Hardy Geranium/ Cranesbill: Full Sun, Partial-Shade, or Shade

Hardy Geranium, also known as Cranesbill, is a perennial that is easy to grow and hardy in colder climates. It gets its name from the shape of its seed which resembles a crane’s bill. Not to be confused with annual geraniums, Cranesbill is a low-maintenance and versatile plant that thrives year after year in many different soil conditions. This plant performs best in zones 4-8. Gardeners can enjoy more than 700 varieties of Cranesbill in colors ranging from white, pink, blue, or purple. This plant will keep low to the ground and spread out with beautiful, variegated foliage that deepens to a lovely red color in the fall. 

A Cranesbill for Every Garden Area

Depending on the variety, Cranesbill can thrive in full sun, partial shade, or full shade, however, this perennial does prefer morning to early afternoon sun. Choose your location first, and then pick the variety of plant to best fit the light requirements of your space. Hardy Geranium is not fussy about soil nutrients or pH, so it will grow wherever it is planted as long as it gets the correct amount of light, has well-draining soil, and enough water to establish itself. This plant is relatively drought tolerant once established.

Planting and Care

Cranesbill is best planted in early spring or late fall. To plant Cranesbill, dig a hole larger than the pot and mix in a generous heap of compost for added nutrients. Next, loosen the roots if they are bound tight and gently insert the plant. Make sure that the top of the root ball sits evenly with the top of the soil. Pack the dirt back around the plant, tamping the soil down. Water thoroughly. 

This perennial will benefit from a thick layer of mulch around the base at the time of planting. It will also need a slow-release fertilizer added in early spring for its second growing season.

After the first flush of flowers, Cranesbill can appear scraggly or messy, so give the plant a gentle prune to remove any dead blooms or foliage. After pruning, water in some Founders Fish Fertilizer to give the plant a boost as it prepares for a new flush of flowers and foliage. Repeat as needed throughout the growing season. At the end of fall, as the plant begins to die back, cut Cranesbill back to the ground level and cover it with a generous amount of mulch as it enters dormancy. 

Cranesbill, or Hardy Geranium, can be propagated through division. This is best done in the fall every 3-4 years by dividing the entire plant into thirds or quarters. Ensure that each section has adequate roots and foliage before transplanting to a new location. 

Four favorites for us this season are:  Biokovo, Max Frei, Rozanne, and Tiny Monster.