By Kerry Ann Mendez
Whether you are a master gardener or an "armchair gardener", hardy geraniums will make you smile! These hardworking, ridiculously easy to grow perennials do well in sandy, loam or clay soil as long as it is well-drained. The majority of hardy geraniums enjoy full to part sun but there are some cultivars that shine in woodland gardens. Most of these geraniums are hardy to Zone 5, but there are a number that can easily handle Zone 4 or even 3, which is 30 to 40 degrees below zero!
Hardy geraniums comes in petite and compact cultivars or large, full-figured varieties that grow to 2 feet or more. There are even ones that make terrific weed-suppressing ground covers, such as those in the macrorrhizum species.
Geranium flowers can be shades of pink, blue and purple as well as white. Some blooms have striking veins in the petals, giving them a stunning bi-color appearance and depending on the cultivar, the foliage can be even more dazzling than the flowers. I especially enjoy the rich chocolate leaves of 'Boom Chocolatta', the delicate and lacy foliage of 'Dark Reiter' or the large lobed leaves of 'Ingwersen’s Variety'.
Most geraniums are showiest from spring to early summer, followed by sporadic flowers. Geranium 'Rozanne' and 'Azure Rush' are marathon bloomers, starting the floral show in June and racing into October, with no deadheading required.
Geraniums shine in the landscape, containers, hanging baskets and window boxes. Plus they are deer and rabbit resistant!
As you can guess, I'm a huge fan of these superhero perennials. The hardest part about growing hardy geraniums is deciding which ones to buy! Estabrook's has more than a dozen terrific choices to choose from.