Geranium x magnificum 'Rosemoor'

Hardy geraniums - Grow Guide

Discover everything you need to know about growing hardy geraniums, or cranesbills, in this handy guide.

The name geranium can cause some confusion. Tender pelargoniums, that are used for bedding and container displays, have the common name of geranium.

Hardy geraniums, commonly known as cranesbill geraniums or simply cranesbills, are reliable, sometimes invasive, but undeniably stunning, long-flowering plants. Within the genus there are tiny alpine types and substantial border plants. There’s a hardy geranium for nearly every garden situation.

Take a look at our full advice on how to grow hardy geraniums in this handy guide. 

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Hardy geraniums are a popular perennial thanks to their ease and the wide choice. Some will flower right up until the first frost.

The majority of the border types prefer light shade, whilst the smaller alpine types prefer full sun. If you've a spot where nothing else grows, try a hardy geranium – they're pretty indestructible. Hardy geraniums can cope with any soil type and some, such as Geranium sylvaticum and its cultivars, can cope with very dry conditions.

Hardy geraniums can be great self-seeders and plants will often grow in tiny cracks in paving, only going to prove how tough they are.  

Planting technique

Hardy geraniums are often bought potted but they can also be purchased online as bare-root plants. If buying bare-root, plant as soon as plants arrive. There is no need to improve soil unless it’s very poor.

Simply plant and water in well, then leave them be. 

Troubleshooting

There are very few, if any, problems that cause concern. Hardy geraniums are trouble-free. However, some can be invasive. Lift and pot up seedlings – they will make great plants for charity sales or as gifts for friends.

Propagation

There is seldom a need to propagate geraniums as seedlings are easily lifted and potted up from the garden. Plants can be lifted and divided in spring. Growing from seed can be tricky and long-winded.

Care

Hardy geraniums need very little care. They’re not targeted by rabbits, and slugs and snails will eat other plants in preference. They can be cut back right to the ground after their first flush of flowers and will produce fresh foliage and more flowers in the same summer.

Some offer attractive autumn foliage, so resist cutting back too quickly. 

Pruning shears

Identifying hardy geraniums

Hardy geraniums are one of the largest group of garden plants. Foliage and flower colour varies hugely but the flowers are always symmetrical and made up of five petals. This makes them easy to identify.

Geranium 'Ann Folkard'
Geranium 'Ann Folkard'

Hardy geraniums to try

  • Geranium phaeum ‘Raven’ – prefers a position of dappled shade. Dark, blackish spring flowers. Reaching a height of about 50cm
  • Geranium cinereum ‘Ballerina’ - an alpine type ideal for sinks or rockeries. Deeply veined light-pink flowers. Prefers full sun and a well-drained soil. Long flowering period from April. Height of 20cm
  • Geranium sylvaticum ‘Album’ – native species that enjoys light shade. Flowers in spring for a good length of time. Pure white flowers. Is able to tolerate very dry seasons. Height 50cm
  • Geranium ‘Ann Folkard’ – deep purple flowers with an even darker centre displayed over lime-green foliage in early summer, sometime continuing into autumn. Enjoys a sunny spot. Can be vigorous. Height 50cm

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