Alpine Ivy Geraniums
By Carl Wilson, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Agent, Denver
European alpine ivy geraniums are a natural for high elevation Colorado.
Anyone traveling in Europe in the summer knows the beauty of alpine ivy geraniums
cascading from window boxes. Due to the limited space in European cities, alpine ivies
make sense. Some 40% of the geraniums used in Europe are this type.
One alpine ivy parent, the ivy vining geranium, is native to South Africa where bright
days and cool nights are typical. Crosses with another member of the Pelargonium family,
the bush zonal geranium, produced the closer leaf spacing and better bloom of the
resulting alpine ivies.
Alpine ivies bloom in red, pink and lavender. In Europe all colors are mixed for splashes
of bright color in the filtered light of their cloudy climate. This mélange of color may
not look as well in the harsh brightness of Colorado so be forewarned when planning your
Plants are prolific bloomers and are more or less self-cleaning. The petals shatter and
drop, and new flowers cover the spent blooms. While not necessary for producing additional
bloom, some may feel deadheading enhances a neat appearance.
These plants fare better in the hotter summers and brighter light of Colorado than in
northern Europe. While they appreciate the warm days and cool nights of the Colorado high
country, they also perform well along the Front Range.
The leaves are slightly waxy, an excellent trait that prevents drying in our semiarid
climate. Many varieties have light colored stems that contrast well with the darker
One reason these geraniums are not as popular as others may be the appearance at purchase
time. Alpine ivies need bright light to establish so hanging baskets are not generally at
their peak during the May-June purchasing period. The mounding habit that adds to their
beauty will not show for a few weeks.
Alpine ivies are more stress tolerant than many geranium classes. Allow them to dry
slightly between waterings but never allow to dry out completely. They bloom better if the
foliage is kept dry. If sprinkled, do so early in the day so the leaves dry before
nightfall. Add moderate amounts of soluble fertilizer when watering through the growing
season or use slow- release granules, especially in container situations.
Alpine ivies shine as container plants whether in window boxes, hanging baskets or as the
trailing component of a container composition with other plants. Another idea is to use
alpine ivies as ground covers. They often do better in-ground than in containers because
the roots remain cool. Above all else, give them full sun with 4 to 5 hours of sunlight
Brighten your home with a new type of well-adapted geranium this year, the alpine ivies.
Photograph courtesy of Judy Sedbrook.
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