Pelargonium sidoides

Click on an image to enlarge it.
Botanical Name
Pelargonium sidoides
Geraniaceae - The geranium family.
pe-lar-GO-nee-um sih-DOY-deez
Common Name(s)
English: Rabassam
Afrikaans: Rabassam; Kalwerbossie
IsiXhosa: Umsangela; Umsongelo
IsiZulu: Umckaloabo
Plant Group
  • Ground Cover A plant with a low-growing, spreading habit, grown specifically to cover the ground.
  • Perennial A plant whose life cycle lasts for three or more seasons.
Plant Size
  • Medium
    Tree10m to 16m
    Shrub1m to 2m
    Perennial/ground cover40cm to 60cm
    Bulb40cm to 60cm
    Succulent40cm to 60cm
  • Partial Shade The area is in shade for part of the day and in full sun for part of the day.
  • Sun The area is in full sun for all or most of the day, all year round.
General Information
  • Drought Tolerance: High The plant is well adapted to arid conditions; it can survive long periods of drought and high temperatures without extra water.
  • Evergreen Plants that have leaves all year round.
  • Frost: Half-hardy The plant is able to survive low temperatures and some frost but requires protection against severe frost.
  • Sand tolerant Plants adapted to survive in nutrient poor, very sandy soils.
  • Water Wise Plant species originating from low rainfall regions that require less water to survive and thrive than other plant species.
  • Wind Tolerant Plants able to withstand the effect of strong winds.
Specific Information

Pelargonium sidoides is in many respects very similar to Pelargonium reniforme. However the colour of the flower is so dark as to be almost black and is much smaller, and medicinal properties appear to be of greater value. It forms a low growing rosette with grey-green, crinkled leaves which have well-defined scalloped edges and is visually appealing even when not in flower. The flowers are not showy, being very small and spidery.

They grow in arid to dry climates and will stand frosts, but will go dormant in very cold areas or during long periods of drought. .The roots consist of thickened, underground branch-like tubers and grow quite deep, allowing the plants to survive the frequent veld fires that occur in many areas of their habitat.

Ad Break

small, delicate pelargonium flowers held in sparse clusters on long, lax stems, above the foliage, but usually somewhat drooping

  • All Year Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
  • Spring to Summer Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
  • deep burgundy
Growth Rate
  • Moderate to Fast Specifying growth rate can be very misleading as there is considerable variation of growth rate depending on type and species of plant, available water, supplementary feeding, mulching and general care, as well as the plants suitability and adaptability to the garden environment.
Plant Uses
  • Attracts bees, butterflies or other insects This plant attracts insects which can be food for birds or other creatures in your garden.
  • Container Trees, shrubs and ornamental species that can adapt to growing in a restricted environment.
  • Filler Either a fast growing tree or shrub used temporarily to fill in an area while the permanent plants grow to a desired size, or a plant used to fill gaps in borders or beds.
  • Ground Cover Low-lying plants that spread fast, require minimal maintenance, and cover large expanses or bare areas between bulbs or shrubs. They provide protection from erosion and drought and improve the visual appearance of the garden.
  • Interplanting Arranging and planting plants in the garden that have different blooming times and habits of growth, extending the amount of time in which the area is in flower.
  • Pot Plant A plant that needs a protected environment on a patio or indoors.
  • Rock Garden An area constructed of larger rocks, arranged naturally, to emphasise the use of stones as a main element. Generally plants used do not need a lot of care.
  • Suitable for coastal gardens Plants adapted to dry, sandy soil, forceful wind, limited rainfall and intense sunlight.
  • Wild Garden An indigenous garden planted for the benefit of wildlife and birds. Provides food, water, a variety of mini-biomes and no poisonous chemicals are used.
Distribution and Habitat

from Uniondale in the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, North West and Mpumalanga, as well as Lesotho, in Albany Thicket, Fynbos, Grassland, Nama Karoo and Succulent Karoo, in short grassland, occasionally among shrubs or trees, in sand, stony soils, clay-loam, shale or basalt

Planting Suggestions

Pelargonium sidoides prefers a full sun position in well drained soil. Avoid over-watering during summer and water only sparingly during wintertime.

In areas with very cold winters they should be kept inside from late autumn to early spring to prevent them from freezing to death.

