Geranium Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance Around the World

Geraniums are a genus of flowers that includes over 400 species. But the common name geranium doesn’t refer to true geraniums alone. It also refers to pelargoniums as well. While both are in the Geraniaceae family and were both once classified as true geraniums, they were divided into two different genera over 250 years ago. But growers, florists, and gardeners alike have resisted the name change and continue to refer to pelargoniums as geraniums. Here we’ll take you through everything you need to know about geranium flower meaning, their rich symbolism, history, and origins, in addition to the most popular types, uses, and suitable gifting occasions. 

Geranium Flower Meaning & Symbolism – The Essentials

Geraniums symbolize happiness, good health, and friendship. The flowers are often given as housewarming gifts that bring good cheer to the home all year long. Although they are typically associated with positive emotions, this is not always the case. During the Victorian Times, a geranium was often considered a symbol of stupidity or folly.

About Geranium Flowers

About Geranium Flowers

Geranium Flowers – Family, Genus, and Taxonomy

Geraniums are a genus of flowers in the Geraniaceae family, but the common name geranium also refers to pelargoniums another member of the Geraniaceae family. True geraniums are hardy perennials, while the flower most people are referring to when they say geranium is a tender perennial grown as an annual. Both are similar in appearance and are closely related.

Botanical Characteristics

The mere mention of geraniums likely conjures up images of bright red clusters of disc-like flowers towering above round or heart-shaped foliage. While this does describe one popular variety of geraniums, there is considerable variation in both the flowers and the foliage.

Geraniums include true geraniums (geranium sp.), sometimes referred to as Cranesbeak, Horseshoe Geraniums (Pelargonium ‘zonale’), Ivy Geraniums (Pelargonium ‘peltatum’), and Scented Geraniums. (Pelargonium sp.).

True Geraniums

True Geraniums

True geraniums include a variety of hardy geraniums that thrive in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 through 9, depending on the variety. Hardy geraniums grow on dense foliage that creates a ground cover and produces small cup-shaped blooms approximately 1-inch in diameter. Although the bloom resembles the blooms on pelargoniums, they do not form clusters and the characteristic disc-shaped head of flowers. The Geranium Rozanne and Geranium Orion are particularly well-regarded ‘true geranium’.

Horseshoe or Zonal Geraniums

Horseshoe or Zonal Geraniums

Horseshoe or Zonal Geraniums are tender perennials typically grown as annuals that produce clusters of brightly colored blooms in a disc-shaped head held above round or heart-shaped foliage. Foliage ranges from rich green to variegated green and white, and even bronze. Flowers range in color from white and pink to red, orange, and even lovely shades of lavender. Some flowers are bi-colored.

Ivy Geraniums

Ivy Geraniums

Ivy Geraniums are similar to zonal geraniums, but the foliage is ivy-shaped and trailing. The flowers of Ivy geranium do not differ significantly from zonal geraniums.

Scented geraniums produce a delicate fragrance when the foliage is disturbed. Foliage may be similar to that of zonal geraniums but is generally more finely cut giving it a lacy appearance. The flowers are similar in shape but are smaller. Lemon-scented geraniums are often sold as mosquito plants. There is a wide variety of scented geraniums available from fruit and spice to mint and rose.

Etymological Meaning

The geranium earns the common name of Cranesbeak from the way the seed pod forms. After blooming a long, beak-like pod forms to hold the seeds. The name Pelargonium comes from the Greek word Pelargos meaning stork. The word geranium comes from the word géranos meaning crane.

What Regions are Geranium Flowers Native To?

Hardy geraniums are native to subtropical regions mainly in Southern Africa. Annual geraniums (Pelargonium) are also native to South African but can also be found in Australia and the Mediterranean.

When are Geranium Flowers in Season?

Hardy geraniums bloom in late spring or early summer. While some varieties bloom for a short period during early summer, most repeat blooming periodically throughout the summer.

Annual geraniums (pelargoniums) bloom in early spring and continue to bloom well into the fall, often blooming right up to the first frost.

Uses and Benefits of Geranium Flowers

Uses and Benefits of Geranium Flowers

Geraniums can be grown in window boxes and planters on the deck, in the flower bed to add bright color throughout the summer, or inside as houseplants. They are grown for ornamental purposes, but that is not all geraniums are used for.

