In summer, dainty, deep pink flowers float above foliage on the bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum). It is not related to the tender geranium, Pelargonium, which is an annual that sports bold leaves and blooms. With its delicate flowers and leaves, bloody cranesbill is similar to a woodland flower. The deeply lobed, dark green foliage spreads through rhizomes and often turns red in fall. This resilient plant grows in a variety of soils and climates and looks great as a ground cover or specimen plant.
Common name: Bloody cranesbill
Botanical name: Geranium sanguineum
Plant type: Herbaceous perennial
Height: 8 inches
Zones: 3 to 8
- Sun: Full sun to part shade
- Soil: Well-drained, humus-filled soil
- Moisture: Medium wet
- Mulch: Add a 1-inch layer of organic mulch around the plant to deter weeds and retain moisture.
- Fertilizer: Not necessary in soils rich in organic matter. If needed, use a balanced fertilizer in spring.
- Pruning: Remove old foliage in spring, and shear foliage if hot sun sears it. Deadheading is necessary only to make the plant tidy.
- ‘John Elsley' (pictured above) has red flowers in May and June and may rebloom later in the summer. Use in trough garden or as a ground cover. Grows just 2 inches tall and 12 inches wide. Zones 3 to 8.
- ‘Album' has white flowers. Grows 12 inches tall. Zones 3 to 8.
- Plant with small ornamental grasses, columbine, or astilbe.
- Attracts bees and butterflies.
- Bloody cranesbill will take some drought, but suffers during extreme drought, especially in poor soil.
- Pests and diseases
- Downy mildew, powdery mildew, and gray mold can infect leaves.
- Leaf miners and slugs may attack plants.
- Divide in spring.
- Take cuttings in spring.
All in the family
- Bigfoot geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum) has aromatic leaves and pink or white flowers. Grows 20 inches tall. Zones 4 to 8.
- Spotted geranium (G. maculatum) has lavender flowers in spring to early summer. A taller geranium, it grows 24 to 30 inches tall. Zones 4 to 8.
- Two popular cultivars of cranesbill are ‘Ann Folkard' with deep pink flowers (24 inches tall, Zones 5 to 9) and ‘Johnson's Blue' with lavender to blue flowers (18 inches tall, Zones 4 to 8).
Text by Mary Pestel, photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder