Plants that offer both attractive flowers and foliage are the first to go into my nursery shopping cart. Ivy geraniums (Pelargonium peltatum), tender perennials native to southern Africa, never disappoint in this regard. Their semi-cascading, trailing habit is always attractive, and I enjoy their surprising differences in style and flower form, and crisp, ivy-like foliage. This year, I’m trying three different varieties.
Ideal for containers and window boxes, ivy geraniums will be happy to bloom all summer in part shade to full sun. When planted in a bright location, they should have some shade from the hottest hours at midday. The mounding plants reach an average height and width of 18 inches (45 cm), and can be wintered over in a cool and dark place, with a temperature between 4°C and 10°C. When I have a really choice variety, I place it in a plastic bag, leave the top open and store it in the cool basement over winter.
The first of my trio is dwarf Mini Cascade Red, with small single flowers in glowing cherry red — bright enough for a gas station floral display. These are similar to the full-size Balcon Series, but the Mini Cascade Series is even more prolific, producing huge masses of flowers. They have enough inbred resilience to keep pumping out flowers in tough conditions, but given decent attention in a home garden, they can be spectacular. Their slightly fuzzy foliage is almost entirely concealed under single-petalled flower clusters that mass into a solid sheet of blazing colour.
My Mini Cascade plants are in two small concrete containers in full sun, where they’ll make an incendiary display all summer. The series includes pink, purple and red, and the colours are vibrant, electric tones. Bear in mind, the prolific flower production means weekly deadheading to keep the plants attractive. They don’t absolutely require deadheading, but you’ll want to do it.
The Global Series is characterized by smooth foliage and deep flower colours. I’ve got Global Merlot (one of 13 colours in the series), with dark burgundy petals flushed with black, surrounding a hot magenta centre. The semi-double petals have thick substance and a velvet texture, and that’s their distinctive feature — you really want to touch them. The dark and sultry effect makes a happy container partner with ColorBlaze Dipt in Wine coleus, with black-flushed dark scarlet leaves highlighted with gold. Both plants like part shade and moist soil.
The third ivy geranium is ‘Sybil Holmes’, a fully double deep-pink flower with white reverse to each petal. This is a fancy plant, and deserves pride of place in any container grouping. The foliage is glossy and refined, and the flowers look like clusters of tiny double roses. The bi-colour effect of the pink and white petals is bright and makes a sparkling display. This cultivar commemorates the career of Sybil H. Holmes, a graduate of Harvard Law School, who became the first woman elected to the Pennsylvania Senate in 1937, and served that state as assistant attorney general. That just shows you what hard work it takes to get a really beautiful geranium named for you!