Best hardy geranium varieties – 15 classic cranesbills for every garden

Every flowerbed is better with this cottage garden favorite as we look at 15 of the best hardy geraniums

hardy geranium Rozanne blooming in garden bed display in summer
(Image credit: Tony Rogers/Alamy)

The best hardy geranium varieties (aka cranesbills) provide months of color and effective ground cover. In the last 50 or 60 years, these dependable jewel-hued bloomers have become some of our most appreciated hardy perennials. 

If you're new to growing hardy geraniums, one reason why they are so popular in flower beds and borders is that they have so much adaptability. You can get varieties for sun or shade, for rich soil and poor. There are dwarf and compact varieties for the front of the border, plus larger and bushier varieties for the middle ground. Ground-cover varieties such as ‘Biokovo’, ‘Mrs Kendall Clarke’ and ‘Orion’ combine a long season of attractive color with excellent weed prevention. Some of the best cranesbills, like ‘Blue Sunrise’ and ‘Mavis Simpson’, make stunning displays cascading over the sides of containers.  

If you are looking for blooms in blue or lilac, pink or white, with prettily patterned or tinted petals, the range is extraordinary. Flowering from spring to fall, some will thrive in our coldest zones (many are hardy to USDA Z3). Although there are almost 2,000 types of hardy geraniums, fine new varieties are still being introduced. 

hardy geraniums and roses growing together in summer display

Many hardy geraniums make excellent companions plants for roses

(Image credit: Natural Visions/ Heather Angel / Alamy)

15 hardy geranium varieties for a long flowering season

The first hardy geranium flowers open in spring, and some bloom into the fall. A range of varieties bloom for months and make vibrant ground cover plants, often flowering continuously without deadheading. 

1. Geranium ‘Ann Folkard’

hardy geranium Ann Folkard flowering in border display

Geranium ‘Ann Folkard’ 

(Image credit: PhotosBijoux / Shutterstock)
  • Type: Hybrid of Geranium psilostemon
  • Hardiness: USDA Z5
  • Height: 20in
  • Good for: Ground cover in full sun

One of the top hardy geraniums for colorful ground cover is pretty ‘Ann Folkard’. Its young foliage is a vivid golden green, becoming green later. Magenta flowers feature black-veined flowers with a bold black eye. The plant spreads widely from the crown, then dies back in winter. 

If you like to plant shrubs, this plant will happily sprawl into nearby shrubbery. ‘Anne Thomson’ is similar, but less vigorous.

2. Geranium ‘Ballerina’

hardy geranium Ballerina flowering in summer display

Geranium ‘Ballerina’ 

(Image credit: Panther Media GmbH / Alamy)
  • Type: Geranium cinereum
  • Hardiness: USDA Z3
  • Height: 4-8in
  • Good for: Low ground cover in full sun

Geranium ‘Ballerina’ is another of the best cranesbills for cheerful ground cover. It develops into a low trailing carpet of gray-green, fingered leaves. In late spring and summer, these are covered with upward-facing pale pink flowers with a dark purple eye and purple veins. 

This hardy geranium often flowers again later. It is good with spring crocuses and irises. Lovers of purple plants can also try ‘Purple Pillow’.

3. Geranium ‘Biokovo’

hardy geraniums Biokovo flowering in summer

Geranium ‘Biokovo’

(Image credit: Botany Vision / Alamy)
  • Type: Geranium macrorrhizum hybrid
  • Hardiness: USDA Z5
  • Height: 10in
  • Good for: Front-of-the-border cover

This hardy geranium variety develops crisp, aromatic foliage and a dense carpet of pale green foliage. ‘Biokovo’ grows well in sun or shade. Then, in late spring and summer, pretty blushed pink flowers with dark eyes stand above leaves in clusters of up to 10. 

For gardeners with small gardens, this is one of the best hardy geraniums you can grow with dwarf shrubs. 

Geranium 'Biokovo' is available at Garden Goods Direct.

4. Geranium Blue Sunrise (‘Blugold’)

hardy geraniums Blue Sunrise flowering in border display

Geranium Blue Sunrise (‘Blugold’)  

(Image credit: Reda & Co SRL / Alamy)
  • Type: Hybrid between ‘Buxton’s Variety’ and ‘Ann Folkard’
  • Hardiness: USDA Z5
  • Height: 16in
  • Good for: Billowing out of large containers

If you are looking for a hardy geranium variety for containers, try Blue Sunrise (‘Blugold’). These bloomers make stunning container gardening plants. 

New leaves emerge yellowish green with orange tints. From summer into fall, the white-eyed, lavender blue flowers just keep coming. It is best grown as a specimen. You could also try ‘Azure Rush’ (pale blue) and ‘Ann Thomson’ (yellow foliage, magenta flowers). 

