Simply The Best Natives-Wild Geranium

DSCN8140  “The ‘Amen!’ of Nature is always a flower.”   ~Oliver Wendell Holmes   


I have always loved the cheery flowers of hardy geraniums.  So many leaf variations and variegations with the hybrid flowers in many shades of purple and pink.  When I discovered that there was a native hardy geranium, I was intrigued.  The flowers were just as lovely as the hybrids.  So I decided to plant several in hopes of creating stands of native geraniums, and I was not disappointed this May.

Geranium maculatum or wild geranium is part of the Geranium Family (Geraniaceae).  It also goes by the name spotted geranium, cranesbill and wood geranium.  The common name cranesbill and the genus name come from the Greek word geranos which means ‘a crane’, and refers to the plant’s bill-like seed capsule. 

I am linking in with Gail@Clay and Limestone for her Wildflower Wednesday meme as I profile this wonderful native plant.


And I am also joining forces with a local native plant nursery, Amanda’s Garden, to purchase plants for my garden, like the one I am profiling in this post.  The owner, Ellen Folts, specializes in woodland, prairie and wetland native perennials.




Growing Conditions

Wild geranium grows well under a variety of conditions in my garden from average to well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. This geranium loves moist, humusy soils, and it will naturalize in these conditions although they say it will not be aggressive.  It will also tolerate poor soils like my clay.  Deadheading is unnecessary since these plants usually do not repeat DSCN7626bloom. And be aware that the foliage may yellow in hot summers especially in dry soil so it is recommended it be lightly cut back.

G. maculatum forms a mound of deeply cut, dark green foliage that grows to 24″ tall and 18″ wide. The 5-petaled, upward facing flowers are pink to lilac, saucer-shaped and over an inch across.  The more sun the plant receives, the more it will flower.  And flowers last for at least a month in May in zones 3-9. 

I have read this plant has few pests, but do watch for aphids, slugs, and rust or leaf spot. Deer have been known to eat the flowers, seed pods and occasionally the foliage although I have not seen this in DSCN8147my garden yet, but give them time. 

Wild geraniums can be propagated by root divisions and seeds.  Seeds are ready to be collected a month after flowering is finished.  Collect the pods and put them in a paper bag, where they will burst open and release seeds to be easily collected.  Store the seeds in a sealed, refrigerated container if planting in spring.  Seeds are best sown in fall as they need to be stratified.  And rhizomes can be divided in fall or spring.  In my garden the wild geranium planted in fall flowered this year, their first year.  I am looking forward to their expansion into some lovely stands around the garden beds.



Benefits to Wildlife

This lovely flower attracts butterflies, and the seeds attract mourning doves, quail, and deer.DSCN8102
The petals have fine, dark-colored lines that function as nectar guides to attract honeybees, bumblebees, many native solitary bees, and syrphid flies as well as ants and beetles.
Wild geraniums are a good addition to shade gardens and woodland slopes.  And they tolerate browsing by rabbits and deer.



Where Are They Found

G. maculatum, is a woodland perennial plant native to eastern North America, from southern Manitoba andDSCN8227 southwestern Quebec south to Alabama and Georgia and west to Oklahoma, Kansas and South Dakota. 

In addition to filling natural dry or moist woodland openings and edges, this perennial can be found in thickets, shaded roadside areas and dappled meadows. 

This native plant is rarely found in disturbed areas.  Once the woodlands were cleared for our house, any might have been growing here were gone for good which is why I decided to bring them back.





G. maculatum looks great planted in shady borders, native plant gardens or open woodland gardens as a ground cover. It looks wonderful planted with other natives such as bellwort, bloodroot, Solomon’s seal, false Solomon’s seal, ferns, Trillium grandiflorum, common mayapple, woodland phlox, columbine, foam flower, goat’s beard, and violets.

The plant has been used in herbal medicine as an astringent to stop bleeding.  

Please use caution when using wild plants for medicinal purposes.  It is always best to consult an expert before consuming native plants.



Folklore and Tales

Wild geranium has been used medicinally throughout history by Native Americans.  The whole plant would be boiled to make DSCN8228tea to treat diarrhea, sore throat, thrush and mouth ulcers.  

The roots were steeped in hot water to help with inflamed gums and toothaches.  

The plant’s roots were dried and the powder was applied to a wound to stop the bleeding. 



Do you grow native or hybrid hardy geraniums?  Do you have a favorite hardy geranium you grow in your garden?




