Pelargoniums and Geraniums

Pelargoniums and Geraniums

A Plant Profile of Rose Geranium and Robert Geranium

The common botanical name for Rose Geranium is Pelargonium graveolens; the botanical name refers to the Pelargonium genus of flowering plants which includes about 200 species of perennials, shrubs and succulents. However, many species of Pelargoniums are commonly called Geraniums or Storksbills, causing confusion. To create greater confusion, in aromatherapy use, there is a distinction between Geranium essential oil and Rose Geranium essential oil.

Robert Geranium, or Herb Robert, is known by the botanical name of Geranium robertianum and belongs to the Geranium genus of approximately 422 species of flowering perennial, annual and biennial plants, also referred to by the name of Cranesbill. Robert Geranium has medicinal properties and is used in the practice of homeopathy.

The Confusion Between Geraniums and Pelargoniums

Both plant genera are of the botanical family of Geraniaceae; however, when plants were originally classified by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, both plant species were classified into one genus, that of Geranium. In 1789, French botanist, Charles Louis L’Heritier de Brutelle, separated each genus into individual plant genera. Although members of the Pelargonium genus are often referred to as ‘Pelargoniums’ to try to avoid confusion, many people still use the older common name of ‘Geranium’.

Origins of the Rose Geranium

The Rose Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) is native to South Africa but the genus of Pelargonium is native to the Mediterranean and the Middle East too. Rose Geraniums were popular in England, firstly with the upper classes when glass greenhouses were first introduced; Rose Geraniums later gained wider popularity in the 19th century as potted Rose Geraniums, grown on cottage windowsills.

Characteristics of Rose Geranium

The original Pelargonium of South Africa had small leaves and pink flowers; today, there are many cultivations of Pelargoniums and Rose Geraniums flower in a variety of colors including pink, red, white and purple. The leaves of Rose Geranium are rose-scented, although some species of Pelargoniums have scented flowers too, such as Pelargonium gibbosum and Pelargonium triste. Pelargonium graveolens is a perennial shrub, which usually flowers in the Summer months and sometimes in the Fall; many Pelargonium species are now cultivated as annuals.

The Scent of Rose Geranium

Rose Geraniums (Pelargonium graveolens) are one of the most common species of Pelargoniums; the scent of Rose Geranium is extracted by steam distillation of the leaves and the essential oil is commonly used in aromatherapy. A flower water can also be made from the scented leaves of Rose Geranium; it is also used in potpourri.

The Characteristics of Robert Geranium

Robert Geranium, or Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) is an annual or biennial plant growing to approximately one foot in height; it is found at elevations of up to 4,900 feet. Robert Geranium grows in Europe, North America, North Africa and most of Asia; it has small, symmetrical pink flowers which bloom from May to October and is found in habitats of forest, clearings, scrub and walls.

Medicinal Uses of Robert Geranium

Robert Geranium has the active ingredients of bitters, tannins and essential oils. It has traditionally been used to treat toothache and nosebleeds and is used in the practice of homeopathy to treat internal bleeding. Robert Geranium has diuretic properties too and has been used as a mouth antiseptic and gargle.


Lawless, Julia 2001 The Aromatherapy Garden London, UK: Kyle Cathie Ltd

Podlech, Dieter 2001 Herbs and Healing Plants of Britain and Europe UK: Collins (Collins Nature Guides)

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