5. Geranium Havana Blues (‘Noorthava’)

hardy geraniums Havana Blues flowering in border display

Geranium Havana Blues (‘Noorthava’) 

(Image credit: Marco van Noort)
  • Type: Hybrid of Geranium wallichianum
  • Hardiness: USDA Z5
  • Height: 14-16in
  • Good for: Ground cover in sun or partial shade

Havana Blues (‘Noorthava’) is another of the best cranesbills for dynamic ground cover. For those interested in spectacular garden color schemes, this one is a beauty. 

Delicately mottled foliage makes an ideal backing for these white-eyed lilac flowers with rays of deep purple veins from early summer into fall. It grows well with kniphofias in pale yellow, and also around low roses. 

6. Geranium ‘New Hampshire Purple’

hardy geraniums New Hampshire Purple in flowerbed display

Geranium ‘New Hampshire Purple’ 

(Image credit: Botanic World / Alamy)
  • Type: Geranium sanguineum
  • Hardiness: USDA Z3
  • Height: 8in
  • Good for: Full sun, well-drained soil

Low and bushy, ‘New Hampshire Purple’ has small, neat leaves. These turn reddish in fall, making a compact, dense cover over steadily spreading roots. From late spring to midsummer, magenta-purple flowers open, held facing upwards against attractive foliage. 

These are some of the best hardy geraniums for low ground cover, though you can also try ‘Album’ (white flower), ‘Ankum’s Pride’ (rose pink) and ‘John Elsley’ (mauve pink, veined). 

'New Hampshire Purple' is available from Nature Hills

7. Geranium maculatum

hardy geraniums Geranium maculatum flowering in border

Geranium maculatum

(Image credit: Daniel Borzynski / Alamy)
  • Type: Native North American species
  • Hardiness: USDA Z4
  • Height: 20-28in
  • Good for: Any soil that does not dry out

If you are looking to grow flowers that attract bees, these are some of the best cranesbills for pollinators. 

Geranium maculatum plants have boldly divided leaves. These rise from a tight crown with upward-facing, white-eyed, pale mauve-pink flowers in late spring and early summer, and again later. Also try ‘Espresso’ (coffee-colored leaves, mauve flowers). 

8. Geranium ‘Mavis Simpson’ 

hardy geraniums Mavis Simpson flowering in border

Geranium ‘Mavis Simpson’ 

(Image credit: Antonioin Siwiak / Alamy)
  • Type: Geranium x riversleaianum
  • Hardiness: USDA Z6
  • Height: 8in
  • Good for: Cascading over a container’s edge

Geranium ‘Mavis Simpson’ is another excellent hardy geranium for container gardening. A semi-evergreen sprawler, the neat greyish foliage sets off many months of rose pink flowers in a silver-pink combination. 

For those looking for the hardy geraniums to grow in a south facing garden, this variety does well in well-drained compost or soil in full sun. You can also try ‘Russell Prichard’ (magenta flowers). 

9. Geranium ‘Mrs. Kendal Clark’

hardy geraniums Mrs Kendal Clark flowering in summer display

Geranium ‘Mrs. Kendal Clark’ 

(Image credit: Alex Manders / Shutterstock)
  • Type: Geranium pratense
  • Hardiness: USDA Z4
  • Height: 3-4ft 
  • Good for: Pretty flowers and ground cover

Lovers of enchanting rose garden ideas will find ‘Mrs. Kendal Clark’ another excellent companion plant. They are some of the best cranesbills to partner up with mature English or shrub roses, in particular. 

Tall with dense growth, the pale lavender flowers have a delicate network of white veins that work well alongside pink tones. You can also try ‘Silver Queen’ (pale grayish lavender) and ‘Striatum’ (white flowers, streaked in blue).

10. Geranium ‘Orion’

hardy geraniums Orion in cottage garden display

Geranium ‘Orion’

(Image credit: Alex Manders / Shutterstock)
  • Type: Hybrid of Geranium pratense
  • Hardiness: USDA Z5
  • Height: 30-36in 
  • Good for: Large scale ground cover in sun

Geranium ‘Orion’ is another of the best hardy geraniums for vibrant ground cover. From early summer into fall, unusually large lavender blue flowers open continually. Almost rounded petals overlap to add to the impact. 

For lovers of cottage garden plants, this is quite simply one of the best of all hardy perennial flowers. Also try: ‘Blue Cloud’ (paler color) and ‘Brookside’ (flowers have reddish veins). 

11. Geranium palmatum

hardy geraniums palmatum flowering in garden border

Geranium palmatum

(Image credit: John Maud / Alamy)
  • Type: A wild species from Madeira
  • Hardiness: USDA Z8
  • Height: 3-4ft
  • Good for: Full sun as a stunning specimen 

If you’re after dynamic options for outdoor planters for the deck or patio, or borders in mild zones, G. palmatum is one of the best cranesbills you can choose. 

It’s a dramatic plant forming a bold rosette of rich green foliage from which a repeatedly branched flower head develops. This is packed with rich pink flowers that shade to magenta in the throat. The first year of flowering is especially impressive. This dreamy flower is also known as the Canary Island cranesbill. 

