The Australian native Pelargoniums look stunning in my garden from the end of December. Every variety is blooming prolifically, filling the air with the smell of their sweet nectar and bringing numerous pollinators to my patch.
Australia has about 7 native Pelargonium varieties and there are many exotics widely available in nurseries, mostly from South Africa. I have 3 Australian varieties growing together in one garden bed and also scattered in different spots throughout the garden. They are perhaps the most naturally cottage style native plant, with pretty clusters of flowers in different shades of pink. They also have lovely foliage with large leaves and sometimes coloured stems to create interest and contrast with smaller leaved plants in my garden, planted adjacent to a Tetratheca thymifolia and fine leaved paper daisy. They are popular with butterflies and native bees, and have been easy care and pest free in my garden.
Technically this should be plants plural of the week, as I couldn’t pick just one variety of Pelargonium to feature. Growing intermingled it seemed a shame not to show you their combined beauty planted on mass, and seeing their combined splendour also makes in somewhat easier to understand their differences as you can see each alongside the others in some of these photos. Click the photos to see them full size with captions so you know which flowers are in each pic. I hope you will forgive me the broader plant profile this week!
This is the most widely grown and available variety. It flowers prolifically with mostly white or the palest pink flower clusters, decorated with bright magenta stripes. The flowers are the smallest of the three varieties I grow. Pelargonium australe forms fluffy seed heads readily and self seeds easily, although for me not to an annoying degree, but it is worth keeping in mind that just a few plants can easily spread to fill a large area if you have the space.
It is low growing to around 50cm high and tolerates a very wide variety of conditions and soils from coast to cool areas, full sun or part shade. I have all of mine planted in full sun and also some planted under a big Ironbark where they handle the dry conditions well. Conservation Collective sell tube stock of Pelargonium australe online.
Known as Magenta Storksbill for good reason, this beautiful variety has bright pink flowers that are a gorgeous intense pink colour with quite large blooms. At times the stems that hold the leaves can also be dark pink, which looks beautiful among the dark green leaves.
This variety is less widespread in the natural environment and I have found it also can be a bit fussy in the garden. I have lost plants in too wet AND too dry conditions when they were young. But once established it seems to be hardier. If you think you have lost one don’t give up – I have had plants reappear even when I thought they were dead. Despite these troubles it is a variety that is worth the effort for it’s small size, bright coloured flowers and long flowering period. It is a beautiful addition to an Australian native flower garden, be it cottage or naturalistic in style. Tube stock plants are often available online from Wildtech nursery.
This pretty variety is a cross between Pelargonium australe and Pelargonium rodneyanum bred by Peter Ollerenshaw of Bywong Nursery. The flowers are much larger than P. australe and are a lovely pastel pink shade, much paler than P. rodneyanum. It has large pretty leaves also and I have found it does not self seed. It retains the floriferous disposition of P. australe, with a long flowering period, tolerant of a wide range of conditions, unbothered by pests and attractive to butterflies, making this a very desirable Australian native plant.
Please comment below if you have any questions or to share your own experiences growing native Pelargoniums. See more from my native plant of the week series here. Happy gardening!