How To Grow and Care For Cranesbill Geranium (Hardy Geranium)


Cranesbill Geraniums [jer-AY-nee-ums] have long been a garden favorite in many parts of the world. The Cranesbill is known for their mounding habit and colorful, showy flowers.

The plants belong to the genus Geranium of the family Geraniaceae and are native to the temperate regions, around the world. 

flowering Hardy Cranesbill Geraniumflowering Hardy Cranesbill Geranium

However, they are found in abundance in the eastern parts of the Mediterranean region. 

The flowering plants are also seen growing on the mountains of the tropics.

Geranium is a big genus with about 422 species, including annual, biennial, and perennial flowering plants.

Cranesbill Geranium is the name generally used to refer to the perennial geranium species.  

The plants are also known with the following common names:

  • Hardy geraniums
  • Wild geraniums
  • True geraniums
  • Cranesbills

The common name cranesbill refers to the long, beak-like shape of the seed containing fruit capsule some varieties produce.

More from the Geranium Family:

Cranesbill Geranium Care

Size & Growth

While the height of cranesbills varies across species, they generally qualify as taller shrubs and grow up to 12” to 20” inches in a year. 

However, they are mounding plants and also generally have spread of 18” to 24” inches.

Although the plants are native to temperate regions, they are being widely grown all over the world, under similar conditions.

A distinguishing factor of hardy geraniums is their dark green leaves with a light, citrusy fragrance, which is why they are sometimes referred to as scented geraniums

The foliage of these plants makes a beautiful display in autumn with a mix of brown, yellow, burnished bronze, and red colors.

Flowering and Fragrance

In the summer, the plants produce beautiful flowers in white, purple, magenta, lilac, blue, violet-blue, and shades of pink. 

In many varieties of cranesbills, the bloom time starts in late spring and lasts till late fall. 

The flowers are attractive and typically lobed and cup-shaped.

The beautiful flower colors have made these geranium species a popular choice for gardens.

Light & Temperature

True geraniums grow best in full sun but also appreciate part shade, in the afternoon 

The best sites for these plants are those where they receive early morning sunlight and light shade in the afternoon. 

They also grow well as underplants.

The plants are winter hardy to USDA hardiness zone 4-9.

Watering and Feeding

Since cranesbill geraniums prefer moist soil, water them frequently. 

However, make sure to not overwater as they cannot survive in standing water or waterlogged soil.

The flowering perennial plant species benefit from once a year feeding with a balanced 10-20-10 fertilizer in early spring when the new foliage just starts to appear. 

The fertilizer should be reapplied as the plants start producing new growth, after deadheading in mid-summer. 

Do not fertilize these geranium species more than this as over-fertilizing is a common cause of sprawling and lanky growth.

Soil & Transplanting

Wild geranium plants prefer rich and loamy soil containing humus. 

But, they can grow in almost any soil type as long as it is well-draining.

They also prefer their soil to be a bit moist, but cannot survive in overly saturated or waterlogged soil.

Grooming and Maintenance

Cranesbills are a plant type that need to be slightly trained and pruned to maintain a good appearance. 

They also benefit from regular deadheading, ideally in mid-summer when some cultivars may be lagging growth. 

In such situations, cut the mound back by half to improve the appearance, encourage blooming as well as to increase the flowering period. 

Overall, hardy geraniums are low maintenance plants and once established they only require little care apart from ensuring regular watering.

While deadheading is beneficial for improving the appearance of the plant, it can make you lose the seedheads. 

Therefore, if you are looking to propagate cranesbills through seeds, make sure you leave some pods on the plant.

How To Propagate Hardy Geranium

Hardy geraniums are propagated by seeds, stem rooting, semi-ripe wood cuttings, and root division.

From seeds:

Collect them in the summer and then store to sow in spring or early summer, the next growing season.

Through stem rooting:

  • Stem rooting is done anytime throughout the year, but make sure to do it in water. 
  • To develop healthy and strong roots, make sure to take stem cuttings from just below the node and use a sharp knife for it. 
  • Trim the lower leaves and also remove flowers (f there are any). 
  • Place the cuttings in water in an opaque container and place it in a sheltered spot in the garden or on a bright windowsill, where it gets 2 to 6 hours of sunlight. 
  • Change the water every few days.  
  • Stem cuttings generally start forming roots in 3 to 4 weeks. 
  • Let the roots develop to 1” to 2” inches and then plant in soil.

From semi-ripe wood cuttings:

  • Summer is the ideal time for propagating hardy geraniums from semi-ripe wood cuttings. 
  • But, it is performed anytime from mid-summer to mid-autumn.
  • Take cuttings from the current year’s growth and look for stems with hard and older base and tender and green tips. 
  • Plant the cuttings in a light and sandy potting mix and transplant to the ground only when they get mature.

About every fourth year, Cranesbill plants get crowded and need division. 

By root divisions:

  • Autumn and spring are the best times to grow cranesbills from root divisions. 
  • Use the same method as with semi-ripe wood cuttings to grow geraniums from this method.

Hardy Geranium Pest or Diseases

The hardy geranium species generally remain pest and disease-free, however, they can sometimes suffer from bouts of rust, leaf spot, and powdery mildew

In case you encounter any of these problems, check the soil drainage and make sure it is not water-logged or soggy. 

Also, make sure the area the plants are growing at has good air circulation.

The plants are deer resistant.

Cranesbill Geranium Uses

Since wild geraniums are excellent bloomers, they are widely cultivated for ornamental purposes. 

Some of their most commonly grown species include geranium macrorrhizum, Johnson’s blue, and geranium rozanne.

Hardy geraniums are considered a good choice for camouflaging any eyesores in the garden. 

They also make good ground cover plants for filling in the shady spots and are also used as edging plants.

Cultivars of geranium sanguineum, a low-growing geranium species, spread very quickly and hence, are ideal for ground covers and for hiding problem areas. 

They are also grown in rock gardens.

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