Visit my new blog this Thursday: 

new blog logo

This is the badge I have developed for my new blog, Living From Happiness.  I am excited to start this new blog as I write about life, lessons, change and the challenges I am experiencing as I continue on my new path since retiring.

 Right now I have a welcome message to greet you, and you can sign up for a subscription through WordPress, email, Bloglovin or Feedly.  I do hope you will join me there.  I do understand that this type of personal blog about life may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are so inclined I would be happy to see you there.

 The inaugural post will be tomorrow, and then I will post every Thursday.



Check out other posts in the series, Simply The Best Natives:

June-Ostrich Fern



March-Northern Sea Oats

February-Common Boneset

January-Pearly Everlasting


Next up on the blog:  Next week brings another Garden Book Review.

I am linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Tuesday.

I hope you will join me for my posts once a month at Beautiful Wildlife Garden.  You can see my latest post now.

As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.

 All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2014.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.



50 Replies to “Simply The Best Natives-Wild Geranium”

  1. The native geranium in Europe has tiny pink flowers and red stems, sounds lovely until you smell the foliage – it’s sickly and I hate it, yours on the other hand looks beautiful.

    1. Oh that is too bad Christina. Ours very much resembles many of the hardy geranium cultivars that are on the market. I hope it will continue to grow in and make nice drifts of the lovely flowers.

  2. Here on the west coast we have a native geranium, blooms a little more pink than yours; climbs sweetly into taller neighboring shrubs. I believe it is called G. oreganum. I love these plants!

  3. Thanks for the information, Donna. I have a number of cultivars growing along the curb. This spring, I found some native ones, and planted them where there is afternoon shade. They are pretty spindly. I hope they grow and come back next spring. Have you ever had them go dormant? I’m wondering if that’s what they did. I haven’t made it out to check on them lately.

    1. Yes Sue the native geranium will go dormant and set seed. They should grow back next spring and you might see more of them. 🙂

  4. We have native wild geraniums growing down near our river… G. sylvaticum and G. pratense. They are both very pretty and not all that common these days. I think they are probably smaller than yours. Love all the information Donna, and great photos as always!

  5. I have a quite a number of geraniums;in fact I have a geranium problem! Two of my hybrids have self-seeded everywhere. I want to remove half of them as they have pushed out other plants. I just need to be more vigilent in cutting them back after they flower, so they don’t spread their seeds.
    Geraniums as a whole are great plants though and I can’t imagine my garden without them. I even added a few new cultivars this year. A wild geranium is something I don’t have, but would love to have one day.

    1. I have the same problem Jennifer…a few of mine are self-seeding and I need to get rid of them as they do take over. Many of my hardy geraniums are still blooming in July which is unheard of, but our summer has been milder and moist. I love my hardy geraniums that behave which is why I had to plant a native one…similar and lovely.

  6. Those are pretty and nicely behaved. I looked it up and it doesn’t grow well in South Texas. We do have a native Geranium carolinianum which I have not found in my yard though I keep looking since some of my gardening friends have them. There are also several introduced geraniums that are considered invasive and I have seen a few of those in my yard. The leaves are smaller and distinctly different from the natives which makes it easy.

    1. A great native you have there Shirley. I also have a few invasive geraniums I am still trying to get rid of which is why I planted this wild one. Hope your native geranium makes a visit soon!

  7. I haven’t grown perennial Geraniums before – they weren’t as common in North Carolina, probably with the heat, other than the ‘weedy’ one that was always in the lawn (that one I did grow, ha!) However they seem to be quite more common up where I am now in Massachusetts, and just recently I received several pass-a-long Geraniums from other gardeners. I’m excited to see what they look like when they bloom!

    1. How nice to get some pass-a-long hardy geraniums Indie. They are a beautiful sight in spring and will love your garden in MA. I would be happy to pass-a-long anything you want that you see I grow…just let me know.

  8. Goodness, what a beauty, and a native too, as Christina so rightly says, our UK native has stinky foliage, I am currently pulling it out by the armful in my front garden

    1. Indeed it is a stunning, delicate, sweet plant…too bad Janet that your native one has stinky foliage…I wonder the purpose of the odor.

        1. I have a cultivar of Geranium macrorrhizum and they say it is used in aromatherapy…I will have to check out the foliage now. 🙂 Which geranium is your native with the smelly foliage?

