Pelargonium zonale is an upright or scrambling shrub, normally growing to about 1 m (3 ft) in height but potentially up to 3 m (10 ft). Its stems are succulent, hairy when young becoming woody with age. The leaves often have a dark mark shaped like a horseshoe, giving rise to both the scientific and common name. The flowers are borne in an umbel; individual flowers are markedly zygomorphic. The petals vary from white through rose to red. The crown, which is about 3.5 centimeters in length, consists of five obcined slices, the top of which is formed in a thin, hollow spur clustered with a flower stem. Crown slices are colored in different shades of pink, red or white. It is covered with petiolate leaves with circular or shallow five-point blades with an average diameter of 5 to 8 cm. The blades are sparsely soft on the upper side, furry and along the serrated edge have a dark or reddish horseshoe-like strip.
For successful growth, all pelargoniums need a well-permeable soil with a neutral to slightly alkaline soil reaction, and to flower well, full illumination and a habitat that is adequately supplied with nutrients. In their homeland and in areas where the temperature does not fall below 0°C in winter, they grow as perennials and form half heads. In its native habitat, Pelargonium zonale flowers at all times of the year, but particularly in spring (September to November).