Zonal & Regal pelargoniums


In 1916 a new phrase of Zonal and regal pelargonium hybrids were presented in The Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture (vol 5) by the American botanist Liberty Hyde Bailey who is said to be the father of rural sociology and journalism.

Liberty grew up on the family farm in Michigan and was the third son of Liberty Hyde Bailey Sr & Sarah Harrison, They made their own produce and were very skilled in their craft creating new farming methods, soon gaining awards for their work.

Liberty gained a lot of experience on the farm, attending the Michigan agricultural collage in 1878 and later in 1884 became a professor and chairman of the Horticulture and Landscape gardening department.

In the late 1800s Liberty Hyde Bailey wrote papers on Cross breeding hybridizing in 1892.

Pelargonium x hortorum (meaning belonging to a household) is a hybrid between P. Zonale and P. inquians mainly for the purpose of an ornamental shrub and is now found in most garden centers  & florists around the world. The flowers are more showy and brightly coloured, tightly formed inflorescent flowers of pink, white or red and horseshoe zoned leaves.

Pelargonium Zonale was first discovered in 1689 in the Western Cape, South Africa and was then brought to Europe, the first recorded Pelargonium Zonal in cultivation was grown by the Duchess of Beaufort who loved exotic plants and built up a collection.The Duchess employed an artist to paint all her plants and had them listed in a catalogue, Pelargonium zonal was included.

Pelargonium x domesticum, (meaning domesticated plant), regal pelargonium or the Matha Washington geranium is a hybrid from Pelargonium cucullatum and possibly several species pelargoniums. The flowers come in many shades including pink. Red, purple and  black, some with darker markings, splotches or stripes.

Pelargonium Cucullatum was discovered at the Cape by the Botanist Paul Hermann.



Regals & Zonal pelargoniums

During the 1800s pelargoniums were greatly admired in Europe especially that of England, France, Germany and the Netherlands which were grown in greenhouses or conservatories.

From the mid 1800s to the 1900s the practice of producing cultivars was in development, during this period well over 8000 pelargonium cultivars were being created for the more larger and colourful flowers.

The earliest example of this was mentioned in Sweet’s geraniaceae works, when he describes the hybridization of Pelargonium cucullatum, an upright shrub that grows to 2 metres in height with purple to light purple flowers native to the Cape Province. These new hybrids were known as “Regals” from the 1870s, They have large showy flowers in a range of sizes & colours from white to dark red, in pastel or brightly coloured shades, some with wavy edges.

Later Liberty Hyde Bailey (1858-1954) an American horticulturist & botanist at the American society of horticultural science acknowledged the hybridization of the Zonal & Regal pelargoniums,

Pelargonium Zonale is an upright hairy scrambling shrub that grows to about 1 metre in height with zoned leaves & light pink, white or red flowers.

Zonal pelargonium cultivars are still popular today because of their colourful single, double or semi double flowers in a variety of colours and also because of their wide range of attractive leaf markings also in a range of colours.

Pelargonium zonal was known as P x hortorum (referring those grown in the garden) and Pelargonium cucullatum (referring to those grown in the house).

In the late 1800s a plant nursery by the name of Henri Dauthenay listed seven different cultivar pelargonium types, including Zonals, variegated-leaf, regals, ivy leaf, scented leaf and old pelargoniums.

In modern times there is now wide range of pelargonium cultivars, although these are beautiful plants the old charm of the original species pelargonium cultivars have now been lost.