            1. Oh no problem Janet….I have so many plants I cannot name 🙂 And how lovely to have so many native geraniums there!

  9. I love, love, love geraniums. I have a cranesbill but I don’t believe it is native. I also have a lovely low growing pink one. I lost the burgundy-leafed one I had to cutleaf coneflower. I did plant a native one for one of my clients. Three bareroot – only one has seemed to make it. I think one was accidentally pulled as a weed. The other trampled by dogs – it is a tough neighborhood! But I had visions of it forming a thick mat of ground cover which I think it will given time. I think I will try some in my violet patch – the violets take over but then, hey, what would the Violet Fern be without violets? Still, I would like some variety.

    1. Oh Kathy how lovely the image of the geranium coming up in your violet patch! Giving me ideas…I hope to visit your violet patch one of these days 🙂

  10. I love geraniums but I had never seen the wild variety. These are delicate & pretty. Congratulations on your new blog. I saw your post on G+ and took a peek. Very nice concept — living from happiness 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for your support Loredana. I hope to branch out there and do a bit more with creative pursuits such as poetry and photography.

      1. I haven’t seen any growing in the wild, Donna, but I was given some by friends and I love them. I have 2 different varieties: the larger leaf and the smaller leaf variety. Sorry, but I don’t have their names.
        I’ll have to make a point to look for them when we’re walking around the county areas.

  11. I love geraniums and am always looking for spots where I can add them to the garden. Even the wild geraniums are fine by me. If it blooms and isn’t a thug then it’s welcome to stay! 🙂

    1. I agree they tuck into spots beautifully Tammy. And these wild geraniums are perfect for a nice ground cover.

  12. Hi Donna
    So much going on here at the moment, my blogging activities have been extremely restricted.
    I share your fondness for the hardy Geraniums, your natives look great.
    Thinking about a favourite of mine, well one that really jumps out at me is (Nodosum) this one likes the shade lasts all Summer well into the Autumn (pale lilac) It loved the cool temps of Aberdeen, planted in groups, will it do as well in the warmer south, I have to find out.
    Another reason for this one sticking in my mind was the fact that Carolyn of shade garden named it for me. Good luck with your new blog and I hope you are enjoying your retirement. Alistair

    1. Alistair how wonderful to hear from you. I am sure you are busy in your new garden. I was hoping to be but am just getting back to it. I remember G. nodosum…I wish it was hardy for me but alas it is not. Thank you for your support and yes retirement has been nice although my surgery put a damper on things for a while. Looking forward to seeing what you have been up to in your garden!

  13. Donna I love your little geranium, a group of them must look very pretty, thank you for all the interesting information about it,
    I’m sorry but I don’t agree with Christina and Janet, they have both no doubt forgot that the beautiful wild meadow cranesbill, geranium pratense, is native, it has a beautiful blue upward facing flower can grow up to 30″ (75cm) and in my damp meadow they flower for a couple of months in late spring/early summer, from the kitchen window I see a lovely blue haze, which I would like to increase,
    also I have geranium phaeum, dusky cranesbill, I didn’t now what it was except that it was a geranium, I bought a cheap pack of mixed geraniums soon after I moved here, then one day Laura of Patio patch post photos of this geranium and said it was a native, I’ve done some checking and yes it is, I am so pleased to have it, I like geraniums but as I think you feel too there is something special about having a native plant, anyway, geranium phaeum has a small violet flower which faces down from a long stem, about 18″ (45cm) in my garden though I’ve read they can be taller, there are several beautiful cultivars (if that the right word) of this native and I hope to buy some one day, Frances

    1. Now I have a name for your native that grows wild in your meadow and it is stunning Frances…it looks very similar to my native in the way it grows and flowers. And how lucky to have geranium phaeum as a native as well. Such stunning specimens. I think I do have some cultivars of it. Glad you enjoyed my native…natives just are the most precious flowers for me as they bring in the pollinators like crazy…and they link me to the land here.

    1. It must be an incredible sight in spring Donna…I hope to go in search of more natives through hikes and walks….they look so beautiful in nature.

  14. I love wild geranium but I especially love the cultivar Espresso with dark purple leaves. The pink flower and purple leaves are gorgeous. Did you mention that G. maculatum goes dormant when it gets hot? Not a problem in a woodland though.

  15. I planted a few cuttings several years ago that I think are the native geranium; they’ve been very reliable in coming back each year. Love these sweet little blooms!

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