What Is a Geranium?

By definition, a geranium is an herbaceous plant or small shrub of a genus that comprises the cranesbill — which is characterized by lobed leaves and five-petaled flowers—and their relatives, but what does that really mean? What do their flowers look like? What colors are available? Where do they grow? Read on as we seek to answer these and other questions about geraniums. 

Type of Plant

Geraniums are unique when it comes to their classification. They can be annuals, perennials or even houseplants. Most people purchase them at garden centers and nurseries to place in containers or window boxes and commonly replace them year after year. However, it’s these same varieties that typically do well indoors. In fact, many people choose to bring their potted outdoor geraniums indoors for overwintering. Many geraniums also make excellent ground cover and can add color to your beds. Check the plant tags or ask a landscape professional for more information of specific species.  

Size and Shape 

Geraniums feature five-petal flowering blooms. They generally grow to be between 18 and 36-inches tall with some varieties measuring shorter and others measuring taller. They can also spread to cover up to 36 inches.


One of the most alluring features of geraniums is their availability in a wide range of colors. Red is, perhaps, one of the most prevalent and widely popular colors chosen for both containers and gardens. Crisp, neutral white is an equally desirable choice that can blend with almost any garden combination. However, these staples aren’t the only choices on the market. Pinks — from soft bubble gums to bold fuchsias —  purples, blues and variegated options are all available to complement your landscape design. 

Growing Conditions

Because of their versatility, geraniums can grow in a range of conditions and zones. In general, they need six to eight hours per day of full sun to thrive. However, they also do well in partial shade environments that receive less direct sun in the heat of the day or the afternoon. They prefer moist, well-drained soil and shouldn’t be overwatered or they could become susceptible to root rot. 

When to Plant and Enjoy

Plant your geraniums in the spring after the threat of a frost has passed. With most varieties, you’ll be able to enjoy blooms throughout the summer and into early fall if you continue to water them properly and deadhead or cut them back to encourage new growth.