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Colored leaf geraniums
Along with surfinie, geraniums are certainly among the most cultivated flowering plants on Italian terraces, from Palermo to Vipiteno; they are so loved because the flowering is continuous and constant, from the beginning of spring, until late autumn; and with some foresight, even in Vipiteno, we can manage to "save" some geranium from one year to the next, because it starts to bloom again. Until a few years ago the terraces were populated only by two or three varieties of geraniums, namely zonal, climbers and double-flowered vines; most of the species and varieties that make up the pelargonium genus were completely neglected in Italy, given that those three varieties seemed sufficient to best decorate our terraces. Fortunately, some risky nurserymen began to introduce some other species and varieties into cultivation; initially the only "novelty" in the field of geraniums were only the macrantha geraniums, also called imperial geraniums, with their imposing plants and the incredible multicolored flowers. In recent years we are fortunately seeing many other new additions to the terrace geraniums, and finally the variegated leaf varieties are also gaining ground in cultivation, which in addition to having the typical flowering, which lasts for several months, offer the advantage of having beautiful leaves with the most varied colors, which are decorative throughout the year, especially in those regions where geraniums survive even in winter cold.
A bit of history
Geraniums originate from southern Africa; the first pelargonium plants grown in Europe were brought from Cape Town, more or less in 1600; we are used to calling the pelargoniums geraniums since that time, in fact Linnaeus, in his classification of plants, called them geraniums, as all the plants that are still part of the geranium genus are called geraniums. The classification of plants made by Linnaeus was based fundamentally on the morphology of the sexual organs of plants; for this reason the pelargoniums and the geraniums seemed to him belonging to the same genus, as they have flowers with a very similar shape. Only studies carried out many decades later led to the displacement of the pelargons in the genus in which they are now, while the geraniums remained in the genus geranium; both genders are part of the geraniacee family, and therefore Linnaeus was not completely mistaken.
The two genera are quite different, the geranium have delicate and thin foliage, and a purely spring flowering; they resist frost and cold well and can be grown even in partial shade or in complete shade, without fearing that they will stop flowering; the pelargoniums instead have fleshy foliage, often covered by a thin hair, and the blooms continue for long months. Moreover, the pelargoniums in the areas of origin are evergreen, while the geranium completely lose the aerial part on arrival of autumn, with the shortening of the days. In any case, in Italy, even in nurseries, if we ask for a geranium it is very likely that we will be offered a pelargonium, a perennial reminder of the nomenclature of Linnaeus; this also happens because the pelargoniums in our peninsula are very widespread, while the geranium have not yet the success they deserve.
Variegated leaf geraniums
The geraniums were then introduced into cultivation in Europe some centuries ago, during these long years their success grew from year to year, starting from the United Kingdom, where the first plants were initially cultivated. Since then, thousands of hybrid varieties have been produced. The geraniums with variegated leaves are many, both ivy and zonal, and are characterized above all by the particularly colored foliage, while the flowers tend to be quite "normal"; that is to say generally the geraniums with variegated leaves have normal normal flowers, red or pink, but there are obviously some exceptions, given the large number of varieties present on the market.
In general most of the varieties of geranium with variegated ivy-like leaves, therefore falling and with smooth foliage, are characterized by green leaves, with showy light veins, which make them similar to mosaics; we remember for example the variety Crocodile, with pink flowers. Details also include ivy geraniums with foliage edged in white or yellow, with lilac flowers, very decorative such as "Hederinum variegated" or "Elsi" with green leaves edged with white and fiery red flowers.
The zonal geraniums are certainly very decorative among the variegated and colored leaf geraniums; over the years, in addition to classic light-colored variegations, varieties of geranium zonal have been prepared with multicolored, decidedly very decorative and showy leaves. The pelargoniums are always characterized by a dark zoning, which colors the foliage; the more normal colored leaf species, among the zonal geraniums, have this zoning a little particular, like 3distinction ”which has a thin zoning; or "Jips pip", with very large zoning, characterized however by enormous red flowers, stradoppi.
There are also two-colored or three-colored leaf-shaped geraniums, with white, light green, red, yellow or all these colors added together; the varieties are very numerous, and it depends only on our tastes to understand which is the most beautiful. "Golden brillantissimus" has red flowers, and white foliage, with green zoning; "Filigree" has pink flowers, and white leaves, with brown and red areas; "Contrast" has large colorful leaves, where the bright red stands out in an almost unnatural way, the leaves seem painted; "Madam Butterfly" has white-edged leaves and huge red flowers; "Jips Timmy" has green, white, yellow and red leaves with a pink flower; finally we remember "Silver magic" an incredible variety, with white, green and red leaves, and white flowers, variegated with red.
Geraniums with colored leaf: Geraniums in winter
In Italy often the pelargoniums are cultivated as annuals, and then at the end of the season, in autumn, they are left to die on the terrace, and replace them with the arrival of spring, with new pelargoniums. The cultivation of particular plants, with very bizarre foliage, which moreover are not always so easy to find, can make us consider the idea of preserving our geraniums for the following year, cultivating them even during the winter. These plants are not annual, they are perennial and evergreen herbaceous plants, which means, that with the correct treatment, they can remain in vegetation throughout the year. Pelargoniums fear intense frost, but can withstand brief periods at 0 ° C, or even at -2 ° C, and generally survive without problems in areas where winter has minimums of not less than 3-4 ° C. Obviously it is good to place the plants in a sunny place, and away from the cold wind.
As with many other plants, the colder it is, the less water they have to have in the soil, so to make them survive, first of all we will have to thin out the waterings, until they suspend them during the coldest weeks of the year. In areas with very cold winters, it is sometimes sufficient to place the geraniums on an outdoor cabinet, leaning against the house, which we will cover with non-woven fabric. Let us remember that on days with temperatures above 12- & 5 ° C we will have to water the pots, without exceeding. Let us remember that the potted plants suffer a little more than those placed in the ground, also because with intense frost, it could freeze all the ground bread, ruining the roots; a thick layer of non-woven fabric, which must cover the entire vase, including the saucer, may be sufficient, especially if we have no room for a piece of furniture on the terrace.
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