6 Varieties of Hardy (Cranesbill) Geraniums You Can Grow

A variety of geraniums on a table
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To the uninitiated, a "geranium" is that familiar annual plant so often found planted in cemetery urns, window boxes, and hanging baskets—a fleshy-leaved plant with long flower stalks and clustered blossoms. But, that plant, which often goes by the common name of "garden geranium" or "annual geranium," is actually a member of the Pelargonium genus of plants, and it has been since 1789, when the genus was separated from the Geranium genus.

The plants that truly belong to the Geranium genus are much different specimens: perennial flowering plants that also go by the common names "true geraniums," "hardy geraniums," "cranesbill," or "storksbill." The latter two monikers are derived from the seed pods' resemblance to the bills of those birds.

Hardy geraniums are low-growing plants that spread via rhizomes. The foliage is often toothed and remains attractive year-round. The flowers float on top of the plant in shades of white, pink, magenta, purple, and blue. Hardy geraniums have much more subtle flowers than the colorful annual Pelargoniums, but they have an important role in the perennial border garden.

Here are six varieties of hardy geraniums to consider for your flower garden.

  • 01 of 06

    French Cranesbill (Geranium endressii)

    French cranesbill geraniums with pink flowers
    Marie Iannotti

    Geranium endressii often comes to mind when gardeners think of hardy geraniums. It forms mounds of deeply cut, glossy green foliage topped with cup-shaped flowers in shades of pink or magenta. Also known as French cranesbill, it's a quick spreader that makes a wonderful ground cover or mass planting. G. endressii is sometimes considered a hybrid of G. endressii and G. versicolor, with the official name Geranium × oxonianum. The standard-bearer is the 'Wargrave Pink' cultivar, which can be spotted in just about every British garden, and it's widely adaptable in other areas as well.

    This early summer bloomer stays in flower for several weeks. After the blooms fade, the whole plant should be sheared back to basal growth. It'll fill in extremely quickly, and repeat blooms will appear here and there throughout the season. The foliage remains evergreen in milder zones.

    • Native Area: Western Pyrenees of Spain
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3–8
    • Height: 12–24 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 02 of 06

    Bloody Cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum)

    Bloody cranesbill geraniums with pink flowers
    Anne Green-Armytage / Getty Images

    Geranium sanguineum carries the common name of bloody cranesbill because its foliage turns a bright crimson in the fall. But, it's an attractive plant all season, in or out of bloom. The foliage is more distinctly cut than other geraniums, giving it a delicate, lacy appearance. The typical cup-shaped flowers come in shades of pink, magenta, and white. G. sanguineum has one of the best bloom displays of all geraniums. The flowers can completely hide the foliage, and repeat blooms can be expected. This plant spreads less quickly than G. endressii and requires little to no care.

    • Native Area: Europe, northern Turkey
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3–8
    • Height: 18 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 03 of 06

    Clarke's Geranium (Geranium Clarkei)

    Clarke's geraniums with white flowers and pink centers
    Marie Iannotti

    Clarke's geranium is best known for a single cultivar, the white-flowered 'Kashmir White.' It's not the hardiest grower, but the white flowers and finely cut foliage make it garden-worthy. Another cultivar, 'Kashmir Purple,' is more vigorous and spreads rapidly.

    • Native Area: Northern India, Kashmir
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5–7
    • Height: 12–18 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 04 of 06

    'Johnson's Blue' (Geranium 'Johnson's Blue')

    'Johnson's Blue' geraniums with purplish-blue flowers
    Christopher Fairweather / Getty Images

    'Johnson's Blue,' likely a hybrid of G. himalayense and G. pretense, was the first brilliant blue geranium to catch gardeners' eyes. The Royal Horticultural Society even gave it the Award of Garden Merit. Its blue flowers are hard to photograph but appear more stunning in person. The flower stalks can grow quite tall and will droop under the weight of the blossoms. Most gardeners don't bother to stake them, since it's still an attractive plant, even with its floppy habit. Cut back the flowers after the first bloom to get sporadic repeat blooms. Often, the plant can begin to look scraggly, and a good shearing is needed. 'Johnson's Blue' is drought tolerant and blooms best in full sun, but it appreciates afternoon shade in hot, dry areas. The disease-resistant cultivar is a magnet for bees and butterflies.

    • Native Area: Nursery hybrid; parent species are native to Asia, the Himalayas
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3–8
    • Height: 12–18 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    'Double Jewel' (Geranium pratense 'Double Jewel')

    'Double Jewels' geranium with white flowers

    Van Bourgondien

    'Double Jewel' is a compact geranium with a more upright growing habit than most hardy varieties. A single plant can easily fill a 10-inch pot and be perfectly happy growing there. The star-shaped double flowers are white with purple-pink centers, blooming from late spring to midsummer. It's a good plant for edgings or in rock gardens.

    • Native Area: Europe, Asia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 4–8
    • Height: 1–2 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 06 of 06

    'Southcombe Double' (Geranium × oxonianum f. thurstonianum 'Southcombe Double')

    'Southcombe Double' geranium with pink flowers

    Van Bourgondien

    'Southcombe Double' is a cultivar developed from one form of the hybrid that was the source of the popular 'Wargrave's Pink' cultivar. The original hybrid, G. oxonianum, is a cross of G. endressii and G. versicolor. 'Southcombe Double' has pure pink, fluffy double blossoms that don't look like geraniums at first glance. But it's every bit as hardy and easy-going as its cousins, with the bonus of blooming almost nonstop throughout the summer and into fall.

    • Native Area: Nursery hybrid
    • USDA Growing Zones: 4–7
    • Height: 18 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun