Zonal geraniums, Pelargonium hortorum, can bloom anytime it wants to here, but really does tend to slow down somewhat through autumn and winter. As growth slows, older foliage will deteriorate and become more susceptible to rust and decay. Where exposed, older grown might succumb to frost over winter. Zonal geraniums will soon be zoning out.

Such deterioration and winter frost damage is not as bad as it looks, unless of course, frost is severe enough to kill the entire affected plants. By the time old growth looks shabby enough to be removed, new growth is probably already starting to develop down near the roots. After the last frost date (when no more frost is likely), old growth can be cut back to expose new growth that will soon replace it. Even if new growth is very minimal, growth will accelerate once exposed by the removal of old foliage, and as weather warms into spring.

That is still a few months away. For now, zonal geraniums are just beginning the process of zoning out, which is why their floral trusses are neither as big nor as abundant as they had been through summer. While they are busy with that, autumn flowers are beginning to bloom, and some of the winter flowers are getting ready for their season. Winter flowers get started in autumn because growth is slower in cooler weather, even for plants that prefer cool weather.

1. Chrysanthemum is ‘the’ classic autumn flower. These are blooming well enough in the infirmary that they will soon be relocated out into prominent spots or pots out in landscaped areas.P81006

2. Cyclamen is a winter flower that is just now starting to grow after its long summer dormancy. These rudimentary first blooms are not much to brag about, but will likely be followed by enough for these plants to also be recycled back into the landscape from which they came last spring. These white flowers really are the best of the cyclamen for now. (I did not take this picture just because white is my favorite color.)P81006+

3. Reddish orange zonal geranium, and the magenta zonal geranium below, exhibit two more of those colors that I can not identify. I will just say that it is reddish orange. I happen to like it because the color resembles that of one of my two first zonal geraniums. Mine is not so well bred, so exhibits weedier growth and less prominent bloom. Nonetheless, I like mine because it is so resilient and predictable. I cut it to the ground at the end of winter, before new growth develops, and it grows right back. This prettier garden variety would probably prefer a gentler process.P81006++

4. Red zonal geranium seems to me to be the most elegant of those blooming here presently. Of course, I do not know for certain if it is. I do not know much about color. It just seems to me that this color is not as garish as the magenta sort of color below, or as unrefined as the common reddish orange above.P81006+++

5. Magenta zonal geranium, like the reddish orange zonal geranium above, is another color that I can not identify. It is a bit too flashy for my taste. However, the other one of my two first zonal geraniums blooms with a softer hue of a similar color. As much as I prefer to not admit it, my two first zonal geraniums are still my favorites, even though they bloom in colors that I am none too keen on.P81006++++

6. White zonal geranium happens to contrast well with the dark greens of landscapes in the redwood forests. Although it is my favorite of the four zonal geraniums that are blooming here now, my first two weedy zonal geraniums that bloom with unrefined reddish orange and garish magenta are still my two favorites.P81006+++++

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:



12 thoughts on “Six on Saturday: Zoning Out

  1. If you’d just posted three colour swatches of 3, 4 & 5 you’d know straight away they were Geraniums. The Chrysanth zings because of the different colours in the bloom, the geraniums because the colour is so uniform, which makes no sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Zonal’ refers to the halos on the foliage of some varieties of zonal geraniums, although my oldest variety happens to be one of the few that lacks a halo. I do not care how weedy or common they are, they are still one of my favorite perennials! I happen to like the chrysanthemum as well, although I think it will be difficult to find a spot where such a lanky plant can fit in. It will need to be nestled into other perennials or shallow shrubbery. It might get planted tomorrow while I am away. We can not wast something so cool by leaving it in the infirmary.


  2. It has been a good year for zonal geraniums. You said you cut it to the ground at the end of the winter. It’s a hard cut !? Mine are in large containers, overwintered frost free and I still hesitate to cut them hard. … now, I’m going.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I do a hard cut only because my two seedy varieties do not have much new growth when it is time to cut them back. The prettier cultivars get cut back more selectively. If yours happens to have new stems at the time, they should probably stay while the old stems from the previous years get cut out.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Love the pelargoniums…the only way they’ll overwinter here is by digging them up and either keeping them on a windowsill all winter, watching as they get straggly and infested with whiteflies, or by shaking off the dirt and hanging them, upside down, in a dark cool basement. Surprisingly, they survive to send up new shoots in spring. Hardy indeed!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s a great chrysanthemum. Love the tones in it. Of the geraniums, #4 is my fav, based solely on the flower. I might feel differently if the foliage was more prominent in the photo. As you say, the white against the green is undoubtedly stunning. Since these are in the infirmary, does that mean they have a troubled history?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Most of what is in the infirmary is there only because it needed to be removed from the landscape. Some were in the way of renovation projects. Others just got crowded out as something else grew. A few are perennials that get planted as annuals, such as the cyclamen. I hate to discard cyclamen after winter! Some of the zonal geraniums were grown in the infirmary, just because we did not want to discard the pruning scraps. Incidentally, with only one exception, all the zonal geraniums have simple green leaves without halos. #4 happens to have a light duty halo and slightly darker leaves. I do not think that any of them have any better foliage than any other. I actually think that out in a sunnier spot, #4 would be my favorite too. The white looks great here, but is not so pretty out in the open.


      1. There are just so many that not all can be salvaged. I have taken many home to put in the garden, and some naturalize. I suppose that if I keep doing it, there will be quite a patch of them. When I was a kid they were tough perennials, and got quite big. I grew only six that were very special to me. Tossing them without at least giving them a chance just seems wrong.


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