial potting mixes work well for potted plants; some like to add sand or perlite. Ivy geraniums prefer a relatively neutral pH environment (7.0–7.5).
The ivy geranium is a hardy plant that, when properly cared for, will grow well in almost any environment. However, it does have its limitations: the ivy geranium requires watering regularly but doesn’t like soggy soil.
In addition to weekly watering during hot summer months and an occasional misting during winter—if you live where winters bring snow or ice—you should allow this flower’s potting mix to dry out between waterings; otherwise, the roots might rot away from being over-saturated with moisture.
Temperature and Humidity
Unlike some other types of geraniums, ivy geraniums thrive in moderate temperatures. If your summer is hot, the plants may not flower during what’s typically known as a “heat wave.”
By looking at new leaves, you can tell if the temperatures have become too hot for ivy geraniums. If they look pale or white, then it’s likely that the plant will not survive the temperature increase.
Ivy geraniums thrive in low- to average humidity levels, but high humidity can lead to fungal diseases.
Ivy geraniums don’t require heavy feeding, but if you want more blooms out of each plant, give it a light dose of fertilizer. An excellent way to do this is by planting ivy geranium in potting soil with added nutrients. These potting mixes contain a slow-release fertilizer. Water with soluble plant food every two weeks to feed your plants throughout their growing season (following product label instructions for amounts).
Overwinter for Spring Stock.
Usually, ivy geraniums are grown as annual plants and discarded at the end of each growing season; people treat container-grown plants similarly. But it is also possible to keep them alive over multiple seasons by bringing potted ones indoors during winter when they may otherwise freeze or suffer other hardships.
Although they make unattractive year-round houseplants, if you cut back the foliage on ivy geraniums by about one-third and find a very sunny location with relatively cool nights (55 degrees), these plants can survive cold winters.
To overwinter pelargoniums, you can either bring them inside as houseplants and set them on a bright but cool windowsill—or leave the plants outside during winter.
In addition, you should remember the following:
- Just before winter sets in, prune your houseplants and give them less water until spring. Later in winter, trim one-third of their remaining growth and place them in a sunny spot.
- When new growth appears, give the plant a diluted drink (1/3 strength) of an all-purpose liquid fertilizer such as 10-10-10. After warm weather arrives, transplant it once more into its permanent home.
You can also extend the growing season by allowing plants to go dormant in the fall before a frost hits.
- Prune plants back by one-third before storing them in a cool, dark corner until spring. Reduce watering but don’t eliminate it; give the plant small sips each month until winter is over.
- As the days get longer, allow your plants to grow another third and move container-grown perennials into a cool location that receives plenty of natural light.
- Add a slow-release, all-purpose 10-10-10 fertilizer to the soil you use for your potted plants. Increase watering frequency from once every two weeks to weekly throughout the early spring. Movement into a sunny location in your garden is also recommended.
It is best to overwinter the plants in a dormant state rather than leaving them to go through the houseplant cycle. This will produce a better bloom next year.
To make your ivy geraniums bloom beautifully, follow these steps:
- The sun should shine on your plants at least four hours a day.
- A moderate amount of moisture (not too little, not too much)
- Feed plants with time-release fertilizer or a light application of water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks.
- Cut back the stems of once-blooming plants regularly to encourage new growth and repeat blooming.
Managing common Pests & Plant Diseases
There are a few pests and problems that can affect ivy geraniums, but they’re not common:
Stems are fragile and may snap under stress. Provide shelter from the wind by planting the seedlings in a protected location away from active children or pets.
Plants may not bloom in warmer climates as often during scorching summer temperatures. It is essential to plant shade trees that relieve the afternoon sun and grow heat-tolerant varieties in areas with excessive sunlight.
Whiteflies and Aphids
These bugs, which feed on leaves and stems, can be a problem for indoor plants brought in to overwinter. You should give your plants a strong water spray to dislodge the bugs and protect them from aphids.
If you are concerned about the beauty of your plants at an earlier point in the season, do this instead; let your plants dry for a few days, and check to see whether this has resolved the problem.
If you prefer not to wait, or if bugs in your garden have become a problem, try spraying the plant with Dawn dish liquid diluted in water.
Shake well and spray the underside of leaves, along stems—and wherever insects may be lurking. Recheck those plants in a few days to ensure no pests have returned.
Stem and Root Rot.
Overwatering and poor weather conditions can also cause stem and root rot. Remove the infected stems, decrease your watering frequency, or try to correct the causes of excessive moisture in your soil (such as adding drainage holes) so that you don’t repeat this problem next season.
Add one part of sand to the planting mix when growing plants in containers, and ensure that your container has enough drainage material so water can flow out easily.
Edema, also called “water blister” or “bump disease,” is a physiological disorder in which fluid-filled blisters appear on leaf surfaces and then harden into brown bumps. Its occurs when the soil absorbs too much moisture, causing it to expand and push against plant roots.
Overwatering causes edema and should be avoided; allow the soil to dry out two inches before watering again. Edema can also be caused by cool, humid, or damp weather. If that’s the case with you, your symptoms should clear once warm, dry days return.
Best Uses of Ivy Geranium
The ivy geranium is one of the most popular annual plants, often used in hanging baskets or window boxes. Ivy geraniums also look lovely when planted in large containers with other colorful annuals, creating a beautiful, varied palette. They can add textural contrast while the flowers’ forms contrast and complement each other. Ivy geraniums are lovely when used to cover retaining walls—or even cascade over them!
Although it is less well known, ivy geranium deserves a place in every gardener’s garden and windowsill. Ivy geranium is especially sought after for large pot arrangements and garden boxes for its ornamental impact. It can cascade down from pots or be hung to hang along the ground. Its available colors and shapes let you find one that matches your taste. It’s easy to care for, so blooming will enchant you most of the summer season.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).
Do ivy geraniums come back every year?
Ivy geraniums may live longer than one year but are only sometimes reliable reseeders.
What’s the difference between ivy geraniums and regular geraniums?
The zonal geranium, also known as hardy geranium or cranesbill, is the type of flower usually called a “geranium.” It has round blooms that sit atop straight stems. Ivy geraniums have blossoms in clusters rather than on single stems, but those flowers are slightly more open and loose—rather than tight balls like their cousins.
Is ivy geranium annual or perennial?
Ivy Geranium is an evergreen perennial vine with shiny, green leaves. Its Latin name comes from the resemblance of its pointed lobes to those of ivy.
How do you look after ivy geraniums?
Geraniums need well-drained, moist soil. Water them whenever the top inch or two of soil feels dry—preferably in the morning because water left overnight on leaves can open doors for disease.
Where do ivy geraniums grow?
Keep ivy geraniums in a location that receives full sun most of the day. In hot regions, it’s a good idea to protect plants from the intense afternoon sun—in containers or planting beds.
Are geraniums easy to take care of?
The only thing you need to do is plant geraniums in your garden or a pot. Geraniums grow best in soil that drains well, gets lots of water, and isn’t fertilized very much—above all else, be sure their pots have drainage holes.
How long do ivy geraniums last?
They might live for 40 years or more if you care for geraniums well. But sometimes they look unattractive because of over-or under-watering, insects or disease, and cold snaps; plants should be renewed or removed in such cases.