Geraniums On The Cranium

Some of my favorite perennial flowers are Geraniums. When I say Geranium, I mean members of the genus Geranium that also go by the common names Cranesbill or Hardy Geranium.

Geranium 'Johnson's Blue'
Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’ spills nicely over the edge of a raised bed.

I don’t mean the red flowering annuals that grow in pots. Those are really members of the genus Pelargonium, but are commonly called Zonal Geraniums, Scented Geraniums, or Ivy Geraniums (actually, these names apply to three different species of Pelargonium). But you probably knew that already.

Zonal Geraniums
Those red flowers are Pelargoniums, but we call them Geraniums. Why, you ask?   Who knows?


There are many, many different species, hybrids, and cultivars of Geranium. However, they tend to have certain traits in common. They have a low, mounded habit. They have five petaled flowers that bloom in blue, pink, or white. They have hand-shaped leaves, often deeply lobed. And they tend to be easy care plants.

I have four different Geraniums in my garden.

Geranium 'Johnson's Blue'
Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’

Geranium himalayense ‘Johnson’s Blue’. For me, this is the Old Faithful of Geraniums. Forms a loose mound about 12-18″ tall with profuse blue flowers in May and June. Can get rather sprawling, but that is part of its charm. Flowers are sterile. Will grow in sun or shade. People talk about the new hybrid ‘Rozanne’ as superior to ‘Johnson’s Blue’, but I have not found that to be the case.

Wild Geranium
Wild Geranium

Geranium maculatum, Wild Geranium. This is the North American native Geranium. Flowers are usually lavender, or white if you get the variety ‘alba’. Definitely not sterile, it will start popping up around your garden, but new plants are easy to remove or transplant. Leaves may whither during a hot summer, but just cut it back and fresh foliage will emerge.  A good native spring flower for shady gardens.

Geranium 'Tschelda'
Geranium ‘Tschelda”

Geranium renardii ‘Tschelda’. This Geranium is well adapted to sunny, drier spots. The flowers are blue with darker veining, and the leaves have a felt-like texture. Shorter at about 1′. I planted these for the first time last fall, so far they are doing well this year.

Geranium Biokovo
Geranium Biokovo. I took this with my phone.

Geranium ‘Biokovo’. White flowers with pink centers. About 12″ tall and 18″ wide. Very adaptable – sun or shade, dry or moist soil (but not too moist).  Foliage turns red in the fall.

I use these Geraniums mainly for edging and as ground covers, and they generally perform well.

Do you have Hardy Geraniums in your garden?


55 Comments on “Geraniums On The Cranium”

  1. I love hardy Geraniums. I have several, but I don’t remember all the names, but I do have G. renardii and ‘Biokovo’ and another named ‘Karmina’ which is like Biokovo, but a bright lavender/pink. They are great for spreading around as edging.

  2. I have several hardy geraniums, but am not sure of all the names – I think I may have the Rozanne – very pretty but short flowering if hot. I have a wild Geranium macrorrhizum called ‘Czakor’ – it smells a bit odd, but is wonderful ground cover in a hot dry spot. I love the last photo you show – I have just found it online at my favourite nursery, so it’s on the list for autumn planting! Thanks, and have a great weekend!

  3. Yes, I was just thinking on the morning tour with the boxer that the geraniums are starting to pop. I’m behind you, but my ‘Tschelda’ is putting on a nice show, and I have ‘Tiny Monster’ (a very agressive beast), also a white form very similar to ‘Tiny Monster’ tagged with the species modifier “alba”, I have ‘Karmina’ which I seem to recall is the pink form of ‘Biokova’ (which I also might have), I have a pratense which is towering and blue that I grew from seed. I think it is over 2′ tall. I have ‘Johnson’s Blue’ and I have to saw unless you have a hot sunny spot with LOTS of moisture I do prefer it over ‘Rozanne’. In the right spot ‘Rozanne’ will show from June to October with a tiny haircut mid summer, but I don’t think it gets sited properly even half the time. It doesn’t like shade or competition.

    Of course the native was my intro to hardy geraniums, and I am still in love with the way it emerges in spring looking like a multicolored pineapple.

