How To Grow Hardy Geraniums And To Revive Them In Spring

Have your hardy geraniums disappeared after a long winter? If so, be assured that, given proper care, these resilient geraniums can miraculously reemerge in the spring.

In this article, I will guide you through the simple steps to revive your geraniums in spring and ensure they flourish throughout the growing season. We’ll explain essential care tips, from pruning and dividing to fertilizing and pest control.

So, if you want to know more about growing hardy geraniums and reviving them in Spring, read on to discover tried-and-tested methods that guarantee the best results.

How To Grow Hardy Geraniums?

Growing hardy geraniums, or cranesbills as commonly known, is relatively easy given the right care and conditions. This is a much-loved garden perennial due to its resilience, long blooming period, and attractive foliage. In general, they are an easy-to-grow plant. However, they do have some essential requirements. Some varieties tolerate shade and drought better than others.

hardy geraniums

Choosing the Right Variety

There are varieties to suit all climates and garden conditions. Popular options include Geranium ‘Rozanne’ for long blooming, Geranium sanguineum for bright magenta flowers, and Geranium macrorrhizum for aromatic foliage.

If you want a more vibrant alternative, hanging geranium basket ideas are worth checking.

Planting

  • Timing: Ideally, plant in the spring or fall when the soil is warm and not too dry.
  • Location: Choose an open spot in the sun or light shade. Midday shade is beneficial in hotter climates.
  • Soil: Ensure your soil drains well and is nutrient-rich. Add compost or organic matter to the soil, which will help improve fertility and drainage.

Planting Steps

  1. Prepare the Soil: Your soil must be loosened to a depth of 12 inches (30.5cm) and mixed in an all-purpose compost.
  2. Dig the Hole: Dig a hole two times wider than the root ball and slightly deeper than its height.
  3. Planting: Place the plant in the hole, keeping the crown level with the soil surface. Backfill with soil and gently firm in.
  4. Watering: After planting, thoroughly water the soil around the roots. After 30 minutes, check that the water has drained away and is not puddling.

Watering and Feeding

  • Watering: Water regularly for the first year until the plants are established. The soil should be kept moist but not soggy.
  • Feeding: In spring, apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer. Then, after the first flowering, fertilize again with a liquid feed to encourage more blooms.

Mulching

For newly planted geraniums, a layer of mulch around the plants will retain moisture and suppress weeds. Organic mulches like shredded bark or compost are ideal. Once the plants are established, they will spread out, which is unnecessary.

Pruning and Maintenance

  • Deadheading: To encourage continued flowering, regularly remove spent blooms.
  • Pruning: Trim back leggy or overgrown stems to maintain a compact shape. Remove all dead or yellowing leaves to help air circulate.
  • Division: Every 3-4 years, divide the plants in early spring or fall to encourage rejuvenation and prevent overcrowding. Pot up any divisions that have a root attached to increase your stock.

Pest and Disease Control

Hardy geraniums are mostly pest-free, but the larvae of the sawfly can eat away at the leaves. Inspect plants regularly and only use organic insecticides if necessary.  Geraniums, when in flower, attract pollinating insects. Therefore, using chemical pesticides at this time is best avoided. Attracting more birds to your garden is an ideal natural way of combatting these and other pests.

Tip: Place feed or water stations around your garden and close to your plants to attract more birds.

Poor air circulation around the plant can cause fungal diseases like powdery mildew. Remove all affected parts. Regular pruning and adequate planting space will help avoid this in the first place.

Root rot, which causes the roots to go black, is usually caused by soggy soil. Remove all affected parts and check there is adequate drainage. Also, avoid overwatering.

Winter Care

When the foliage fades in autumn, cut back to tidy up the plant. This will reduce the risk of harboring pests and diseases and preserve the plant’s energy before it enters its dormant period. In exceptionally cold regions with severe ground frosts, apply mulch to give the roots a layer of insulation.

hardy geraniums varsities

How to Revive Hardy Geraniums

Spring is the exciting time when new growth miraculously starts to reemerge. It is a great joy to find your favorite plants, and those you might have forgotten have survived.

Reviving hardy geraniums as new growth emerges is easy and will prepare them for the summer months ahead. By following these simple steps, you will be assured of a summer of continuous blooms and healthy growth. Here are ways to revive geranium pelargoniums.

Assess their Condition

In the first instance, cut back the growth of any other plants that might have invaded their growing space. Remove any fallen leaves or debris to allow air to circulate, then carry out the following:

Pruning and Deadheading

  • Pruning: Cut back any dead or diseased stems to healthy growth that might have been missed in autumn.
  • Deadheading: Some gardeners, myself included, will leave some flowers to seed in autumn as a winter food source for wildlife. Remove the spent flowers in spring to tidy up the plants.

