Hardy geraniums in a mixed border at Holehird, Lakeland Horticultural Society
Angela Slater
Daughter of a farmer and market gardener so have always had a connection with the outdoors, whether it was keeping animals or producing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I gained an HND and BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management, as a result I am an ardent environmentalist and have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening. In my time at Hayes I worked for several years in the Outdoor Plant and Houseplant areas

How To Grow Hardy Geraniums

Essential in the border; easy, long flowering period, great ground cover

Mixed border with geraniums at Holehird the Lakeland Horticultural Society garden, Windermere (pictured above)

Hardy geraniums are an absolute must for the herbaceous border, they come in a range of sizes and colours with one to fill the middle of the border and others to soften the edges. Colours are various shades of pink, blue, purple and white often with contrasting veins and eye. What’s more if you chop them back as soon as the first flowers are fading they will reward with another flush in late summer and early autumn. They originate in temperate regions of the world with the majority coming from the eastern Mediterranean region. They are easy to grow being fairly tolerant of a range of conditions; they are also long-lived plants and make excellent weed suppressants so are great value for money. They are an excellent source of nectar, flowering over a long period, and particularly loved by bees. Most of them are quite vigorous and odd ones can become a bit of a nuisance, self-seeding everywhere, so just cut these back as soon as the flowers start to fade, before they have time to set seed.

pale pink hardy geranium

Position

Most prefer a sunny or semi-shaded site but there are varieties that are quite happy in a shady woodland spot. They are quite drought tolerant but do prefer a damp soil; Geranium pheum ‘Lily Lovell’ in particular performs well in dry shade, so is ideal for that problem spot.

Planting

Don’t enrich the soil with any fertiliser as if it’s too rich they will produce a lot of foliage and not many flowers. Water after planting. They look particularly good planted around David Austin shrub roses.

herbaceous border at Sizergh Castle, Kendal

Herbaceous border at Sizergh Castle, Kendal

Aftercare

Water well for the first year until they become established then they should be able to fend for themselves. They don’t need any fertiliser just mulch in spring with good quality home-made or peat-free compost. Once they have finished their first flush of flowers cut them back to almost ground level and they should flower again in late summer.

Propagation

Divide the clump in spring when it outgrows its position.  

Recommended varieties

  • Ann Folkard  -  magenta with a purple/black centre; 50cm (20”), great for ground cover
  • Ballerina  -  pale pink with darker veins and a purple/burgundy centre; 15cm (6”), compact and ideal for the front of a border
  • Geranium pheum  -  burgundy/purple; 75cm (2’6”); self-seeds prolifically so cut it down as soon as the flowers fade to prevent it setting seed and becoming too invasive
  • Geranium sylvaticum Album  -  pure white; 60cm (2’); likes a woodland setting

Geranium sylvaticum Mayflower

Geranium sylvaticum Mayflower

  • Johnson’s Blue  -  a good blue; 60cm (2’); closest resemblance to the wild variety seen along the roadside
  • Max Frei  -  purple/pink with a white eye; 25cm (10”); needs full sun
  • Rozanne  -  blue with purple veins and a white centre; 60cm (24”) tall
  • Wargrave Pink  -  pink; 75cm (2’6”); makes a large clump so really only suitable for a large garden; self-seeds prolifically so cut down as soon as the flowers fade