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Gardening 101: Geranium

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Gardening 101: Geranium

August 29, 2018

Geranium, Cranesbill: “Border Flower”

If you have never planted a hardy geranium in your garden, then you and your garden are missing out. Around the world these perennials thrive as wildflowers so there’s a good chance that one will be happy in your garden. Famous for their delicate, jewel-toned flowers, attractive foliage, and low mounding habit, geranium’s colors range from white to pale purple to magenta.

Geranium maculatum. Photograph by Marie Viljoen.
Above: Geranium maculatum. Photograph by Marie Viljoen.

Confusingly, however, the word geranium is also the common name for Pelargonium, a group of tender bedding plants that in US climates are better suited for containers whereas true geraniums make outstanding edging and filler plants.

Geranium &#8\2\16;Lilac Ice&#8\2\17; Cranesbill is £8.99 per plant from Crocus.
Above: Geranium ‘Lilac Ice’ Cranesbill is £8.99 per plant from Crocus.

Cheat Sheet

  • Geranium is an understated charmer to enhance woodland or cottage gardens, as a colorful mounding ground cover to link shrubs together, or tucked into containers where it can spill out. When planted near walkways, geraniums soften edges. Also a reliable choice to tuck into rock crevices, where the spreading foliage and flowers pair to soften the look of rocks.
  • Most geraniums bloom from spring thru summer, and attract pollinators. While some report that geraniums are deer resistant, I have had mixed experiences; in some gardens deer continually graze on the flowers.
  • Looks perfect with more upright companions such as coneflower, Shasta daisy, and tall ornamental grasses where geraniums provide contrast and won’t overshadow their neighbors.
A border of geraniums edges a garden bed. Photograph by Amanda Slater via Flickr.
Above: A border of geraniums edges a garden bed. Photograph by Amanda Slater via Flickr.

Keep It Alive

  • Prefers a bit of shade and well-draining, compost-rich moist soil.
  • Most geraniums are easy to start from seed, but if that is not your style then I recommend buying geraniums in four-inch pots because they grow quickly.
  • Winter care includes removing spent flower stalks and foliage, and trimming geraniums back to the crown to encourage new tidy growth. When new foliage appears in spring, give geraniums a slow-release fertilizer. As the season progresses, deadhead flowers to extend the bloom period.
Geranium &#8\2\16;Biokovo&#8\2\17;  by Karen Hine via Flickr.
Above: Geranium ‘Biokovo’  by Karen Hine via Flickr.

A favorite of mine is Geranium ‘Biokovo’ for its vigor, ability to thrive in sun or bright shade, fuss-free nature, and pale pink flowers that begin in late spring and continue until summer’s end. Grows to under a foot but can spread two to three feet, and beautifully cascades from walls like a true plant pro.

N.B.: For more growing tips, see Geraniums: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design. Planning a perennials border? See:

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