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Monday, May 24, 2010

Hardy Geraniums

Each year at this time I find myself photographing and writing about my hardy Geraniums.

For those of you who are new to my writings or new to the world of perennials, there are true Geraniums that are hardy perennials here on Long Island (USA zone 6b). These Geraniums look nothing like the tender Geraniums people buy for their planters, those are actually named Pelargoniums.

Hardy Geraniums are incredibly valuable to the perennial garden. Probably the most common variety (certainly the first I ever grew) is Geranium sanguinium pictured here in the opening shot. The color of the blooms is almost impossible for the camera to capture.

One lesson that needs to be learned when growing hardy Geraniums is that they rarely stand on their own. They tend to be soft stemmed and much prefer to cascade, sprawl, lean and meander on and around neighbor plants. If used correctly, this tendency can be quite charming.

Unfortunately this trait tends to make hardy Geraniums look messy or leggy in pots and messy plants are hard to sell.

Once planted in the ground though it's a whole different matter. In many cases their growth is thick and lush, allowing no chance for weeds to come up. You can see how nice and tight this clump of Geranium sanguinium is.

An important thing to note when you go out looking for hardy geraniums is that there are varieties that require sun (the sanguiniums up top do best with a good amount of sunlight although they will tolerate lower light conditions) other varieties prefer some shade and a few require even more shade. The bloom you see here is from Geranium phaeum also known as the "mourning widow geranium". This is one that does well in the shade.

Interestingly, I just read on one web site that this Geranium also grows in sunlight but that website was a Brittish site. Keep that in mind when you research your plants, what takes full sun in England is very different than what might take full sun here.

Geranium pratense 'Midnight Reiter' is another shade Geranium. In my experience this one does not clump up as vigorously as other varieties but you can see it is certainly a most welcome addition to the shade garden.

One more shade Geranium that I've grown to love is Geranium nodosum. This beauty does not bloom as heavily as the other Geraniums but as you can see, it has beautiful lush foliage. Those of you who know me well know that I'm always on the hunt for plants with great foliage.

Foliage is definitely a plus on most of the hardy Geraniums. In a semi shade (morning sun) location, the foliage of Geranium 'Nimbus' is just wonderful.

Today I saw the first bloom on 'Nimbus', more are sure to come.

I guess I can't say I favor any one Geranium over another but can tell you that this Geranium 'Bevan's Variety' wins an award for growing into a lush clump in a location that is hostile to so many plants. Dry shade under a life-sucking Norway maple, this baby just keeps on going.

The cantabrigiense Geraniums (this one is 'Cambridge') deserve a posting of their own and I've done exactly that in the past. At the top of this blog and my other blog at Melanie's Old Country Gardens you can type "Geranium" into the search bar and find past articles on these wonderful perennials. This is my 104th posting on this blog but the other has 380 so if you are looking for lots of information, check that site out too.

Off to play in the dirt,


  1. Melanie - I've loved all the varieties of hardy geraniums I've purchased from you! I can't wait to buy some more!

  2. Melanie,
    Your site is both eye catching and informative. I have several varieties of geraniums. Thanks for sharing your pictures and knowledge.

  3. I enjoyed this entry about Geranium and am glad to discover your blog. Was searching for the name of one I'm blogging about today.


I do so love to read your comments! Much as I wish I also had time to reply, many times I will have to choose between replying to comments or creating a new post so please understand if I choose to use my time on a new post. This will also give me time to visit some of you too.