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Hardly any other genus of plants uses so many different species as versatile in the garden as the cranesbill (geranium). Because the perennials have much to offer: Attractive foliage, which is also wintergreen in some species, especially beautiful flowers and decorative fruit stalks. For this they are vigorous, easy to multiply and are avoided by snails - so easy to maintain in the truest sense of the word.

Cranesbills are an extensive genus of about 400 different, mostly perennial species. There is also a large number of cultivated varieties for the garden. Cranesbills have their own plant family, the cranesbill family (Geraniaceae). A number of cranesbill species are native to us such as the Wood Cranesbill (Geranium sylvaticum), the Crimson Cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum) or the Meadow Cranesbill (Geranium pratense), others come from South and Southeastern Europe and the Near East and are horticultural Culture came into our garden beds.

Forest Cranesbill 'Album'

The forest cranesbill 'Album' grows loose and harried and feels at half shady location well

The enthusiasm for cranesbill woke up with us in the early 1980s. First of all, Rock Cranesbill (Geranium macrorrhizum 'Spessart') was planted, an undemanding, fast growing and wintergreen species, but with rather modest white flowers. It is ideal as a large underplant of trees. As a companion for roses and delphiniums, however, the magnificent cranesbill (Geranium x magnificum) with its large blue-violet flowers found more favor. Especially recommended is the newer variety 'Rosemoor' of the German breeder Hans Simon.

Cranesbill 'Spessart' (Geranium macrorrhizum)

The Rock Cranesbill 'Spessart' plants larger areas under trees in an instant

Appearance and growth

Cranesbills have round, differently lobed to handshaped divided leaves, some of which have a nice yellow or red autumn color and smell aromatic. The cup-shaped flowers are white, pink, crimson, violet or blue in all possible shades and sit individually in the leaf axils. Often, the sepals are colored differently than the flowers, so that there is a delightful play of colors such as the Cambridge Cranesbill (Geranium x cantabrigiense). Stork bills grow either horstartig or they form short, aboveground foothills and cover so larger areas such as the robust Balkan Cranesbill (Geranium macrorrhizum), which is very well suited as a ground cover for sun and shade. The plants grow 15 to about 100 centimeters high depending on the species and most of them bloom between May and August. All species have more or less strongly aromatic fragrant foliage. Its flowers are often visited by bees and the useful hoverflies.

Location and ground

Storkbills like moderately moist locations with nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. They usually tolerate summer drought better than waterlogging.
However, the diversity of the genus Geranium offers the right plant for (almost) every garden area. Here is a small overview:
Sunny and humid: Geranium endressii, Geranium himalayense, Geranium x magnificum, Geranium pratense, Geranium psilostemon

Magnificent cranesbill Geranium x magnificum

In the light shade and in sunny places, purple splendid cranesbill (Geranium x magnificum) likes to spread

Partly shady and moist: Geranium gracile, Geranium himalayense, Geranium sylvaticum
Sunny and dry: Geranium sanguineum, Geranium renardii, Geranium x cantabrigiense, Geranium cinereum
Shady and dry: Geranium macrorrhizum, Geranium nodosum, Geranium phaeum


For ground covers such as the Balkan Cranesbill, eight to ten plants per square meter are used, so that the area closes quickly. The best planting date for all cranesbill species is spring.

care Tips

The easy-care shrubs need once little attention. Freshly planted cranesbills should be sufficiently supplied with water in sunny weather. For non-winter-green, horstig-growing stork beaks such as 'Patricia', 'Rozanne' and the splendid cranesbill you can cut all shoots down to a few centimeters in autumn. The ground cover can be shortened in autumn or spring, where they grow beyond the bed area. In spring, supply the plants on nutrient-poor soils with compost or manure fertilizer.

Cranesbill 'Rozanne'

In the large genus of cranesbills (geranium), there is a suitable perennial for almost every location in the garden. For loamy soils, for example, the almost indestructible variety 'Rozanne' is suitable.

Cranesbills are very durable and therefore need not be regularly rejuvenated by division. The horstig growing species can easily be multiplied by division.


