Geranium Plants

Hardy geraniums offer attractive foliage and bright, cheery flowers

The genus Geranium contains mostly perennial herbs and subshrubs, commonly called true geraniums, hardy geraniums, or cranesbills, not to be confused with the Pelargonium genus, commonly called geraniums. A longtime favorite, hardy geraniums are one of the most popular bedding plants, grown for their attractive foliage and bright, cheery blooms that come in a wide array of colors, including blue, pink, purple, red, and white, their 5 petals commonly veined or patterned in contrasting shades. They typically bloom in late spring or summer, and sometimes into fall, depending on cultivar and climate. The nectar-rich flowers often completely blanket the foliage, attracting butterflies and bees, and the long, slender, beak-like seed capsules (hence the name cranesbill) draw in songbirds.

Geranium is a genus of about 300 species that grow primarily in cool temperate regions, many native to North America and Europe. A few popular cultivated varieties are G. maculatum (cranesbill, spotted geranium, wild geranium); G. sanguineum (bloody cranesbill, bloodred geranium); G. carolinianum (Carolina cranesbill, Carolina geranium, wild geranium); G. wallachianum (Wallich geranium, Wallich cranesbill); and G. pratense (meadow cranesbill, common cranesbill, wild geranium). Hardy geraniums are rhizomatous plants with a low, spreading habit and will naturalize in optimum growing conditions. The foliage stays attractive year-round in mild climates and some varieties take on fall color. The plant works especially well massed as a ground cover or in patio pots, window boxes, and hanging baskets.

Cold hardy, easy to grow, and low maintenance, hardy geraniums grow in a wide range of conditions, from full sun to shade. Although some species prefer dry, sandy soils, they generally grow best in moist, humusy soils. They tolerate drought, once established, and resist deer and rabbits.