July: Cranesbill

If you're looking for an adaptable, colorful, varied, and space-filling family of plant, cranesbill (also known as geranium or hardy geranium) may be what you're looking for. There are cranesbills adapted to sun or partial shade, ones that form tidy little mounds or sweeping masses, bright and vibrant flowers or cool shades. Some are even semi-evergreen! Read on to learn more.

 'Johnson's Blue' and other purple-flowered geraniums tend to be larger overall.  By I, KENPEI, CC BY-SA 3.0

'Johnson's Blue' and other purple-flowered geraniums tend to be larger overall.
By I, KENPEI, CC BY-SA 3.0

There are several different species of cranesbill from different parts of the world. The varieties we use in the landscape can be varieties of these species or selected hybrids. Depending on the exact type you can see different sizes and textures of leaves, looser or tighter growth habits, larger or smaller flowers, and bloom colors in many shades of pinks, purples, and white. What they all have in common is a low, spreading habit, a consistent showing of flowers from early summer through late summer, and a decent tolerance of clay soils. Many also get a nice red to maroon fall foliage color, but not all. Some of the larger varieties can get leggy during the heat of the summer, but cutting back the old stems to the new growth flushing out from the center can rejuvenate the plant.

 'Biokovo' has more delicate white flowers with some pink.  By Ghislain118 (AD) www.fleurs-des-montagnes.net - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

'Biokovo' has more delicate white flowers with some pink.
By Ghislain118 (AD) www.fleurs-des-montagnes.net - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Common Name: Cranesbill, Geranium, Hardy Geranium, or Perennial Geranium

Scientific Name: Geranium species and hybrids

Notable Varieties: 'Max Frei' (small, glossy, semi-evergreen foliage and dark pink flowers), 'Rozanne' (blue flowers, very heat tolerant), 'Biokovo' (small white flowers with hints of pink that sit higher over foliage than most other varieties)

Light: full sun to partial shade

Size: 6-18" tall and 9-24" wide, depending on variety

Soil: tolerates clay soil, but prefers better drainage

Blooms: white, pink, purple, or blue flowers of different shades

Other Notes: deer and rabbit tolerant, low-maintenance, tolerates mild drought once established

See other plants of the month.


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