The year 1700 was an interesting one in history. Men in England began wearing suspenders to hold up their trousers, the French landscape gardener Andre Le Notre (who designed Versailles) died, and the first four coffeehouses in Vienna, Austria, opened. But perhaps most importantly (at least when it comes to geraniums) is the fact that Willem Adriaan van der Stel introduced the first ivy geranium to the Netherlands. Known botanically as Pelargonium peltatum, this beauty was a well-kept secret! It wasn’t until 74 years later that the ivy geranium finally made it to the gardens of Great Britain and then eventually traveled on to the American colonies.

Ivy geranium

Ivy geranium earned its name because the foliage is so similar to ivy.

Photo Credit: Fir Trees Nursery

Ivy geraniums in container

A container of ivy geraniums makes a wonderful garden accent.

Photo Credit: Hobbs Farm

Crocodile ivy leaf geranium

The “netting” in the foliage of ‘Crocodile’ makes an attractive background for the vibrant blooms.

Photo Credit: Fir Trees Nursery

Ivy geranium striped flowers

You can find ivy geranium blooms in an amazing array of colors – some even with stripey accents!

Photo Credit: Fir Trees Nursery

Since it’s introduction 300 years ago, the ivy-leafed geranium has developed into quite a beautiful body of plants with at least 75 commercial cultivars. There are so many wonderful and unique options available now, chances are there’s an ivy geranium with the right foliage, size or bloom color just waiting for you to pot up and put on display!

With so many to choose from, it’s not surprising that nursery professionals have developed different types of ivy geraniums with unique characteristics. Alpine balcony geraniums are a popular favorite, often used in as a window box plant in Europe – and with good reason: They’re extremely hardy and very showy with scads of flowers in pinks, lavender and scarlet.

There are predominately three kinds of alpine ivy: the Balcon Series (with a long, trailing habit that grows to 4 feet in one season), the Intermediate Cascade Series (which grows about 3 feet in a season) and the Mini-Cascade Series (which gets about 2 feet long in a season).

No matter which you choose, these beauties make terrific additions to window boxes and container plantings that need an eye-catcher to spill over the edges. They can really fill out a hanging basket, too – just make sure the water drains freely out of the bottom of the container.

There are a few other things to know about these container champs to help them reach their full potential. First, they like moderate watering and moderate temperatures. If the plants get too much water, the leaves will form brown patches of dead tissue. The technical term for these patches is “edema” (or oedema). The cells in the leaves simply burst and brown.

To fix the problem, water your plant less and remove any leaves with brown patches. If the browning continues, the potting soil might be retaining too much water, so you should replant your ivy geranium in a more free-draining soilless mix to maintain a full, healthy plant.

When it comes to temperature and your ivy geranium, moderation is key. These beautiful pelargoniums need some afternoon shade if summertime temps rise above 80 degree F. However, you can use them in full sun if the average temperature is cooler.

Also, be prepared to pinch back some of your plant’s growth early in the season to encourage it to branch rather than just grow in length. And, of course, don’t forget to deadhead your pelargonium to promote continuous blooms for you to enjoy throughout the season!

As with most plants, fertilizer is an important part of ivy geranium’s maintenance program. Use a 10-10-10 water-soluble complete solution each time you water while the plant is actively growing, then stop fertilizing at the end of the growing season. Like any geranium, you can successfully overwinter your ivy type by bringing it indoors before the first light frost. Hang it in a sunny window, and your plant will grow throughout the long days until you can place it outside again.

While it took a very long time for ivy geraniums to reach the US, these fantastic annuals were worth the wait! Whether mixed with other beautiful plants in a variety of container plantings or just hanging out on their own in a great hanging basket, they’re sure to add a sea of endless color to your summer.