Hardy Geraniums

Photo by: DK – Garden Design
© 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK – Garden Design, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Hardy geraniums are true, wild geraniums. They are also often referred to as cranesbill geraniums. While the common hardy name might be attributed to their ability to survive in a variety of conditions, the cranesbill moniker comes from the shape of the fruit capsule from which the plant’s seeds are dispensed. Whichever name you prefer, hardy and cranesbill geraniums are one in the same. 

It should be noted that these geranium plants differ greatly from pelargoniums, which you will frequently see at local nurseries. Pelargoniums are marketed as geraniums — and are members of the geraniaceae family — but have a very different appearance featuring upright, ball-shaped blooms. 

On the other hand, hardy geraniums have fewer blooms that reveal themselves in a bush-like display. True hardy geraniums have flowers comprised of five petals each that span approximately 1/2 to 1-1/2 inches wide. You’ll find hardy geraniums in shades of purple, blue, white, and pink. 

When it comes to growing conditions, hardy geraniums take to a number of environments. For example, while they are partial to the sun, they can tolerate and even thrive in areas that receive some shade. They require little care or maintenance, yet tend to remain free of disease, which could explain their ability to survive in wild and remote areas — and again speak to their ‘hardy’ name. They prefer fertile, well-drained soil that is moist. They can be planted as ground cover, in containers, in rock gardens or in beds as a border. When you spot them in their native woodland habit, you may see them working their way in between rocks or mounded at the base of a hill. 

It should also be noted that hardy geraniums are perennial plants. They will lie dormant in the winter, and then just as spring begins to emerge they will exhibit new growth on their leaves. Their flowering may last throughout the growing season become more and less intense as it cycles. The height and spread of these geraniums can vary widely from one variety to another, so be sure to check your plant tag for exact specifications and recommended growing conditions. If you find a variety that you love, know they are relatively easy to propagate and share.  

Perhaps the most popular of the cranesbill varieties is ‘Rozanne,’ a heat-tolerant plant that has bluish-purple blooms. Other well-known varieties include ‘Johnson’s Blue,’ which is prized for its vibrant periwinkle blue blooms, and ‘Ann Folkard,’ which has bright fuchsia flowers.