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Geranium (jer-ANE-ee-um)

Common Name:  Cranesbill, hardy geranium

Light:  - Full sun to part shade

Soil:  Average to rich, moist but well-drained

Moisture:  Average, some like it dry

Blooms:  Summer

Zones:  (3) 4 - 8


Geranium 'Rozanne' PP#12175

Geranium 'Sweet Heidy' PPAF

Geranium Description and Cultural Information

Geranium is a very large genus that includes tall, shrubby plants, as well as dainty ground covers. I am always surprised that gardeners aren't more familiar with these valuable and versatile plants. All have palmate leaves, 5-petaled flowers, and seed pods shaped like a crane's bill. They are all fairly easy to grow.

Geranium x cantabrigiense, Cambridge geranium. 6 - 12". Cambridge geranium forms a dense ground cover with masses of rounded leaves and mauve-pink flowers. 'Biokovo' has white flowers blushed pink and is one of my favorites for filling in around shrubs. 'Biokovo Karmina' has raspberry-red flowers. Zones 5 - 7.

Geranium cinereum, gray leaf geranium. 6 - 12". This low, spreading rock garden plant has small, gray-green leaves and 1" flowers of rose-red or pink with colorful veining. 'Ballerina' has lilac-pink flowers. 'Splendens' has magenta pink flowers. Zones 5 - 8.

Geranium endressi, Endress's geranium. 15 - 18". This is a mounding, spreading, sprawling plant with soft-pink flowers. 'Wargrave Pink' has rich pink flowers. 'Claridge Druce', a hybrid with G. versicolor, is a vigorous grower with lilac-pink flowers that comes true from seed. Zones 4 - 8.

Geranium himalayense, lilac cranesbill. 12 - 15". Lilac cranesbill is marked by deeply cut foliage, brilliant fall color, and intense violet-blue flowers. 'Birch Double' has lilac-purple, double flowers. 'Johnson's Blue' is a hybrid with G. pratense that has long-blooming, lavender-blue flowers in late spring. 'Nimbus' and 'Brookside' are new hybrids that are vigorous, longer-blooming, upright forms of 'Johnson's Blue'. Zones 4 - 8.

Geranium macrorrhizum, bigroot cranesbill. 15 - 18". This geranium makes a weed-proof ground cover. It has rounded, divided, aromatic foliage and bright-pink flowers. 'Ingwersen's Variety' has soft rose-pink flowers. 'Album' has white flowers with reddish sepals. 'Variegatum' has cream splashed foliage Zones 3 - 8.

Geranium maculatum, wild geranium. 1 - 2'. The North American wild geranium flowers in May and is covered with pink, rose-purple, blue, or white blooms for several weeks. Zones 4 - 8.

Geranium pratense, meadow cranesbill. 2 - 3'. This is a vigorous plant with deeply divided leaves, violet-blue flowers, and good autumn color. 'Mrs. Kendall Clarke' has pale-blue flowers flushed rose. Plants often need support and are best used against shrubs, roses, or other supportive perennials, or they can be cut back in summer to encourage a new mound of foliage. They can self-seed quite readily. 'Victor Reiter Jr.' has royal purple foliage in spring that turns to dark green with a purple edge, and large, dark lilac blooms. 'Midnight Reiter' is related but only grows to 9" with persistent purple foliage and prefers a hot, dry location. Zones 4 - 8.

Geranium. psilostemon, Armenian cranesbill. 2' - 4'. The species is short blooming but bears wonderful, deeply cut, broad leaves with excellent fall color. In June it has magenta flowers with a black center. 'Bressingham Flair' is a cooler lilac-pink. 'Patricia' is a hybrid with G. endressi that is particularly long flowering with bright magenta-pink flowers. 'Ann Folkard', a hybrid with G. procurrens, is a sprawling plant with chartreuse leaves and magenta flowers. Zones 5 - 7.

Geranium sanguineum, bloody cranesbill. 8 - 12". Bloody cranesbill is a hardy, low growing, spreading plant with small, deeply divided dark green leaves and bright-pink flowers held just above the foliage. 'Album' has white flowers. 'Alpenglow' has bright rose-red flowers on a low growing plant. 'New Hampshire purple' has deep reddish purple flowers. 'Striatum' has pink flowers with crimson veining. Zones 3 - 8.

How to Grow:  Most geraniums prefer average to rich, moist but very well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Most varieties are not particularly heat tolerant, so some afternoon shade is needed in warmer zones. G. endressi, G. macrorrhizum, and G. sanguineum are drought tolerant. Most species are slow growing, but others can be rapid spreaders which will need dividing every couple years to control their spread. Self-sown seedlings are sometimes an issue, especially with G. pratense and others, due to the numerous seeds catapulted by the ripe crane's bill. Seedlings can be easily dug up and shared with the neighbors if the seeds didn't reach them first. G. maculatum, wild geranium, grows well in woods and meadows with open shade.

Landscape uses:  Geraniums are terrific landscape plants because they work so well in many garden situations. Use the low growing varieties as border plants or in rock gardens. Use the larger plants with shrubs, roses, and large perennials such as Baptisia, tall-bearded and Siberian iris, meadow rue (Thalictrum), and ornamental grasses. Use them to weave the garden together. Most tolerate part shade and work well as a transition plant between the full sun and full shade parts of the garden. They also work well on the east or west sides of homes and buildings where they will be shaded out at different times of the day. The magenta colors look good with cooler blues and gray-leaved plants or with warmer oranges and orange-reds. The violet-blue colors work well with purples or pinks.

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