Perennial Geraniums

Photo by: DK – Simple Steps to Success: Family Garden
© 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK – Simple Steps to Success: Family Garden
, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Perennial geraniums go by several different names. You may have heard these wild geraniums referred to as true, hardy or cranesbill geraniums. While there are several common names for them, the labels are meant to set this plant apart from one that people commonly think of when they picture geraniums: pelargoniums. In this instance, dubbing the plant a perennial geranium helps to distinguish it from the annual growing habit of the pelargonium. 

Whether you refer to it as a perennial, hardy, true or cranesbill geranium, the characteristics are all the same. They have a long bloom life in the garden and feature saucer-shaped flowers comprised of five petals. These blooms can be anywhere from 1/2 to 1-1/2 inches wide, dotting a lush, green foliage. This is another factor that distinguishes them from the pelargoniums that are often marketed as geraniums and are in fact members of the geraniaceae family. Pelargoniums have upright, ball-shaped blooms and do not have the mounding habit of perennial geraniums.

When it comes to growing conditions, perennial geraniums are relatively low maintenance and will bloom in a variety of areas. For example, while they are partial to the sun, they can tolerate and even thrive in gardens that receive some shade. They require little care or upkeep yet tend to remain free of disease, which could explain their ability to survive in wild and remote areas. This type of geranium also prefers 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. 

Since — as the name indicates — they 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 summer growing season become more and less intense as it cycles. 

The height and spread of perennial 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.  

Perennial geraniums are available in shades of pink, blue, purple and white. Popular varieties include ‘Johnson’s Blue,’ which features bright purplish-blue flowers that have a long blooming habit; ‘Bloody’ geranium, which has vibrant fuchsia blooms and can withstand the heat of summer; and, ‘Rozanne,’ which is perhaps the most well-known perennial geranium, featuring purple-blue blooms.