Cranesbill (Geranium)

The plants are at home all over the world. Geranium species thrive best in cool, temperate climates. The flower color ranges from white to pink and purple to a bright blue. Often a clear grain of the petals can be seen. Geranium species were first grown as medicinal plants. Only later did they become pure ornamental plants. The popularity of the individual types depends on the current fashion. At the moment, large-flowered and colorful species are popular. Cranesbills are divided into five groups: forest geraniums, meadow geraniums, the sanguineum group, the palmatum group and the dark geraniums.

There are around 400 species. 16 of them are growing in Central Europe. They are used for rock gardens or borders. The most important species is the blood-red cranesbill. There are also meadow cranesbills, swamp cranesbills and Ruprecht’s cabbage.

  • Blood-red cranesbill – bright red-purple flowers, likes dry, loose, nutrient-poor and lime-rich soils
  • Ruprechtskraut – small pink flowers, blooms from April to autumn, likes shady and nitrogen-rich locations
  • Marsh cranesbill – flowers pink, pink to crimson, ideal for bank planting and damp to wet meadows, flowers from June to September
  • Brown cranesbill – large, dark purple-black flower, flowers from May to June, prefers shady and moist forest and brush borders
  • Meadow cranesbill – flowers light blue-violet, flowers from June to August, likes nutrient-rich, calcareous fresh meadows, good in the perennial bed
  • Purple cranesbill – intense pink-red small flowers, heavily branched plant, flowers from April to June, thrives best in the Mediterranean climate.
  • Little cranesbill – small pale lilac flowers, blooms from May to October, likes nutrient-rich, lime-poor, sandy to loamy soils
  • Kaukassus cranesbill – white, blue-veined flowers, flowering June / July, more ornamental foliage than flowering plant

Particularly beautiful geranium varieties

  • G. himalayense ‘Plenum’ – double variety, violet-blue flowers, June to July, 30 cm tall, flowers are quite long, slow-growing
  • G. cinerum ‘Purple Pillow’ – particularly dark purple flowers that last extremely long (3 months), June to September, leaves with a great autumn color, 15 cm high
  • G. Hybrid ‘Salome’ – light purple flower with a dark purple center and veins, June to September, 30 to 40 cm, splayers
  • G. ibericum ‘White Zigana’ – white flowers, purple veined, June / July, 40 to 50 cm, beautiful autumn colors, good for dry and sunny places
  • G. nodosum ‘Clos du Coudray’ – purple flower with a white border, June to October, 30 to 50 cm, very shade-friendly, cut back before seeding!
  • G. pratense ‘Plenum Album’ – white, double flowers, June / July, 60 cm tall, very nostalgic appearance, good for English cottage gardens
  • G. pratense ‘Plenum Violacum’ – deep purple double flowers, June to August, 60 cm high, flowers look like small florets, very filigree
  • G. pratense ‘Summer Slies’ – light lilac blue, densely double flowers, June to August, 60 cm high, very beautiful variety

Cranesbill – care

Cranesbill Care

The cranesbill is one of the garden plants that are very easy to care for. In addition, it is robust and not susceptible to diseases. There are also hardly any pests. Even snails avoid the plant. It is important to know the variety or, even better, the type of plant, because the location depends on it. Otherwise there is not much to consider. The cranesbill is sufficiently hardy and some species are even evergreen. All in all, a very recommendable garden plant.


The location depends on the individual species. Some are sun worshipers, but most of them prefer partial shade or there are also shade plants. So it is always cheap if you know exactly which plant you are buying, then you can inquire about the location. If you plant the sun-loving varieties too dark, they will bloom poorly, but they can also survive there. The other way around it is less favorable. Shade-loving geraniums in the blazing sun are usually burned and can die completely.

  • Sun, partial shade or even shade, depending on the variety or type of plant.
  • Cranesbill thrives well on the edges of trees and makes a great companion plant for shrub roses or other taller perennials.

Plant substrate

As far as the planting substrate is concerned, the cranesbill is quite undemanding. It can handle most garden soils. Otherwise, the plant species must also be known here. Some like extremely dry, rocky or sandy soil and some need it a little more humid. That is different.

  • Most varieties prefer a well-drained soil with a high proportion of lime.
  • Slightly moist, humus-rich, loose soil is favorable.
  • Limescale is useful for acidic soils.
  • Avoid waterlogging!


Cranesbill Plant substrate

Planting the crops is easy. It is beneficial to immerse the cranesbill ball in water before planting so that it can soak up properly. Otherwise, planting is normal, as is the case with other perennials. It is important to keep a distance between the plants, otherwise the plants will hinder each other as they grow. Plant taller species in the background and smaller ones on the front of the borders.

  • Plant spacing 20 to 40 cm.
  • Group planting works best. This is how dense carpets are formed.
  • Do not plant too many varieties together, it does not create a harmonious overall picture. It is better to use a few varieties and then plant groups of them.
  • Water well after planting, also for the next few weeks.

Watering and fertilizing

Watering is mainly important after planting until the cranesbill has grown. Then the plants take care of themselves. Sufficient fertilizer is necessary for a rich flowering.

  • Freshly planted cranesbills need regular watering until they have grown.
  • Once the plants have grown, they can cope well with drought.
  • Only water every now and then if the dryness lasts for a long time.
  • Fertilize in spring when budding.
  • Complete fertilizer is used, but it must not be overdosed.

To cut

The cranesbill is cut like other perennials. There are no special features.

Either cut back about hand-high after flowering or in early spring when budding begins (early February to March). If you want to encourage a second flowering of the plants, you have to cut off the faded stems so that no seeds can develop. Otherwise, the entire power of the plant is put into seed formation.


Winter protection is not required. The plants are sufficiently hardy, even in locations at risk of frost. Some species are even noticeable in winter because of their chic leaves.


Cranesbill is easy to reproduce. You can divide up individual parts, sow seeds and propagate the plant using head and root cuttings.

The wild forms in particular reproduce easily through seeds. They can quickly overgrow large parts of the garden. Seedlings need to be removed regularly. It is best to cut off the seed heads before they are ripe. The meadow cranesbill in particular spreads quickly.

Diseases and pests

Cranesbill Diseases and pests

The cranesbill is a very healthy and robust plant. There are no known diseases or pests that would cause serious problems for this plant. Even snails avoid these plants.

The cranesbill is one of the most frugal and easy-care garden plants. After it has grown, you hardly need to take care of it. Fertilize a little and cut off once a year, nothing more needs to be done. The plants reward you with lots of flowers and beautiful foliage. You couldn’t ask for much more.
In the meantime, a large fan base of the cranesbills has formed. There are numerous forums and plant fairs. So you can exchange experiences and swap or buy coveted plants. The gardener usually only has a few species or varieties to choose from. There are already significantly more offers on the Internet. From hobby gardeners you can still buy one or the other plant that is otherwise not available.

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