Watering Hardy Geraniums

  • Consistent Moisture: Ensure the soil is moist but well-drained. Winds and low vegetation in spring can result in moisture evaporation and dry soil; water can be used without allowing the ground to remain soggy.

Soil and Fertilization

  • Soil Quality: Spring is an excellent time to mulch with organic matter or all-purpose compost to improve soil structure.
  • Fertilization: Apply a balanced slow-release fertilizer in Spring. Then, after the first flush of flowers, feed once more with a balanced liquid fertilizer to promote further blooms.

Light and Location

  • Adequate Sunlight: As the light quality increases in spring, this will encourage geraniums out of their dormant period. Sunlight allows photosynthesis, and you will soon notice more green growth. As low-growing plants, check that they haven’t become smothered from nearby plantings.
  • Heat Stress: In hot climates with excess heat, they will benefit from midday shade and a mulch of bark or all-purpose compost to keep the roots cooler.

Pests and Diseases

  • Pest Control: May is an excellent time to inspect for the sawfly larvae. Holes in the leaves are a sure sign. Remove by hand or use insecticidal soap or neem oil if necessary.
  • Disease Management: As new growth emerges in  Spring, create good air circulation to prevent fungal diseases. Remove any affected foliage promptly.

Mulching and Winter Care

  • Mulching: Before the first frosts, apply a layer of mulch to improve the texture of the soil in preparation for the spring.
  • Winter Protection: In areas of severe low temperatures, apply a thicker layer of bark to help insulate the soil and protect the roots of your geraniums.

Rejuvenation

  • Division: When your geraniums have started to outgrow their space or have died off in the middle, it is time to lift the plants from the ground and divide. This is called lift and divide, best done in early spring or fall. This rejuvenates the plant and promotes healthier growth. It is also a great way to increase stock.
  • Lift and Divide: Using a spade or garden fork, loosen the soil around and underneath the geranium. Take great care not to damage the roots. Gently lift the whole plant and roots from the ground. Remove any old, damaged, or poor growth and discard. Then, gently divide the clump into smaller sections, ensuring a root on each piece, and discard everything else. Replant the new sections back in the ground into newly prepared areas. Backfill with all-purpose potting compost. Alternatively, pot up the new divisions in all-purpose potting soil and grow on for a few months. They can be replanted later in the year before the first frosts.

Care Of Hardy Geraniums

Perennial Geraniums are highly valued for their versatility, resilience, and long flowering season. Proper care will ensure that these geraniums return year after year. Once established, hardy geraniums will look after themselves and only need annual pruning.

Light and Location

Hardy geraniums flourish in full sun to partial shade, ideally at least 4-6 hours of sunlight daily. In hotter climates, providing afternoon shade from the scorching sun is essential.

Soil Requirements

These plants prefer well-draining soil enriched with organic matter. If you have dry, sandy soil, you must improve its structure and fertility. This can be achieved by incorporating compost or well-rotted manure. Otherwise, hardy geraniums will grow in most soil types. Good drainage, though, is essential to prevent root rot.

Watering

If you live in warmer climates, maintain consistent moisture levels. Otherwise, their spreading growth is effective at preventing soil evaporation. Newly planted geraniums will need regular watering for the first year until established.

Fertilization

Use a balanced NPK slow-release fertilizer in the spring to support growth and blooming and again after the first flush of flowers.

Pruning and Deadheading

Regularly deadhead spent flowers to encourage continuous flowering and stop seed setting. This is because geraniums use a lot of energy producing seed at the expense of new flowers. Prune back any weak or sprawling growth to maintain a compact and bushy shape.

Mulching

Add a layer of organic mulch—shredded bark or compost—around the base of newly planted geraniums. Mulching in the first year helps retain soil moisture and suppress weeds.

Pest and Disease Control

Following the springtime inspection, check for the sawfly larvae in early autumn and treat accordingly. Throughout the growing season, ensure good air circulation to prevent fungal diseases like powdery mildew.

Winter Care

In colder regions, hardy geraniums die back in winter and return in spring. If grown in a mixed border, especially underplanted, just winter prune and leave them be. However, consider covering the plants with a protective layer of straw or evergreen boughs in extremely cold areas.

Are Geraniums Frost Hardy

Hardy geraniums are frost-hardy. These perennials will withstand cold temperatures and survive winter, particularly in temperate climates. However, the level of frost hardiness can vary among different varieties.

During the winter months, they withdraw underground during their dormant period. As such, they can tolerate temperatures below -20°F (-29°C) in USDA zone 5.

