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Choosing Hardy Geraniums for Shade

Although it's true that all cranesbill geraniums are tolerant of some shade, there are certain species and cultivars that are particularly suited to even the most light-depleted areas of the garden. This is welcome news for anyone searching for something to brighten up a tricky corner, or under the heavy foliage of a nearby tree.

Here's a list of some favourite, tried and tested shade-loving cranesbill geraniums.

Geranium phaeum var. lividum 'Walkure'





In truth you could pick any Geranium phaeum if you're looking to plant in dry spots such as borders where walls, fences or buildings cut out the light.


But this cultivar is especially beautiful, brightening up areas where other flowers would really struggle to shine.

Elegant, soft lavender petals flow out from a subtle white ring and darker eye, with flowers borne on stems that rise up from the clumps of large, attractive leaves.

Flowers appear in spring (with later flushes often appearing mid-summer), and a pleasing mound of prominently 

toothed leaves are left for the rest of the season, providing a wonderful splash of green to borders as well as keeping weeds at bay.


Flowers May to June. H 50cm.

Geranium x cantabrigiense 'St. Ola'

©Shaun Barr Photography

G.St.Ola DSCF4329 2.jpg

Forming low, compact mats of glossy, aromatic foliage this dainty little plant will happily (and slowly) begin to spread to become an attractive space filler, brightening up shady corners.


St. Ola has a low spreading habit, which makes it a superb choice for ground cover. 

Clusters of bright white flowers burst out from above the neat mounds of deep green leaves, and as autumn approaches the foliage turn a lovely mix of reds, oranges and golds.


Flowers May to September. H 20cm.

©Shaun Barr Photography

Geranium maculatum 'Espresso'


One of the many great things about hardy geraniums is that, beyond the flowers, there's an array of foliage colours to choose from, and 'Espresso' is a good example.


In addition to the dusty pink flowers which fade to almost white, this rather lovely cultivar shows off eye-catching, dark bronze foliage (just about visible in my photograph).


As with other maculatum species ‘Espresso’ will tolerate sunshine but prefers partial shade to full shade.


Flowers June to July. H 35cm.  

©Shaun Barr Photography

Geranium nodosum 'Clos du Coudray'


'Clos du Coudray' is hard not to fall in love with. In fact it's the type of cranesbill that really shows how stunning and exotically beautiful geranium flowers can actually be. 

The species nodosum is a woodland plant which is perfectly at home in a shady location. 

Flowering all summer long, the deep violet-purple blooms flow out to pale-edge petals. The glossy, bright green foliage is particularly attractive and forms neat clumps.


Flowers May to August. H 30cm. 

©Shaun Barr Photography

Geranium versicolor


©Shaun Barr Photography

Geranium versicolor is such a hardworking species that I'd recommend it for any garden. A prolific flowerer with trumpet-shaped blooms varying from pink to white; the colours can often change on the same flower. But it is the elaborately streaked veining on the petals that makes this such a striking plant. 

A real clump former, the bright green, 

attractively blotched foliage stays just as fresh throughout the winter, and of course makes for excellent ground cover.


Although versicolor copes well with sun the plant really enjoys light shade and therefore is a great choice for places where other flowers 

might struggle.  

Flowers May to October. H 45cm. 

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