Hardy Geranium Plants – Growing Hardy Cranesbill Geranium And Its Care

Hardy Geranium Plants – Growing Hardy Cranesbill Geranium And Its Care

By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden

When searching for flowers that are adaptable, compact, and long-blooming, consider hardy geranium plants (Geranium spp.). Also called cranesbill geranium flower, the plant comes in colors ranging from pinks, blues, and vivid purples to subdued whites. Attractive, cup shaped or frilly flowers bloom profusely and spread abundantly. The hardy geranium flower blooms in late spring and lasts until fall. Some hardy geranium plants have attractive foliage that lasts until nipped by frost.

How to Plant Hardy Geraniums

Growing hardy cranesbill geranium may be as easy as planting and watching it blossom when conditions are somewhat damp. Hardy geranium plants grow best in consistently moist soil when first planted, but become somewhat drought tolerant when established. Growing hardy cranesbill geranium in fertile soil also encourages the plant to spread.

Many varieties of hardy geranium plants exist and thrive in full sun to shady locations. When considering how to plant hardy geraniums, consider the location where you wish to plant and choose an appropriate plant for the available sunlight.

Locate the plant where it has room to sprawl, clipping the edges back if necessary to keep it within its boundaries. Some varieties may be used as ground cover, while others are attractive as border plants. Brighten the rock garden with various cultivars of the cranesbill geranium flower, which may be as short as six inches (15 cm.) or as tall as three feet (1 m.). Smaller varieties may cascade from containers.

Hardy geraniums should be planted so the crown of the plant is at soil level; planting the crown more deeply can result in the loss of the cranesbill geranium flower.

Hardy Geranium Care

Hardy geranium care involves the removal of spent blooms and occasional watering for the best performance.

When mature, the cranesbill geranium flower has few insect pests and requires only limited fertilization. Rich organic soil is often all the plant needs for optimum growth and flower set.

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How to Grow Cranesbill Geraniums

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Cranesbill geraniums (Geranium spp.), also called hardy geraniums, are flowering perennials that earned their name because the long, slender seed heads look similar to a crane's beak. Unlike the zonal, annual geraniums that belong to the Pelargonium genus, cranesbills are true geraniums that thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 or 4 through 8, depending on the cultivar. These hardy, adaptable plants are great choices for gardeners wanting easy-to-grow, low-maintenance plants that reliably bloom for several weeks.

Choose a planting location that receives full sun to partial shade. Cranesbill geraniums prefer fertile, moist soils in sites with good drainage. These plants like a little afternoon shade in areas with hot summers.

Locate your cranesbill where it has plenty of room to spread. Depending on the variety, your plant will grow to 6 to 30 inches in height with similar spreads. Space multiple geraniums as far apart as the variety's maximum mature width.

Amend the soil with organic material such as compost before planting. This helps retain soil moisture as well as feeds your plant. Add perlite to the soil if you wish to improve drainage.

Add a light application of slow-release fertilizer to the planting area and water the soil well. Follow the label's instructions for new plantings.

Plant your cranesbill geranium so that the crown is even with the soil. Planting the crown more deeply can quickly cause crown rot.

Water your geraniums often enough during the first year of growth to keep the soil consistently moist. Avoid excess moisture, however, because that can quickly lead to root rot. Most cransebill varieties are drought tolerant once they become established, so water only during extended drought situations once the plant matures.

Remove spent flower stalks to encourage repeat blooms. Use garden shears to prune the stalk until about 3 inches remains above the soil line.

Inspect your plant's leaves for leaf spot infections during hot, humid weather. Leaf spot is rarely a serious problem with cranesbill geraniums, but cutting infected plant tissue down to 6 to 8 inches in height helps promote new, healthy plant growth.

Divide large cranesbill geranium plants in the spring. Carefully dig on one side of the plant clump to remove a side shoot with healthy roots. Replant the new division promptly.

16 Eye-Catching Varieties of Hardy Geranium

Horst Solinger / Getty Images

Hardy geraniums, often known by the common name "cranesbill," are the plants that truly own the Geranium genus name. The annual "geraniums" so popular for container gardening seem to get more attention, but they actually belong to the Pelargonium genus. But, once you've grown hardy geraniums, annual geraniums may lose their appeal.

Hardy perennial geraniums shrug off cold winters, with many hardy to zone 3. Pests generally pass over hardy geraniums, so no chemical sprays are needed. Plants have a long bloom season, and the lobed foliage is attractive even out of bloom. Plus, hardy geraniums don't demand frequent division, and, once established, they're among the easiest of all perennials to grow.

In general, hardy geraniums are tolerant of a broad range of soil, temperature, and sunlight conditions, though they prefer well-draining soil. The warmer the climate, the more the plants will appreciate some afternoon shade. Cutting back the plants often results in a second flush of flowers in the late summer or early fall.

The Geranium genus is quite a large one, comprising more than 400 species. The common varieties grown by gardeners include about 18 different species and their named cultivars as well as a number of hybrid crosses derived from breeding different species.

Here are 16 great varieties of hardy geranium to consider for your garden.

Gardening Tip

Hardy geranium is the rare plant that does best without any fertilizer at all, though it may appreciate an annual top-dressing of compost around its base.

Hardy geraniums in the garden

We have members of the family growing in most areas around our property, from shady nooks to sun-baked borders. For the most part, I've found them to be very adaptable. Certainly, some prefer more shade and moisture, while others are more particular about soil drainage - but I've lost very few plants to a mismatch of cultural conditions. The individual plant portraits, linked from this page, give a little more information about the specific requirements of various species.

