Pelargonium is a genus of flowering plants which includes about 200 species of perennials, succulents, and shrubs, commonly known as geraniums or storksbills. Confusingly, Geranium is the correct botanical name of a separate genus of related plants often called Cranesbills. Gardeners sometimes refer to the members of Genus Pelargonium as "pelargoniums" in order to avoid the confusion, but the older common name "geranium" is still in regular use.
The first species of Pelargonium known to be cultivated was Pelargonium triste, a native of South Africa. It was probably brought to the botanical garden in Leiden before 1600 on ships which stopped at the Cape of Good Hope. In 1631, the English gardener, John Tradescant the elder, bought seeds from Rene Morin in Paris and introduced the plant to England. The name Pelargonium was introduced by Johannes Burman in 1738, from the Greek πελαργός, pelargós, stork, because part of the flower looks like a stork's beak.
Other than grown for their beauty, species of Pelargonium such as P. graveolens are important in the perfume industry and are cultivated and distilled for its scent. The varieties with rose scents are most commercially important.
Pelargoniums are believed to deter mosquitoes.
Garden geranium (Pelargonium x hortorum; syn. Pelargonium zonale) is one of the most common ornamental potted-plants, with over 200 varieties.
Species of Pelargonium are indigenous to Southern Africa and are drought and heat tolerant, and can tolerate only minor frosts. Pelargoniums are extremely popular garden plants, grown as annuals in temperate climates, and thousands of ornamental cultivars have been developed from about 20 of the species.