This picture shows two little flowers that are in bloom this week. The soft pink flowers on the left are late blooming Choral Bells (Heuchera
) which many gardeners know and love. The maroon flowers on the right are less well known. They are from a little silver gray alpine geranium native to South Africa (pelargonium sidoides
). For our area, this delightful plant behaves more like an annual than a perennial as it usually does not survive our winter weather. But it grows well in containers and can easily be brought indoors for protection from the coldest part of our winter freeze.
Another interesting thing about this beautiful little geranium is that it might be a natural cure for the common cold. In 2007, the National Center for Biotechnology Information reported on "a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial" which tested over one hundred men and women with cold symptoms. Randomly, patients were given either a placebo or a liquid herbal drug preparation made from the roots of pelargonium sidoides. The study concludes:
[The herbal drug] represents an effective treatment of the common cold. It significantly reduces the severity of symptoms and shortens the duration of the common cold compared with placebo.
Come to find out, the plant has been used as a medicine for centuries by the Zulu and several other African cultures, not only for curing colds, but for treating other more sever lung ailments, like bronchitis, sinus infections, and even pneumonia. (Of course, we do not recommend you try this at home.)
Remember: if you plant pelargonium sidoides in the ground, don't expect it to come back next year, although it might return, especially if it's in a protected place. Just don't count on it. It's worth growing, though, both for its beautifully textured silver leaves and for its unusual dainty deep purple flowers.