12. Geranium renardii 

hardy geraniums Geranium Renardii flowering in summer

Geranium Renardii

(Image credit: Sleepy Hobbit / Shutterstock)
  • Type: A wild species from eastern Europe
  • Hardiness: USDA Z6
  • Height: 14-16in
  • Good for: Neat, front-of-the border ground cover in sun 

Looking for the best hardy geranium varieties for front-of-border ground cover? G. renardii makes a low, dense, rounded mound of grey-green, lobed and slightly felted foliage. 

In late spring and early summer, the upward facing, blue-tinted white flowers open, veined in violet. If you love irises, these hardy geraniums look great with medium-height bearded irises. Also try ‘Whiteknights’ (lavender flowers, rich violet veins).

13. Geranium ‘Rose Clair’ 

hardy geraniums Rose Clair flowering in summer bedding

Geranium ‘Rose Clair’ 

(Image credit: Kay Roxby / Alamy)
  • Type: Geranium x oxonianum
  • Hardiness: USDA Z4
  • Height: 16-18in
  • Good for: Effective weed-smothering with little care 

‘Rose Clair’ is another one of the best cranesbills to grow with roses. Rosy salmon pink flowers are lightly veined in darker tones and open in early and midsummer, often flowering again. Mounds of foliage knit in around the bare rose stems prettily. 

Also try ‘AT Johnson’ (silvery pink flowers) and ‘Beholder’s Eye’ (small, but intensely pink, flowers). Additionally, if you are interested in the best snowdrops to grow, this hardy geranium makes a lovely partner for double snowdrops.

14. Geranium Rozanne (‘Gerwat’)

hardy geraniums Rozanne (‘Gerwat’) flowering in summer display

Geranium Rozanne (‘Gerwat’) 

(Image credit: Kenneth Keifer / Shutterstock)
  • Type: Hybrid of ‘Buxton’s Variety’ and G. himalayense
  • Hardiness: USDA Z5
  • Height: 24in
  • Good as: Ground cover and container specimen

Rozanne (‘Gerwat’) was voted ‘Plant Of The Century’ by Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society, making it one of the best hardy geraniums you can grow. This dramatic beauty is a superb mid-size ground cover option. Pairs of prettily split leaves set off an exceptionally long season of white-eyed blue flowers from early summer well into fall. Good with golden-leaved shrubs such as Choisya ‘Sundance’. Also try ‘Kelly Anne’, which is like a pink version of Rozanne. 

Geranium Rozanne is available at Fast Growing Trees

15. Geranium ‘White-ness’

hardy geraniums White-ness flowering in shade

Geranium ‘White-ness’

(Image credit: Dorling Kindersley Ltd / Alamy)
  • Type: Geranium macrorrhizum
  • Hardiness: USDA Z4
  • Height: 12in
  • Good for: Neat ground cover in shade

With its fat roots and stout sprawling stems, Geranium ‘White-ness’ has near-evergreen, intensely aromatic foliage, setting off white blooms in late spring and early summer. It is one of the top hardy geraniums for dainty blooms in a wide range of soils and situations. If you are after the best shrubs for shade, this choice is good for broad sweeps around deciduous shrubs. Also try ‘Bevan’s Variety’ (prolific, magenta flowers). 

Why are pelargoniums also called geraniums?

Hardy geraniums should not be confused with the frost-tender summer bedding geraniums, also known as pelargoniums. Geraniums (pelargonium) and hardy geraniums do belong to the same genus, Geraniaceae. But while pelargoniums and hardy geraniums are amongst the best perennials you can grow, they are not the same. 

The first botanist to describe pelargoniums, when they arrived in Europe from South Africa in the 1700s, decided that in their basic structure they were similar to wild European cranesbills. Because the scientific name for cranesbills was ‘Geranium’, he called them Geranium africanum. Soon after, it was determined the two groups were sufficiently different for the African plants to have a name of their own – ‘Pelargonium’. 

And there would never have been any confusion, had it not been for pioneer botanist Carl Linnaeus, who established the naming system that we use today. He called them all ‘Geranium’ and he was very influential, so the name stuck. So we now have two names for the same plants!

Many varieties of hardy geraniums will bloom more vibrantly and prolifically if clipped over after the main burst of flowers is fading. Some of the best varieties for a long flowering season include ‘Brookside’, ‘Kelly Anne’, ‘Rozanne’ and ‘Russell Prichard’. 

It’s a good idea to think about how different varieties sync up in terms of flowering potential to make the most of your season. Also, be sure the colors of your hardy geranium flowers fit nicely together with other plants nearby.

Graham Rice
Freelance writer

Graham Rice is a garden writer who has won awards for his work online, and in books and magazines, on both sides of the Atlantic. He is a member of a number of Royal Horticultural Society committees and the recipient of the 2021 Garden Media Guild Lifetime Achievement Award. He gardened in Pennsylvania for 20 years, but has recently returned to his native England.