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.
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 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.
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.
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:
- Perennials: A Field Guide
- Garden Visit: Flower Borders in a Colorful English Garden at Tattenhall Hall
- 10 Ideas to Steal from English Cottage Gardens
- Pelargoniums: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design