When you hear "Geranium" do you think of the annuals with bright, colorful globes of blooms (common name "geranium" - Latin name "Pelargonium")? Or do you think of the wide range groundcover plants? These plants have the common AND Latin name of Geranium. They are also sometimes called cranesbill. For today, we're going to focus on our native plant Geranium maculatum, usually called wild geranium.
These guys are groundcovering spreaders. They get up to 2' tall and 1.5' wide. They enjoy full sun to part shade, are a host plant to many butterfly and moth species, and are resistant to deer, rabbits, and drought. Their flowers are anywhere from pale pink to lilac and appear in the spring. They prefer moist soils, but will tolerate tougher conditions. The leaves are shaped similarly to the annual geranium, and add nice texture to the garden. Consider them a good plant for a woodland edge.
Two other varieties of Geranium are also native to SC PA - G. carolinianum and G. robertianum.
There are MANY cultivars of hardy geranium available that bloom in colors from white to pink to the deepest purple. They vary in size, bloom time, and leaf color. The most popular is 'Rozanne' which blooms continuously throughout the growing season. As we know from our Native Plants Series, these nativars may or may not support wildlife in the same way the straight species do.
Photo: Jennifer Anderson, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
Other sources: Missouri Botanical Garden