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  • Writer's pictureAmy Johnson

Wild Geranium Lessons; A Staple of the Perennial Shade Garden




When we moved out of Madison almost 20 years ago, we bought our first house with a yard big enough for a young toddler and an aging dog. It was my first chance to establish some perennials. I picked purple coneflower and a variety of asters, but consulted with Sparrow, LLC about the dark and soggy space on the north side of the garage. Jennifer suggested sedges and wild geranium.


They absolutely thrived – turning an ugly corner of the yard into a prideful patch. When we moved to a larger property eight years later, it pained me to leave the fluffy sedges and a huge cluster, almost bush, of wild geranium. I didn’t want bad karma by digging up the plants, but confess I divided some roots off the wild geranium to grace the new property.

Wild geranium is one of my favorite perennials. It’s an early bloomer – sporting delicate pink-lavender flowers (or white if you choose the ‘Album’ variety) in late spring when you’re waiting for summer flowers to join the fun. Look for this showy native in the wild - in deciduous woodlands of Eastern and Midwest regions – primarily zones 3 to 8.


I envisioned it all over my new space. But I had a hard time figuring out where to place it. More land comes with more options and a bigger chance that small plants will get lost in the landscape before they establish. I probably uprooted those poor geraniums at least five times – each year wishing they’d burst into the display of beauty I once had – each year frustrated by the few stragglers that popped up.  It hung on (barely) with every bad decision I made about where it should go.


After realizing deer were nibbling the new flowers, I finally moved it into a fenced-in garden to give it some extra love and attention. I am excited to report with consistent watering the first year and some encouraging words, my wild geranium is starting to thrive again. Seeing it emerge in its new ‘forever home’ this spring brings me joy. I look forward to collecting its seeds and dividing it, once large enough, to spread its magic.


Wild geranium is a staple of the native perennial woodland garden
Wild Geranium, Geranium maculatum, emerging from a sturdy rootstock in April

Wild geranium has been a forgiving, resilient friend for two decades despite my indecision and amateur gardening practices. It teaches me that even when placed in less-than-ideal conditions, or getting lost in the shuffle for a few years, we still have the potential to grow and bloom. It teaches me that while we might do well in one environment, we may need more love, patience, and extra care in a new one.


If you’re looking for low maintenance and high reward – talk to Sparrow about ordering some wild geranium; a staple of the perennial shade garden. It may flower a bit more with sun but is a great option for shady spaces. And trust me, it will forgive you for moving it a few times. What more could you ask for in a long-term relationship?


Wild geranium attracts native bees to the woodland perennial garden in spring
Wild geranium is a great early season food source for bees.

 

2 Comments


Jennifer Baker
Jennifer Baker
Apr 16

Amy Johnson is a great writer! I love wild geranium too🌸

Like

rcasetta
Apr 16

What an uplifting blog! Love wild geranium!

Like

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