Hardy Geranium Varieties

There is a variety of hardy Geraniums for any location in your garden or yard. You can also grow them in pots or containers like their cousin pelargonium. However, they are only suited to growing indoors some year-round. This is because they need a cold winter spell to enter dormancy before rejuvenating in the spring.

Otherwise, there are endless planting schemes in which you can include geraniums from flower borders to flower meadows.

The following is a list of 8 varieties as recommended by The Royal Horticulture Society:

Geranium ‘Rozanne’

Geranium ‘Rozanne’ is a versatile, hardy geranium that flowers from July until the first frost in October. This geranium produces vibrant blue flowers with large white centers and can grow up to 12-20 inches tall (30-50cm) and spread up to 24 inches wide (61cm).  ‘Rozanne‘ has earned the prestigious Garden Merit Award from the Royal Horticultural Society, a testament to its adaptability and beauty. USDA Zone 5-8.

Geranium ‘Orion’

This deep lavender-blue geranium is excellent as ground cover and will flower all summer until the first frosts. A distinctive feature is the red veining on the petals. It will thrive in most locations and grow to a height and spread of 30 inches (75cm). USDA Zone 4-8.

Geranium renardii

This lovely white-flowered geranium with soft, fragrant foliage will bloom in June and July. Growing to a compact 14 inches (35cm), it is one variety that will happily grow in dry conditions and all-day sun. USDA Zone 4-8.

Geranium pratense ‘Mrs Kendall Clark’

This is a native Meadow Cranesbill of the UK with pale blue flowers throughout June and July. It grows to 3 feet (90cm) and will bloom twice if deadheaded after the first flush. This is an excellent geranium for the garden and meadow planting. It is highly attractive to pollinating insects, contributing to biodiversity in the garden. USDA Zone 4-8.

Geranium oxonianum ‘Wageningen

A lovely compact geranium with pink flowers and a green center. This variety is more suitable for underplanting out of full sun. It will bloom from June until the first frost and grows to a compact 18 inches (40cm). USDA 1-8.

The following are Geraniums that we at Gardener’s Yards have also grown and recommend:

Geranium sanguineum

Geranium sanguineum, known as ‘Bloody Cranesbill,’ produces magenta-colored flowers with white centers in May and June. A distinctive feature is the dark veining on the petals.

This geranium will grow 12 to 14 inches tall (30-60cm) and 12 to 18 inches wide (30-45cm).  Once established, this variety will tolerate drought.  USDA Zone 1-8.

Geranium macrorrhizum

Geranium macrorrhizum, commonly known as ‘bigroot’ geranium, is a star performer in the garden. Noted for its aromatic foliage and modest pink to purple flowers, it blooms in late spring to early summer.

Another outstanding feature is the scented foliage that turns red and orange in the fall. It is an excellent ground cover plant tolerant of shady and dry conditions.

Grown en-masse will suppress weeds and, in some climates, remain semi-evergreen. This geranium is ideal for small areas and provides expansive ground cover. Growth is 12 to 15 inches tall (30-62cm) with a spread of 24 inches (61cm). USDA Zone 3-8.

Geranium pratense ‘Brookside’

Geranium pratense ‘Brookside’ is another variety suitable for garden and flower meadows. It has dark green leaves and violet-blue flowers with white centers. This clump-forming variety grows to 18 to 24 inches tall (45-60cm) and spreads to 24 to 36 inches (60-90cm). It is an easy and reliable variety to grow and can be sited in full sun or part shade in fertile soil. It is also beautiful to pollinating insects but resistant to rabbits and deer. USDA Zone 1-8.

Why Is My Hardy Geranium Not Flowering?

If your hardy geranium is not flowering, it might be because of one or all of the following:

  • Insufficient Light: Hardy geraniums need adequate sunlight to generate energy and bloom. Ideally, they should receive at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight daily.
  • Nutrient Deficiency: If lacking essential nutrients, particularly phosphorus, it can prevent geraniums from flowering. Ensure you fertilize in Spring and again after the first flush of flowers to promote continued blooming.
  • Improper Pruning: Regularly deadhead spent flowers and trim back leggy growth to encourage new blooms.
  • Overcrowding: Crowded plants compete for resources. Thin out plants to allow air circulation and light penetration.
  • Soil Conditions: Ensure well-draining soil. Poor drainage will drown the roots and prevent the uptake of nutrients. This, in turn, can lead to no flower production and could cause root rot.

Addressing these issues can help your hardy geraniums bloom more consistently. If you don’t know, here is why your Geranium pelargoniums are dying.

Final Words

By following these simple steps, you can be assured that your hardy geraniums will survive the winter season. The following spring and many years thereon,  you will be rewarded with another season of these delightful garden perennials.

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