Lorraine's Garden Notes

2013: I have not had much luck with this species as its growth is slower than that of its hybrid sisters and it does not take to the conditions in my garden as well as it does in its natural habitat.

Medicinal Uses

For hundreds of years Pelargonium sidoides has been used by traditional healers to cure coughs, upper respiratory tract irritations and gastrointestinal problems. It reportedly does not simply mask outward symptoms, but  reduces the severity of upper respiratory irritations and supports faster recovery.

The herb is used for respiratory infections like bronchitis, sinusitis, and pneumonia, tonsillitis and rhinopharyngitis, as an alternative to antibiotics,  for acute and chronic ear, nose and throat infections, for rapid improvement in the symptoms associated with colds and flu and as an analgesic to reduce pain.

For interesting and detailed information about its use in modern medicine, go to

Ad Break


Hi Lorraine, I am looking for the pelargonium sidoides plants. We have a small nursery in Johannesburg specialising in edible and medicinal plants. Please can you help me? Thanks, Yvette

Hi Yvette

Your query reminded me that I had to update this plant, as the pictures I used previously are of a hybrid (now found at
The plant description is the same as it was, but the photos are of the original, non-hybridised plant. I am not sure, but have doubts as to whether the medicinal properties are the same.

I have emailed you in connection with your query.

Kind regards

Hello, I am currently an MBA student and I was interested in finding out more about the history of this plant. From my understanding, its medical usage was discovered by the indigenous in South Africa. I am having trouble tracking down information about said indigenous people and their use of the plant along with just some general history about them. A group in my graduate class is researching the controversies involving the patent that was obtained on this plant (in 2000). If you could help us in our research, it'd be great. Thanks!

Hi Cinthya

Finding specific information about precisely how and in what quantities various herbal plants are used is very difficult due to the fact that the information is closely guarded by traditional herbalists, healers and Sangomas, and is not available to those who have not been through the necessary traditional training and ceremonies. All I can tell you is that the powdered root is used in a decoction, solution or infusion, and taken internally.

The indigenous peoples who use/d this plant medicinally were the IsiXhosa, the IsiZulu and the Khoi-San. I have sifted through a number of sites and found the following that give a brief history/background of the people concerned, but of course there are many others: Information of African tribal healers in general Information about the isiXhosa. Information about the isiZulu. Information about the Khoisan people Go to plant no 8 on this page - Information about P. Sidoides

You may get some information from John Lockley, a well known Sangoma. His website is:

I will also send your query to another source and if the gentleman has anything to add, I will email his contact details to you.

I hope this is of some help.

Kind regards

Nice read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing some research on that. And he actually bought me lunch as I found it for him smile Thus let me rephrase that Thanks for lunch! debgeeeedb

I had this growing over about 3 square meters in my garden, and I didn't know what is was until I looked it up today. I live in Northern California and my Pelargonium patch took a hit last winter due ot a few days of frost, but about half of it survived and is doing nicely. I will be sure to cover it during cold spells next year because it is truly beautiful with the pale leaves and dark vibrant blossoms. Wonderful aroma too. It is doing quite well in mostly shade.

Hi Seabee

Thanks for your comment. It is so pleasing to hear from people overseas who grow the plants I love.

It would be wise to cover the plant during the cold spells. Being half-hardy, the plant can cope with a little light frost but sustained or heavy frost, as you have found, can kill it off.

I have been told that this plant is particularly venerated by indigenous peoples not only for its medicinal properties, but also for the deep colour of the flowers. In the wild here the flower is almost black, endowing it with a kind of mystical power.

Feel free to send a picture - I'd love to see your patch.

Kind regards

What's up it's me, I am also visiting this site daily, this website is actually pleasant and the visitors are really sharing fastidious thoughts. cbacdedddgdedgec

Normally I do not read post on blogs, but I wish to say that this writeup very compelled me to try and do it! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, quite great article. cfekkkbdkcagkdde

There is visibly a bundle to realize about this. I assume you made certain nice points in features also. fefdgeddggdddkdc

Very interesting subject , appreciate it for posting . All human beings should try to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why. by James Thurber. daagkdbgegkdkadd

whoah this blog is excellent i really like reading your articles. Stay up the good work! You already know, many persons are looking around for this info, you could help them greatly. kfcdgdaecdbedefa

Discuss this plant

Share knowledge, ask a question or give an experience.

Bottom Border