From the continuously growing ground cover, which does not give birth to weeds, to the perennial in the flowerbed, there are suitable representatives for almost every garden situation. Only extremely sunny locations or waterlogging they can not tolerate. Examples of easy-care groundcover in the shade and semi-shade under trees and on the woody edge are in addition to the various varieties of Balkan Cranesbill and the low Cambridge Cranesbill good to use, the latter comes even with full sun well.
In the sunny to slightly shady perennial border, the varieties of the Armenian Cranesbill (Geranium psilostemon) with their long flowering period from May to July make something, for example the popular, pink flowering variety 'Patricia' and the blue splendorous cranesbill or the Himalayan cranesbill ( Geranium himalayense). Partners are roses, lady's mantle (alchemilla), peonies or ornamental grasses like the lamprey grass.
In grassland plantations native species such as the brown cranesbill (G. phaeum), the meadow cranesbill and the forest cranesbill feel well.

Armenian Cranesbill (Geranium psilostemon)

The Armenian Cranesbill (Geranium psilostemon) grows to a meter tall and produces magenta flowers

The gray-dusty Caucasus Cranesbill (Geranium renardii) and the graceful Ash Gray Cranebill (Geranium cinereum), which has beautifully dark-veined flower shells, are suitable for rock garden beds and walls. An exceptional talent is the particularly flowering hybrid breeding 'Rozanne', which grows horstig, but with its meter-long shoots can quickly cover a large area. From the beginning of June until November it opens again and again new bright violet flowers with white eye and thrives in sunny to partially shaded places.

Important species and varieties

Many cranesbill varieties, which originated in the past decades, we owe breeders from England and the Netherlands. Probably around 400 species, varieties and hybrids are now on the market at home and abroad. The demands on light and ground differ depending on the type, but they are mostly robust and thus easy to maintain. There are large-flowered, up to 60 centimeters high specimens such as 'Brookside', descended from the native meadow cranesbill. They love a sunny patch of nutrient-rich but not too dry soil. The small-blooded, about 30 centimeters high varieties of the blood-stork beak (Geranium sanguineum) on the other hand tolerate a lot of dryness.

Crimson Cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum)

Crimson Cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum)

In loose umbels the Flor of the Brown Cranesbill (Geranium phaeum) stands above the leaves. Typical are the bent back petals, so that the fruit stamp clearly shows. Large, purple-pink flowers show 'Sirak' (Geranium-Gracile hybrid) from May. 'Lily Lovell' (Geranium phaeum) is up to 90 inches high. Flowering time is May to July. Stuffed flowers decorate the meadow cranesbill 'Summer Skies'. 'Saint Ola' (Geranium x cantabrigiense) has graceful flowers and a graceful habit. The Rock Cranesbill 'Czakor' is strong and wintergreen. 'Mayflower' (Geranium sylvaticum), with blue-white flowers, likes to hurry.
'Album' is a white variety of geranium sylvaticum and is considered a collector's plant. A low ground cover is 'Marvis Simpson' (Geranium x riversleaianum). In areas with a harsh climate you should treat it to winter protection. A perennial flower is Geranium x riversleaianum 'Russel Prichard', because he enjoys from June to September with bright flowers. The pretty leaves of the Meadow Cranesbeak 'Black Beauty' look like they are covered in purple. The blue flowers of the 40-centimeter-high perennial appear from June. A special feature is the tuberous cranesbill (Geranium tuberosum), in which the bulbous roots are eponymous. After the flowering period from April to May, the perennial plant takes a break, but drives out again for winter and then keeps its leaves until spring.
In the bed design today the leaf decoration plays an increasing role. Also for this one finds in the Cranesbill assortment the suitable representatives, for example the Caucasus Cranesbill with sage green, soft leaves or 'Black Beauty' (Geranium pratense) with purple foliage: With them, extravagant congestion combinations can be conjured into the flower bed.


The proliferation of cranesbill is very easy in most species. Climbing cranesbills such as Geranium himalayense, Geranium x magnificum or Geranium pratense can be propagated in the spring by sharing. Species with creeping rhizomes, such as the Balkan cranesbill, are increased by rhizomes. Some species such as the Wallich Cranesbill (Geranium wallichianum) and the Lambert Cranesbill (Geranium lambertii) form a powerful taproot that is difficult to divide. These species are best propagated in the spring over cuttings.

Diseases and pests

Older varieties of the Balkan Cranesbeak such as 'Spessart' are susceptible to Stängelälchen. The typical nest-like infestation in groundcover areas can be recognized by the growth of the stems and the initially reddish discolored, later dead leaves. Rarely, rust fungi, powdery mildew and soft skin mites and weevils may occur.Otherwise, storks are very robust and are hardly affected by pests and diseases. They also do not taste the snails.

Video Board: How to Grow Cranesbill.

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