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Hardy Geraniums For Containers and Small Spaces

There was a time when every summer planted containers, such as pots, window boxes and troughs were filled every with annual bedding plants. Containers would be brimming over with petunias, pelargoniums and begonias in every colour of the rainbow. 

And although today these annuals still remain a popular choice gardeners are increasingly choosing more pollinator-friendly plants which are not simply discarded at the end of the season but can be enjoyed year after year.


Much more sustainable, using far less of the earth's resources and wildlife-friendly to boot, it's encouraging to see that times are changing.

Geranium x oxonianum 'Lace Time'

Geranium x oxonianum 'Lace Time', grown in a hay rack.

With long-lasting flowering periods, a vast array of choices, from coloured foliage to compact, spreading and trailing habits, cranesbills have a lot to offer when choosing plants for containers and small spaces.

Geranium cinereum 'Laurence Flatman' Shaun Barr Photography

Geranium cinereum 'Laurence Flatman'


In fact, with so much to offer I'm only surprised hardy geraniums are not used more oftenI've come up with a selection I 

would particularly recommend for container and small space planting.

Geranium cinereum 'Jolly Jewel Red'

Geranium cinereum 'Jolly Jewel Red' Shaun Barr Photography

The cinereum species are Alpine plants and therefore require an open, sunny position with free-draining compost.


Suitable for rockeries and small spaces as well as containers, their ideal for terracotta pots, which is how I usually grow them.

Long flowering, 'Jolly Jewel Red' has a profusion of deep magenta blooms set off on a background of pretty, grey-green foliage, which forms a neat and compact mound. Use one part coarse grit to 2 parts loam-based compost.

Flowers May to October. H 15cm.

Geranium sessiflorum 'Sanne'

Geranium sessiflorum 'Sanne' Shaun Barr Photography

A really useful addition to any garden. Masses of creamy white flowers throughout the summer, set against dark bronze leaves to striking effect. 


Quick growing to form a neatly spreading clump this little 

geranium is as happy grown in containers as it is at the front of the border.


Flowers June to September. H 20cm.

Geranium cinereum 'Thumbling Hearts'

Geranium cinereum 'Thumbling Hearts' Shaun Barr Photography

Another choice cinereum you may come across this labelled as 'Thumping Hearts'. Either way it's a very attractive geranium with ruffled heavily veined petals that flow from a black centre into deep, dark purple and then to the palest dusky pink at the edges.


As with all cinereums give it a sunny spot and make sure it has sufficient drainage by incorporating a good measure of coarse grit. Quicker to dry out than plastic, using a terracotta pot helps to ensure the plant doesn't get too waterlogged.


Flowers May to September. H 15cm. 

Geranium sanguineum var. striatum

Geranium sanguineum var. striatum Shaun Barr Photography

A UK native plant growing wild on the dunes and sandy grasslands of Walney Island, Cumbria, this is a plant I would heartily recommend to everyone. At home in a rockery, at the front of a border, or tumbling out of pots and troughs, the Walney Geranium will flower all summer long. 

Dainty, deeply divided leaves, typical of sanguineum, form a pleasing, spreading carpet of green, above which those beautiful pink flowers bloom en masse. 

Flowers May to September. H 20cm.

Geranium 'Orkney Cherry'

Geranium 'Orkney Cherry' Shaun Barr Photography

There is a delightful vibrancy in the blushed pink of these flowers, which are also prettily veined. Blooming in abundance throughout spring, summer and through to early autumn, the mid bronze leaves create a wonderful backdrop.


Its compact size and neat habit make it a perfect choice for pots and other containers.


Flowers April to October. H 15cm. 

Other Geraniums To Try

There is a wealth of choice when it comes to choosing cranesbills for containers and small spaces, here's a few other suggestions to try:

  • Geranium sanguineum 'Pink Pouffe' - endlessly flowering light pink blooms on a carpet of finely cut foliage.

  • Geranium cinereum 'Laurence Flatman' - featured in my Top Ten Hardy Geraniums, striking, crimson to pink veined flowers make this a real beauty.

  • Geranium pratense 'Midnight Ghost' - if you like the dark purple-bronze foliage geraniums then this is a wonderful choice, the dark, finely cut leaves contrasting dramatically with the veined white flowers. 

  • Geranium sanguineum 'Apfelblüte' - soft pink flowers over neat clumps of carpeting foliage. 

  • Geranium cantabrigiense 'Westray' - bright, purplish pink flowers, with compact, shiny and aromatic foliage. 

  • Geranium dalmaticum 'Album'- a compact grower with bright white flowers above neat, glossy, aromatic foliage.

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