How to Grow Geraniums
How to grow Geraniums common name Cranesbill
Hardy Geraniums as a group are mainly herbaceous perennials, not be confused with Pelargoniums also often called Geraniums, which are non hardy and usually feature as summer bedding.
This group of Geraniums, whose common name is Cranesbill, are fully hardy H7 which means they will withstand our winters and return reliably in the spring. Some varieties are herbaceous, some evergreen and all are an attractive, useful border plant which is unfussy about it's growing conditions, and mixes well with other plants, especially good with roses, and is loved by both bees and butterflies.
Geraniums will grow in sun or partial/light shade which is why they are included in shade tolerate plants. Growing Geraniums is easy and they are classified as "green wheelbarrow", making them among the easiest of plants to grow. Geranium flower colours are blue, purple, pink and white often with attractive markings inside the flowers, as in image top right.
Geraniums varying significantly in size from Geranium pratense the meadow cranesbill, which grows to around 1 meter, to small compact low growing varieties such Geranium sanguineum which is around 30 cms.
Many Geraniums flower in a strong blue and purple, which makes Geraniums are particularly attractive to bees and make a good contrast against the lime green of Achemilla mollis, image below. Achemilla mollis is an easy plant to grow although prone to self seeding. If you are interested in seeing how attractive to bees blue Geraniums are, take time out to view a short video taken on a lovely warm summers day. If nothing else, a relaxing few minutes with the sounds of summer. In this setting, Geraniums and Chives are planted together to create a bee heaven.
Geraniums feature in so many gardens because they are easy to grow and mix so well with other plants. In the image blow the Geranium is teamed up with a Candelabra primula and bright red Geum.
Geraniums also look good growing around Alliums whose base leaves can look tatty, even early in the season. Planting Geraniums around the base of the Allium can cover the Allium leaves, and flower at the same time making an ideal combination.
Some Geraniums are long flowering and will flower right from June to frosts. This type of Geranium will come back year after year, although the herbaceous varieties will disappear over winter and re grow in the spring.
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Dead heading and Cutting back Geraniums
One of the good things about Growing Geraniums is that they need little attention and they will grow in most soils, (except waterlogged,) in full sun or in partial shade. The only effort when growing Geraniums is with regard to dead heading and because most varieties of Geranium produce a lot of flowers, this equates to a lot of dead heading.
Dead heading can be time consuming and there are two ways of tackling this. One way is to dead head each flower individually, which may be practical at the beginning of the summer, but as more and more flowers appear and die on the plant it can become too time consuming.
The image below shows the very large number of spent flowers some Geraniums can produce dead headed in one session.
The alternative, which is helpful when the foliage becomes tired looking later in the summer is to cut the plant right back during the summer after it's had a good spell of flowering. It will quickly re grow and produce new green foliage and usually a further flush flowers. If you don't want to look at the bare earth whilst it is growing back you can always prune it before a holiday and when you come back it will be neat green mound of new foliage.
In the images below the Geranium was cut back on 25th June 2016. As the image shows the plant has become a bit leggy with lots of flowers . It was cut back and in the next image, taken on 26th July 2016 the plant has grown back and started flowering again.
Best Geraniums to grow
Geranium x magnificum illustrated above with the Achemilla mollis. It grows up to around 90cms, it is deciduous and hardy to H7. It flowers extensively but has a shorter flowering period. It has the RHS award of garden merit. The images of Geraniums below give ideas as to the range and types of flowers in the Geranium group.
There are many geraniums to choose from in all shades of pink, blue, white and all are easy to grow.
This Geranium has bright magenta coloured flowers with black veins. It will tolerate partial shade and reach around 1 meter. Fully hardy.
Geranium sanguineumvar. striatum is a lovely low growing up to 30cms and pale pink variety which has a compact shape, and long flowering.
Geranium Sabani blue has one of the boldest blues of the Geranium family. it will grow up to around 40cms flowering early in the year around April time.
Many Geraniums are long flowering. This final illustration is of Geranium pyrenaicum common name Hedgerow Geranium which is classified by many as a wild flower although commercially available. It is lovely, upright in growth to around 45-60cms delicate flowers which appear to have 10 petal and lovely pale lilac in colour. It has a sprawling habit but still appears neat and flowers for months and months.
The image left was taken in November, albeit 2015, which was a very mild Autumn, but still flowering well. This variety is perennial and very similar to Geranium molle, common name Dovesfoot Geranium one of the main differences being the Hedgerow is perennial so much more useful as a garden plant than the annual variety and it is taller.