Dictionary of Flowers: Geranium, Hardy

Beautiful Geranium. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Bill Barber and Flickr

Beautiful Geranium. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Bill Barber and Flickr

  • Geranium, Hardy
  • Common name: geranium, cranesbill
  • Family: Geraniaceae
  • Category: perennial in USDA zones 4-8
  • Height: 8” to 20” 
  • Width: 12” to 36"
  • Sun/part shade
  • Blooms: late spring to early summer
  • Attracts: butterflies 
  • Growth habit: clumping, mounding, spreading. Used as filler in container combinations
  • Maintenance: easy
  • Soil: poor to average, sandy, well drained. Water regularly if grown in containers
  • Garden uses: containers, mixed border, cottage garden, groundcover, garden bed, rockery
  • Diseases: rust, powdery mildew, root rot
  • Pests: fairly pest free

Geranium is a large genus of long lived flowering perennials that are native to the Mediterranean region.

The name "geranium" is often times used to refer to the annual pelargonium. Though both types belong to the family Geraniaceae, they are two distinct genus.

Geranium gets its common name from the shape of the seed capsules, with a long beak-like center surrounded by seeds.

Cranesbill blooms during spring and summer.

The flowers are small white, pink or blue.

Foliage is attractive, scented and deeply lobed. 

Geraniums grow best in full sun, but can handle part shade. They can grow in poor to average to fertile soil, provided it is free draining. Mixing some organic matter when planting will improve drainage and increase soil's fertility.

If attempting to grow geranium in clay soil, sand or perlite should be added to the soil to achieve enough drainage. Water when soil feels dry. Geranium grown in hot zones might need supplemental watering during summer.

A balanced slow release fertilizer should be added to the soil when planting. After the geranium is established, fertilize once a year in spring. 

After they are finished blooming, shear all the blooming stems all the way to the basal growth.

There might be another round of blooms in fall, though not as impressive as the first. The clumps remain green and attractive even when the plant is done blooming. 

One of the many geranium colors. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of mwms1916 and Flickr

One of the many geranium colors. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of mwms1916 and Flickr

Cranesbill can be propagated by soft stem cuttings, division of the clump, rhizomes or in some cases, seed (some cranesbill are sterile). Divide the clump every three years or whenever the center dies. Division can be done any time of the year.

Cranesbill seed is slow to germinate. Sow seed, barely covered in moist starting mix. If there is no germination after four weeks when kept around 50-60F, cover with clear plastic and place in refrigerator for four to six weeks.

Return to 50-60F. After seedlings appear, place in bright light. Harden off and plant in their permanent position in spring. The seed can be wintersown.




Pink variety. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Swaminathan and Flickr

Pink variety. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Swaminathan and Flickr

Problems with soil drainage lead to root rot. Improve drainage to avoid. Rust and mildew can happen when the geranium is grown in part shade and the conditions are too humid. Treat with a fungicide. Cranesbill is not normally bothered by pests. Geranium is deer resistant.

Popular varieties:

  • Geranium 'Ann Folkard' - around twenty inches tall, pink blooms on yellow green foliage
  • Geranium 'Johnson's Blue' - slightly over a foot tall, flowers are lavender blue
  • Geranium 'Rozanne' - about two feet tall, blue flowers. Can spread to three feet. Long bloom period
  • Geranium 'Wargrave Pink' - clump forming, one to one and a half foot tall. Pink flowers. Does not do well in hot, humid zones
  • Geranium 'Tiny Monster' - compact, six to twelve inches. Good for containers. Magenta pink flowers
  • Geranium macrorhyzum - useful as a ground cover for dry shade. Small pink flowers in clusters
  • Geranium 'Orkney Cherry' - showy dark bronze foliage, pink flowers. Long bloom period. Grows to about a foot tall
Bright red geraniums. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Serres Fortier and Flickr

Bright red geraniums. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Serres Fortier and Flickr

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