Pelargonium (Peltatum-Hybrids) ‘Crocodile’: Ivy-leaved Pelargonium
Pelargoniums have been popular plants for room and above all window-box decoration since as far back as the mid-18th century. The approximately 250 species, found mostly in South Africa (a few also occur in Asia), provided a solid foundation and numerous opportunities for cross-breeding so that nowadays the selection includes hundreds of cultivars that have become permanent items in nursery catalogues.
The cultivar ‘Crocodile’ (named thus because the leaves are veined like a crocodile’s skin) belongs to the large group of hybrids derived from the type species Pelargonium peltatum, which is native to South Africa and also occurs in the wild in the Mediterranean region. It has pinkand typical shield-shaped leaves that are either five-edged or five-lobed. Peltatum-Hybrids were obtained by crossing P. peltatum with P. lateripes. Later hybrids were also obtained from crossings with other large groups of pelargoniums — namely Grandiflorum-Hybrids and Zonale-Hybrids. A characteristic trait is the habit of growth; the stems are generally prostrate or even pendant and thus this group includes many types that are good for window-box cultivation.
Pelargoniums cannot be grown in a warm room the whole year. Neither can those grown in window-boxes remain outside during the winter. Before the first frost they should be moved, together with the box, to a cool but frost-free room or cellar. Young plants grown from cuttings taken in August should likewise be overwintered in a cool room (cuttings may also be taken in March) but must be provided with sufficient light. In spring the plants should be put in new compost (John Innes potting compost No. 1 or 2 is ideal) and supplied liberally with water as well as feed throughout the late spring and summer.
Since Peltatum-Hybrids are generally grown as pendant plants they should be combined with upright cultivars from the other groups. Another pelargonium that is very attractive and does well in like conditions is the ‘botanical’ species P. endlicherianum from Syria and Asia Minor, which is practically entirely hardy. Its flowers are very interesting in that only the upper two petals are large and crimson-pink, whereas the bottom three are atrophied. It is also very good for a window-box rock garden if it can be protected against too much damp in winter.