A Tale of 6 Tongaense Seeds

I planted six (6) Tongaense seeds on Jan. 25, 2020 with other Pelargonium seeds on a 72 pellet tray on a heated mat.   A few seeds sprouted, some as quickly as 3 weeks later, but not the Tongaense.  By the end of May, thinking no other seeds would sprout, I unplugged the mat and retired the tray to another room.  To my surprise and delight, a Tongaense seed sprouted on June 16, and another 2 on July 11.  All 6 eventually sprouted, with the last making an appearance on Nov. 16.  This laggard only took 10 months to germinate!  Pictured below are three of the six Tongaense plants and its flowers.    

I have learned that Tongaense refers to the Tongaland area in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), where this species was first discovered.  Tongaense plants:

  • have leaves that are fleshy and toothed with triangular lobes similar to P. peltatum (Ivy pelargoniums);
  • have bright scarlet red single flowers in heads of 3 – 8 flowers.  They bloom profusely but the flowers are short-lived and often go to seed;
  • are semi-upright, low growing – about 20 cm / 8″ – with slightly succulent stems;
  • prefer light to dense shade but can be grown in full sun
  • “are easily propagated from cuttings or seeds, and experience has shown that if seeds are sown whilst fresh the results are much better” – according to the Lowveld National Botanical Garden.  To test this out, I planted 14 newly harvested seeds on March 23, 2021.  So far, I have gotten 5 new seedlings, all in the month of June.

I was delighted to find a paragraph on P. tongaense in the Species and Species Hybrids chapter of Faye Brawner’s “Geraniums, The Complete Encyclopedia”.  First of all, I did not know that it is a “Species”.  Like most newbies to the world of pelargoniums, I am still figuring out the different categories of pelargoniums, so I am pleased as punch to be a proud owner of a species!  Second, Faye mentions “The branches are thin stemmed and semi-trailing so it makes a very pretty basket plant.”  I took Faye’s advise and planted three of my now fully grown Tongaense plants into a 12″ hanging basket.  I think you will agree that it does make a very pretty basket, even without the profusion of flowers it promises to have, given its developing buds. 

Tongaense Basket