Geraniums are a longtime favorite of gardeners. They are easy to grow, colorful, and emit a lovely scent. Here’s how to grow geraniums in your home and garden!
(Note: This page is about plants in the genus Pelargonium, commonly called geraniums or storksbills. Plants in the genus Geranium are also commonly used in gardens, but are typically referred to as hardy geraniums or cranesbills.)
Although they may be kept outdoors during the warmer part of the year, geraniums are typically kept indoors to overwinter. Alternatively, if provided with enough light, they can bloom indoors all year long.
Geranium or Pelargonium? A Case of Mistaken Identity
The plants that we commonly call “geraniums” were introduced to Europe by Dutch traders who brought them from South Africa in the early 18th century. Because these new plants resembled the hardy wild geraniums already growing in Europe, botanists mistakenly grouped them together into the same genus.
In 1753, Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus classified them under the genus Geranium. When it was later discovered that these new “geraniums” differed from European geraniums in the shape of their petals, the number of stamens, and other factors, they were reclassified under Pelargonium, meaning “stork’s bill”—a reference to the long, sharply pointed shape of their seedpod.
Their original common name stuck, however, and we still say “geranium” when we actually mean “pelargonium.”