Garden Perennials – The Geranium

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More and more of us are becoming interested in landscape gardening, so much so that even those with the smallest of backyards like to have some plants growing. Perennial plants are those plants which grow year after year and can prove very useful when trying to create a low maintenance garden. Luckily there are many garden perennials which are considered low maintenance and the Geranium is one of the easiest to grow successfully.

Originating from Africa and introduced into Europe during the sixteenth century the Geranium is available in a wide range of colors from pure whites to almost black, from pink to mauve and through to deep blues. Some of the flowers of the Geranium have veins which are of a darker shade creating both interest and beauty. The leaves are usually mid to darkish green but can also be found in shades of gray or silver green.

Most species of Geranium will grow in almost any soil which is well-drained. Many species also grow well in full sun while others grow best in partial shade. They grow to various heights ranging from about 10cm (4 inches) to as high as 90cm (3ft). Geranium plants can grow to a width of between 15cm (6 inches) to 75cm (2.5ft). This makes the Geranium suitable for nearly all gardens, as well as looking wonderful in mixed borders that can also be used for ground cover or they can be used to fill awkward shady places such as below trees.

Popular Geranium Species

In total there are around 422 different species of Geranium, the list below includes the most popular.

G. cinereum which grows up to 15cm (6in) high and 30cm (1ft) across.

G. dalmaticum which grows up to 15cm (6in) high and 60cm (2ft) across.

G. endressii which grows up to 45cm (1.5ft) high.

G. grandiflorum which grows up to 30cm (1ft) high and 60cm (2ft) across.

G. ibericum which grows up to 60cm (2ft) high and 60cm (2ft) across.

G. macrorrhizum which grows up to 30cm (1ft) high and 60cm (2ft) across.

G. phaeum which grows up to 60cm (2ft) high and 45cm (1.5ft) across.

G. pratense which grows up to, or even over, 60cm (2ft) high.

G. psilostemon which grows up to 90cm (3ft) high and 75cm (2.5ft) across.

G. renardii which grows up to 23cm (9in) high and 60cm (2ft) across.

G. sanguineum which grows up to 25cm (10in) high and 45cm (1.5ft) across.

G. subcaulescens which grows up to 15cm (6in) high and 30cm (1ft) across.

G. sylvaticum which grows up to 75cm (2.5ft) high and 60cm (2ft) across.

G. wallichianum which grows up to 30cm (1ft) high and 60cm (2ft) across.

Cultivation and Propagation

You can plant your geraniums from early fall to early spring, in well-drained soil and in sun or partial shade. G. cinereum can be rather delicate so it is best to plant this in a sunny but sheltered site or leave planting until early spring. The taller species will need to be supported with canes or twiggy sticks and are not really suitable for exposed or very shady sites. Most Geraniums will die back in the winter when any dead material and old stems should be cut to just above ground level.

If you wish to propagate your Geranium you should first see if the rootstock is suitable for division as this will produce a plant the same as the parent. If the rootstock is too small it is relatively easy to grow them from seed but the resulting plant will differ slightly from the parent. Sow seed from fall to early spring and keep them protected (in a cold frame) through the winter months. Prick out the seeds in the summer and plant out in a nursery bed and then move them to their permanent positions at the end of the season.

It is worth noting that Pelargoniums often have a common name which includes Geranium. While they could be considered cousins ​​of the true Geranium the Pelargonium is far less hardy and is usually grown indoors.