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Symbolic Significance of the Geranium Plant

Updated July 19, 2017

The geranium, a favourite indoor-outdoor garden flower, is believed to symbolise unity and true friendship. Different colours and varieties of geranium flower are linked with varied symbolic meanings.

Symbolism

Geranium flowers' symbolic meanings range from true friend and gentility, to stupidity, melancholy, folly and meeting. Generally, geraniums are a sign of a peaceful mind, conveying a sense of gentility.

Genus

The word "geranium" is derived from the Greek source "geranion" or "geranos," meaning crane. It's the common name for evergreen perennials used as bedding plants. The Greek genus refers to the flower stem's craning neck or sometimes the shape of geranium seed-heads, which resemble a crane's bill.

The geraniums to which we refer when speaking of the popular house and garden plant are of the genus Pelargonium, which includes more than 200 species, many originating in South Africa.

Varieties

Historically, the wild geranium was associated with steadfast piety. Pink or rose geraniums symbolised preference and the oak-leaved geranium signified true friendship, according to "A Contemplation Upon Flowers: Garden Plants in Myth and Literature" by Bobby J. Ward, published in 1999.

The scarlet geranium is considered a sign of comfort or consolation.

Colours

Geraniums' range of colours include white, pink, salmon, red, lavender and fuchsia. Some have more than one colour. Among the many types grown are "single-flowering" and "double-flowering" geraniums: Flowers of the former have five or fewer petals; flowers of the latter have 10 or more petals. Leaves can be variegated green and white, plain green or patterned with mixes of orange, red and yellow.

Aromas

Geranium fragrances vary widely and include peppermint, nutmeg, rose, pineapple and citrus notes of lemon, lime or orange. Geraniums have been cultivated for the aromatic oils---from leaves as well as flowers---used in perfumes and flavours.

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About the Author

Sherry Crawford has been a writer for more than 30 years. She started freelance writing in 1997, with articles published in alumni magazines for Minnesota State University-Mankato, Gustavus Adolphus College and the University of Dubuque. In Iowa, she writes for Kirkwood Foundation, Mercy Medical Center and the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation. Crawford holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism/English from the University of Minnesota.