  4. You’ve got a nice selection of geraniums! I only grow one, G. wvlassovianum, and it is a nice sprawly groundcover with fairly profuse deep lavender flowers. But it’s the fall color that is stunning — rich sparkly garnets and russets. Really nice. It is a seeder. I find little geraniums popping up all over.

  5. If there’s a spot left anywhere in my yard where a perennial geranium might grow and crowd out weeds, I’d love it. I am a perennial devotee, in large part because I don’t have much time to work in the yard and I keep trying to find plants that will take care of themselves and take over, if necessary. Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. I love geraniums, too! My three favorite: Philippe Vapelle (meaty leaf, lovely blue flower, and great fall color), G. sanguineum (rock hardy and not afraid to seed around), and Rozanne (like Johnson’s blue, but not as floppy, and blooms all summer).

  7. Well, you know I love them…they are such great fillers…and so good for weaving a planting together. I’ve had great luck with ‘Rozanne’, but I think she likes our cooler summers…she forms a thick blanket about 3′ wide, blooming profusely for months until frost. I really like ‘Ann Folkard’, for her chartreuse foliage and magenta blooms…but she hates a lot of heat, and can look pretty ratty if we have early heat (like this year, sadly). Geranium macrorrhizum is a great groundcover Geranium, tough as nails, pretty spring flowers, and smells wonderful if you brush against it (although that depends on the person, I’ve heard some people say it smells awful, but I think it smells “woodsy” and nice).

  8. I’ve grown a few varieties of hardy geranium in my White Rock gardens…but there aren’t any up here yet..

    We do have a very invasive version of weedy geranium that want’s to establish up here…but I keep it in check in the gardens…the grass is another story.

    I’ve had Ballarina? She was lovely but succumbed.


  9. Ah ha, that’s what I meant, I read the comment above it was Ann Folkard that I had, a fated love affair she was so beautiful…but she is the one that succumbed. We are super hot up here, so there is no use pursuing her anymore.


  10. I have the excess Biokova that a certain avid gardener gave me last spring. Planted it in an empty shady spot and this spring it is filling in nicely. Have a pink variety – don’t know the name – that we got from Gethsemane 10 years ago which I have to beat back from the other plants in the tightly planted bed, but they look great – lots of blooms.

  11. Hi Jason, I wish we had a few geraniums, they’re such good plants and yours are looking lovely. I’ve been vetoed on getting Geraniums by the other half but there are so many types, I may be able to find one that doesn’t look like a geranium and sneak it into the garden,

  12. Jason, the title of this post was something spooky that made me smile.
    I love geraniums too, I have several wild varieties here but none are interesting like yours, they just produce a lot of leaves, tiny invisible flowers and then die, so I always pull them as any other unwanted weed.
    I have Johson’s Blue and Brookside, both of them are blue flowered and I like them. I also have a couple of g. macrorrhizum, white and deep pink, that I use as ground covers, like your Biokovo. I like the smell of their roots when you brush them.

  13. When it comes to Geraniums I grow a little bit of everything. The newest acquisition is G. ‘Orkney Cherry’ which I bought on a recommendation that is was a superior variety. I’ve since heard otherwise so time will tell.

    While reading your post I remembered that I had a G. renardii that I moved last year but for the life of me I can’t remember where. Occasionally that happens but usually I come across the plant. So far I haven’t so it must be a goner. Too bad because I like the foliage.

  14. Your geranium collection is great! I only have Rozanne, moved it to the front yard to enjoy it better. Read through earlier posts….love the Chicago gardens, great color, such an impact. My fragrance in the garden sadly doesn’t include lilacs, wish it did, but we have Magnolias and gardenias blooming now…heavenly!

  15. I love hardy geraniums. One of the things that makes this genus so special is its variety — there’s something for many different growing conditions. For example, I have Johnson’s Blue in my garden, but it doesn’t like my conditions and does not thrive here; it has never looked like yours! Like you, I tried ‘Rozanne’ and didn’t have good luck with it; it’s actually not very cold hardy. But when I planted Rozanne in my Gettysburg garden, it did great. I’ve never grown G. renardii, but I love the looks of yours.

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