Geraniums are popular plants throughout America, and are most often referred to as the scarlet flowers with bushy green leaves that embrace our gardens with color and distinction. Nurseries are filled with geraniums employing every color of the rainbow, and each shade has its own special meaning. Even so, there is only one true meaning for geranium flowers.
The Truth About Geraniums
According to the International Geranium Society, the flowers America most commonly refer to as "geraniums" are not true geraniums at all, but are actually pelargoniums. Both belong to the Geraniaceae family and both are native to South Africa, having been imported to America in the 1700s. They are similar in appearance but have notable differences. By the late 1800s, arborists realized the differences and wanted to call them by separate names, but Europe had already set the trend and refused to change so America followed suit. To this day, pelargoniums are grown and sold globally under the name of geraniums. The true geranium has but one meaning, while pelargoniums have many meanings according to the color of their blooms.
Pelargoniums are small, annual, bush-like shrubs that can be up to 18 inches high and wide, and come in single or double blooms in a wide range of shades in colors of pink, red, purple, white and salmon. Each color has its own meaning even though there are many variations to each color or the type of leaf. These plants grow well in the sun but can tolerate some shade and prefer moist, well-drained soil. They bloom from May until frost and their flowers consist of five petals, five sepals and ten stamens at the end of a long stem. The leaves vary from shallow to deep with short fuzzy hairs, and there are over 730 varieties sold all over the world under the name of "geranium."
The True “Geranium”
The true geraniums are low spreading shrub-like perennial bushes that grow well in full sun or full shade and bloom only from May to July. Their flowers are also five petals, five sepals and ten stamens at the end of long stems, except the flowers are rounded and predominantly blue. They also come in shades of pink and white, but there are no red geraniums.
Meaning of the Geranium
The word "geranium" means crane, referring to its long stem, and the emotional meaning is gentility or peace of mind. The pelargonium species, however, each have their own meaning that is derived from historic incidents where the flowers were recognized and labeled at that time, according to the Victorian Bazaar website. Scarlet flowers represent comfort or consolation, and oak geraniums represent true friendship while rose geraniums depict preference.
Flowers can be very sentimental gifts and some people are sensitive to their meanings. When we are giving a gift of cut flowers or potted geraniums, it's good to know the significance of their meaning so that the gift can be received in the innocent spirit that it is being given.