The versatile and useful perennials no gardener should be without!


Some plants just get on with the job of decorating the garden without fuss, supressing weeds, while blossoming their hearts out. Geraniums are part of this versatile and essential clan that few gardeners could be without. These herbaceous or semi-evergreen perennials are often early into growth and the more spreading kinds will soon help cover the ground, suppressing annual weeds. Closely planted clump-formers such as G. pratense will also do the same job. Growth habits vary enormously, with some low and carpet like, others spread and weave through surrounding plants, while others produce stout clumps or mounds. The attractive leaves are also variable, dissected and blotched with maroon markings to varying degrees, with many also aromatic.

Geraniums are adaptable and can be cut back after they have flowered or become too large, soon rejuvenating themselves with fresh growth, and in some varieties a new flush of flowers. Most single-flowered varieties will generate self-sown seedlings, while double flowered forms like ‘Laura’ don’t. This is a further reason to trim back the plants after the initial flush of flowers is over. Geraniums will grow in most moist, well-drained soils in sun or semi-shade, while some will endure full or even dry shade. Most don’t do well in hot, dry situations or in soils that are constantly wet.

Single-flowered geraniums are easy to grow from seed, especially if fresh. You can use self-sown seedlings, but due to cross-pollination they probably won’t be true to type especially if varieties are intermixed. In this case lift and divide the clumps into plantlets as they die down in autumn or in late winter before growth starts.