  • Geranium oil is used in cosmetics and skincare products.
  • The flowers and foliage of scented geraniums are edible and can be used to garnish dishes or to top a salad to add flavor and fragrance.
  • Indigenous people of South Africa use the roots of pelargonium to treat respiratory ailments.
  • Citrus or lemon-scented geraniums are thought to repel mosquitoes.
  • Geranium oil is used to treat anxiety and depression. It is also used to treat infections and relieve pain as it contains anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, as well as antioxidants.

Geranium Flower Meaning & Symbolism

Geranium Flower Meaning & Symbolism

The geranium flower symbolizes happiness, good health, good wishes, and friendship. They are associated with positive emotions, with the exception of the Victorian symbolism of stupidity or foolishness. This old symbolism has basically fallen to the wayside as this cheery flower is typically considered a harbinger of happy thoughts and emotions.

Common Geranium Flower Colors and their Meaning & Symbolism

The meaning of a geranium flower can also vary according to its color. With blooms running the gamut from white and pastel pinks to brilliant shades of orange and red and even lovely shades of blue and purple there is a wide range to choose from when trying to send a message.

Some colored geraniums have their own meaning independent of the traditional meaning of flower colors.

  • Red Geraniums: Red geraniums are considered protective plants. According to Wiccan beliefs planting a red geranium near the front door warns you when strangers are approaching.
  • White Geraniums: White geraniums were thought to hold the power to repel snakes. They were also a symbol of fertility.
  • Pink Geraniums: Pink geraniums were prized ingredients for love spells.

Otherwise, consider the meaning of the flower’s color when choosing geraniums as a gift.

  • Yellow: Yellow flowers bring the message of light-heartedness and joy. They are a sign of friendship and happiness.
  • Blue: Blue flowers represent peace and tranquility.
  • Purple: Purple flowers represent accomplishment, pride, dignity, and success.

Geranium Flowers and Astrology

Geraniums align well with the Scorpio zodiac sign because of the various meanings they carry. For example, red geraniums symbolize protection in some cultures, which suits determined and brave Scorpio.

Interestingly, some cultures believe white geraniums repel snakes, one of the animals that represent Scorpio. Perhaps the flower can protect Scorpios from negative temptations, like jealousy and resentment. 

Suitable Gifting Occasions for Geranium Flowers

Suitable Gifting Occasions for Geranium Flowers

Geraniums make wonderful housewarming or hostess gifts with their cheery disposition and well-wishes. They are also appropriate for retirements or other ceremonies where you desire to wish the recipient well.

They also make a delightful presentation for the gardener in your life as they will continue to bring cheer all summer. Consider a big basket of ivy geranium for the deck or porch for housewarming or retirement gifts.

How to Care for Fresh-cut Geranium Flowers

How to Care for Fresh-cut Geranium Flowers
  • Place a few sprigs of fresh-cut geranium flowers in tall, slender vases around the home to add color and cheer.
  • Change the water every two to three days, or whenever it appears discolored. Otherwise, top the vase up each day to replace water that has evaporated.
  • Use a flower preservative or make your own with a teaspoon of bleach and teaspoon of sugar per quart of water, to extend the life of your cut flowers.


Whether you choose to grow hardy geraniums in the soil in your garden or prefer the larger blooms of annuals geraniums, there is a place in every garden for geraniums. These showy flowers are non-stop bloomers with flowers in nearly any color. Tuck them into containers and planters or plant them in a sunny location in the perennial bed for a cheery display of color.

Geranium Flower FAQ: 

Most types of geraniums flower from spring through to late summer each year.

Geranium flowers love full sun if grown outside and thrive best in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 9.

Geranium oil is used in cosmetics and skincare products and is often used to treat symptoms of anxiety and depression.

In the language of flowers, geraniums symbolize happiness, good health, and friendship. The flowers are often given as housewarming gifts that bring good cheer to the home all year long.

Geranium Flower Growing Guides:

For essential step-by-step guides to growing and caring for Geranium plants at home, please see our in-depth features to Geranium Rozanne, Geranium Orion, and Geranium maderense (Madeira cranesbill).


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