Best Hardy Geraniums

Bursting with flowers, hardy geraniums also feature a lush foliage which adds valuable texture in the garden. Incredibly tough, pest and disease resistant, they give a lot and require very little. Most hardy geraniums are ridiculously easy to grow. All they require is a moderately fertile, well-drained soil. A few species are even reliably drought tolerant in normal summer conditions.

There is a hardy geranium to suit most garden situations. Some do incredibly well in sunny borders while others prefer woodland settings. Some make fabulous weed-choking ground covers while others are well suited to containers or rock gardens. Most bloom profusely over a very long season, extending from spring to fall.

There are about 300 species and a plethora of cultivars and hybrids in the world. If you are looking for the best hardy geranium that will sail through the challenges of the seasons, you may want to consider any of these top performing varieties in terms of ornamental qualities, ease of growth, hardiness, and disease and pest resistance. As you will note, most of them have received the prestigious Award of Garden Merit of the Royal Horticultural Society!

The Best Hardy Geraniums for your Garden

Geranium 'Brookside' (Cranesbill)

Combining grace and reliability, award-winning Geranium 'Brookside' is a very desirable border plant which provides long-lasting color in the garden. It forms dense mounds of deeply cut, lacy, dark green leaves, topped from late spring to fall with profuse and very attractive, violet-blue blossoms, 1.5 in. wide (4 cm), with fine reddish veins and white throats. Drought tolerant, once established, it is attractive to butterflies but deer & rabbit resistant

Colorful Flowers and Leaves

Perennial geraniums are a colorful bunch, unfurling leaves and flowers in a wide range of hues. Flower shades include pink, purple, red, burgundy, blue and white. Blossoms often have deeper toned veins, creating a whisker effect on petals. Many hardy geraniums bloom strongest from spring to midsummer. Geranium ‘Max Frei,’ a bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum) type, and wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) fit this category. Other varieties, like Rozanne or Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue,’ open flowers the entire growing season.

Hardy geranium plants have divided leaves that bring a fine texture to garden designs. Leaf colors might include green, burgundy, gold or near-black, like ‘Dark Reiter’ Geranium pratense, a type of cranesbill geranium (above). Some geraniums, like the native wildflower Geranium maculatum, have leaves that blaze with bright tones of orange, gold or red in autumn.

Plant size varies among hardy geraniums, from a ground-hugging 6 inches to more of a knee-high, 18-inch-tall plant. Some form tidy tufts in a planting bed, while others have stems that sprawl and crawl their way through the garden during the growing season. Perennial geraniums are usually hardy from Zones 5 to 9.

10 hardy geraniums to grow

We pick 10 of the best hardy geraniums to grow, including low-growing choices for pots and containers.

Published: Sunday, 29 September, 2019 at 3:29 pm

Cranesbills, or hardy geraniums, are perennial border plants with saucer-shaped flowers in shades of pink, purple and blue. They are easy to grow, thrive in shade and flower for months.

They’re popular in cottage garden schemes and offer a long season of pollen and nectar for a number of pollinators, particularly bees.

Most geraniums will grow in a wide range of conditions, preferring sunny positions and humus-rich soil. They’re often vigorous plants, which can freely seed themselves around the garden.

Discover 10 great hardy geraniums to grow, below.

Looking for pelargonium geraniums? See our geraniums Grow Guide.

Geranium oxonianum

Geranium oxonianum f. thurstonianum bears single to double, pink-purple flowers with very narrow petals. It’s perfect for growing at the front of a mixed herbaceous border, or at the base of shrubs such as roses. H x S 50cm x 70cm.

Geranium sanguineum var. striatum

Geranium sanguineum var. striatum is a compact, very low-growing geranium, which bears masses of pale pink, veined flowers in contrast with dark green foliage. It’s perfect for growing at the front of a mixed herbaceous border, or in containers on the patio. H x S 10cm x 30cm.

Geranium ‘Patricia’

Geranium ‘Patricia’ bears bright purple flowers with black centres over a low-growing mound of dark green leaves. Leaves turn a fantastic shade of red in autumn. H x S 60cm x 45cm.

Geranium cinereum ‘Giuseppe’

Geranium cinereum ‘Giuseppe’ is a compact variety that remains as a neat cushion. From early to late summer the plants are covered with half inch-wide, bowl-shaped magenta flowers. H x S 30cm x 30cm.

Geranium ‘Max Frei’

Geranium ‘Max Frei’ bears bright pink, veined flowers on hairy stems, from June to August. Grow it at the front of a mixed herbaceous border, and deadhead spent blooms regularly to prolong flowering. H x S 40cm x 35cm.

Geranium ‘Rozanne’

Named after nurserywoman Rozanne Waterer who discovered this attractive hardy geranium with her husband Donald, Geranium ‘Rozanne’ bears large violet-blue flowers with white centres and grey anthers, for months on end. H x S 30cm x 60cm.

Geranium x magnificum

Geranium x magnificum produces a glorious show of rich violet-blue flowers in mid-summer. The Royal Horticultural Society have given their prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM). H x S 60cm x 90cm.

Geranium ‘Spessart’

A pink-flowered plant is sometimes sold under the name ‘Spessart’ but the true plant has white flowers. It makes a useful ground cover plant for dry, shady areas, producing a dense mat of aromatic leaves, which take on rich autumn tints. H x S 50cm x 60cm.

Geranium maderense

Geranium maderense is the largest of the geranium species, reaching a lofty 1.5m in height. Although perennial, it often acts as a biennial, producing pretty magenta pink blooms in its second year. H x S 100cm x 150cm.

Watch the video: Late April Hints and Tips for your Pelargoniums.