Your Year Around Flower and Garden Guide

Geraniums — Natives and Immigrants

by Linda Jenkinson

There's always a good reason to grow geraniums. Many geranium varieties boast herbal medicinal and/or aromatic qualities, but no matter which of the three types you choose, you'll be pleased with brilliant colors in flower and foliage.

Native Geraniums

Native Americans used Cranesbill to treat diarrhea, dysentery, and hemorrhaging and passed on its medicinal values to American settlers. Many of the medicinal remedies derived from Cranesbill are still in use today. However, Cranesbill, also known as the herb alumroot, doesn't come from the beak of a bird. Cranesbill is the true perennial geranium.

Although other perennial geraniums are available in a full spectrum of colors, the crimson-colored Cranesbill remains a popular choice. There are more than 400 variants of this perennial geranium, which grows wild from Maine to Manitoba, south to Georgia and Tennessee, and west to Missouri and Kansas. The Cranesbill is both vigorous and prolific in bloom with mounds of dark leaves creating the perfect counterpoint for carmine red blooms.

geraniumEasily start growing the Cranesbill geranium either from autumn seeding or by division of its roots in autumn. Once sown, these flowering perennials continue to reseed on their own adding attraction to borders, rock gardens, flowerbeds, and used as a ground cover.

The beauty of the Cranesbill lies in its interesting foliage as much as in its colorful blooms. The Cranesbill stands erect, its unbranched stem covered with fine hairs. Its leaves, arranged in opposite pairs, are divided into five toothed lobes.

Whether harvested for medicinal purposes or not, the Cranesbill geranium makes an attractive and interesting addition to perennial flowerbeds wherever it is grown.

Hardy Perennial Geranium Immigrants

Curiously, though, the Cranesbill isn't one of the flowering perennial geraniums that delight most gardeners with prolific bloom all summer long. The geranium plant that brightens your landscape with its brightly colored flowers may be one of two different species. If you successfully over-wintered your geranium, chances are it is the herbaceous perennial from the genus Geranium.

Originating in South Africa, the flowering plant most often recognized as the perennial geranium made its entrance to the European continent in the 1600's and has been propagated and hybridized ever since and is still today among the most popular of the flowering plants.

The perennial geranium is a hardy plant that blooms from mid to late spring and with proper care continues to flower into the summer. With a range in colors from the palest of pink to deep purple-blue, the perennial geranium offers easy-care perennial flowerbeds that result in a successful and satisfying experience even for the beginning gardener.

Popular Annual Geraniums

A third geranium is the one that most often delights us with its profuse blooms. The most popular of the geraniums is the annual from the genus Pelargonium, a clan of many annual and tender perennial plants. The annual geranium comes in white and all shades of pink and red. Many hybrids have bi-colored flowers and some hybrids bear salmon colored flowers. Easy care, in addition to being a favorite addition to your garden, the annual geranium is a favorite flower for gift giving.

The annual geranium is a very adaptable plant that is suitable for beds and borders as well as hanging baskets and containers whether grown inside or outdoors! Its large family spawns cultivars that are suitable for almost any type of soil.

All in all, you can't help but admire the geranium. Versatility in type, bloom, foliage, and use make the geranium always a popular choice for both the beginning and the veteran flower gardener.

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