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Geranium cinereum

Geraniaceae
Perennials

GERANIUM

The common indoor/outdoor plant most people know as geranium is, botanically, Pelargonium. Considered here are true geraniums, which are mostly hardy plants. Many types bloom over a long period, bearing flowers that are attractive though not always as showy as those of pelargoniums. Carried singly or in few-flowered clusters, blossoms have five overlapping petals that look alike. (Pelargonium flowers also have five petals, but two point in one direction, while the other three point in the opposite direction.) Colors include blue, purple, magenta, and bluish rose; some are pure pink or white. Beak-like fruit that follows the flowers accounts for the common name “cranesbill.” Leaves are roundish or kidney-shaped, lobed or deeply cut; plants may be upright or trailing.

Good in rock gardens and perennial borders; some are useful as small- or large-scale groundcovers. A few shrubby species are good for holding slopes. Best climates for most geraniums are cool- and mild-summer regions, where the plants can grow in full sun or light shade. In hot-summer areas, give afternoon shade. South African species are less cold-hardy but are more tolerant of heat and afternoon sun. All species appreciate moist, well-drained soil.

Some geraniums benefit from being cut back after flowering or in the fall. Clumps of most types can be left in place for many years before they decline due to crowding; at that point, divide in early spring. Increase by transplanting rooted portions from a clump’s edge; or take cuttings. Many produce lots of seedlings, and some can become naturalized pests.

Geranium cinereum

From the Pyrenees. Forms wide, 8–12-in.-tall mats composed of 1–1 1/2-in., soft gray-green leaves that are rounded, bluntly lobed, and deeply cut. In early to midsummer, slender, trailing stems bear many cupped, 1–1 1/2-in.-wide flowers in pale pink with dark veins.

‘Ballerina’: Pinkish lilac flowers with dark veins radiating from a wine-colored center; continues blooming into fall.

‘Laurence Flatman’: Slightly larger than the species. Light lavender blossoms display reddish central blotches between red veins.

 

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