Hardy geraniums, commonly known as cranesbill geraniums, cranesbills or ‘true geraniums’, are reliable, long-flowering, easy-to-grow plants. Within the genus there are tiny alpine geraniums and substantial border geraniums, flowering in a wide variety of colours.
Hardy geraniums are fantastic for pollinators such as bees and hoverflies. Some of them flower until the first frosts, providing a long season of nectar and pollen.
What’s the difference between geraniums and pelargoniums?
All plants have a species or Latin name, as well as a common name. The botanical name for cranesbill geraniums is Geranium. However, ‘geranium’ is also the common name for the species Pelargonium. Despite sharing a common name, geraniums (pelargoniums) and cransbills (geraniums) are different species, and have different growing requirements.
Looking for pelargonium geraniums? See our geraniums Grow Guide.
How to grow hardy geraniums
Grow hardy geraniums in moist but well-drained soil in sun or shade. Cut back after flowering to encourage a second flush of blooms. Hardy geraniums die back in autumn and regrow in spring. Mulching annually with leaf mould or well-rotted compost or horse manure will keep plants growing well for several years.
More on growing hardy geraniums:
Follow our detailed advice on growing hardy geraniums, below.
Where to grow hardy geraniums
Most hardy geraniums thrive in light shade, whilst the smaller alpine types do best in full sun. 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, proving how tough they are.
How to grow hardy geraniums
Hardy geraniums are often bought potted but they can also be purchased online as bare-root plants. If buying bare-root geraniums, pot them up as soon as they arrive, and then plant them out in a few weeks tim, when they’ve put on growth. There’s no need to improve soil unless it’s very poor.
Caring for hardy geraniums
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 hardy geraniums offer attractive autumn foliage, so resist the urge to cut back too quickly after flowering.
Watch our No Fuss video guide to cutting back hardy geraniums, featuring Rosie Yeomans:
Propagating hardy geraniums
There is seldom a need to propagate hardy geraniums as seedlings are easily lifted and potted up from the garden. Plants can be lifted and divided in spring. Growing hardy geraniums from seed can be tricky and long-winded.
Growing hardy geraniums: problem solving
Hardy geraniums are trouble-free.
Great hardy geraniums to grow
- Geranium phaeum ‘Raven’ – thrives in dappled shade. Dark, blackish spring flowers. Reaches 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 maculatum ‘Elizabeth Ann’ – a woodland species that enjoys dappled shade. Wonderful dark foliage with contrasting light purple flowers from May onwards. Height 45cm
- 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