White True Geranium, Geranium Sanguineum ‘Album’

Ilona Erwin

Here is another plant whose names have confused gardeners. Not just the appellation of “Geranium”, this being the true one in contrast to a Pelargonium, but it has undergone some botanist changes since the time I first bought it. Geranium lancastriense ‘Alba’ is how I came to know it; however, if you wish to find it now, Geranium sanguineum ‘Album’ is the proper Latin name.
Also commonly called:

  • Bloody Cranesbill
  • Hardy Geranium
  • Lancaster Geranium

Perennials such as this one are rarely given a great deal of notice. They aren’t the divas of the garden, but playing their bit parts, they are perhaps all the more indispensable.

At home in sunny and partly shady areas, this demure woodland beauty has its own allure.

This plant more commonly comes in a pink shade, but I like the clear white which mixes well with other colors and contrasts beautifully with its own vibrant deep green foliage.

The Look of Geranium Lancastriense ‘Alba’

geranium sanguineum buds

Geranium sanguineum “Album”

A five petaled cup of luminous white, distributed over a rounded mound of foliage when grown in a border or as an edging. It is far more loose when growing in a wild garden, peeking out from grasses and other plantings.

The leaves are finely cut five lobed circles which turn somewhat colorful in autumn. The entire plant remains good looking throughout the growing season, from the mid spring bloom to the autumn.

I like to trim up the plants in the midsummer, but other than that they require little maintenance.

About 10″ in height and 30″ wide, this plant tends to grow in a loose mounded shape. The foliage keeps a fresh look all season.

It grows from a rhizome, and originated in the woodlands and scrubby hillsides of Europe.

Bloody Cranesbill

Hardy Geranium beside my flagstone path

 

Characteristics of this Hardy Geranium

  • low, 10 in. high
  • mounded, 30 inches wide
  • fine to medium texture foliage
  • white flowers
  • long bloom season, May through July

White Hardy Geranium In The Garden

Geranium sanguineum ‘Album’ (or ‘Alba’, as I bought it) is known for its long period of bloom, but not for its prolific blossoming. Let the plants settle in, and they have a good deal of show at the height of their season, but it seems that while the white flowers keep coming on, they never quite cover the plant completely. That is one reason they look so at home in the more wild or woodland garden.

Although it may make a decent groundcover, grass can manage to root itself within.

As an edging plant it is a worryfree, early summer bloomer. I like the way the cup-like blooms give an additional interest to the many types of daisy flowers which bloom at this time.

In my own garden I paired it with a low growing rose, mixed it into what has become a rather wild patch of ground and grown it along with the lavender and rue that edges the flagstone pathway to my front door. Originally, it was part of the English style perennial border which was once a main feature here.

This hardy geranium has outlasted its cousin ‘Johnson’s Blue’, survived all sorts of neglect, and reminded me of its beauty when it blooms in spite of everything, cold, drought, or impinging weeds.

Iris, peonies, and early roses (such as Therese Bugnet) bloom at the same time as this perennial at its height. The long blooming period means it will coincide with other flowers, too. Personally, I like it best with subtle neighbors such as the lavender and near the deep green of Taxus shrubs.

It is also a good companion for underneath deciduous shrubs, overplanting the Drumstick alliums, or in woodland to garden transitions. Ferns would harmonize well.

wild geranium

In a wild part of the garden

Why I Like It

The shape is pleasing, both of plant and individual bloom. The white color harmonizes well, yet has outstanding visual qualities. It stands out without being harsh, mixes very well with poppies, lavenders, rue, roses, and doesn’t get aggressive in my garden.

A plant which holds its own is highly rated by a gardener like me, who periodically suffers hard winters, vacation neglect, etc.

I like that it is easy to grow and propagate. Taking basal cuttings (a little bit of the root, along with the stem) to create new plants couldn’t be easier, but if you wish to divide them every so often that is another way to gain more.

Grow in cottage gardens, along paths and as an edging. At home in the woodland, and peeks out amongst other plants in the wild garden. Long blooming perennial makes a nice groundcover under ornamental trees and shrubbery.

How To Grow

I’ve grown this particular hardy geranium, along with other types for many years. This one has had the greatest longevity, been the easiest to grow, and survives neglect (apparently a needed attribute in my garden).

Although you don’t need to, I tend to trim it up during the midsummer to tidy it, and in the spring I weed out invading grass, my perennial nemesis.

Needs
  • sun to part sun
  • average soil
  • best with average moisture
  • good drainage
  • Zone 3-8

Don’t overfeed for best bloom.

Average soils, moisture, etc. and tolerant of drought, a wide range of soils, and harsh weather.

Rozanne is Equally Lovely , but Electric

This variety is a cross between Geranium himalayense and Geranium wallichianum ‘Buxton’s Variety. It grows taller and takes a bit more care than G. sanguineum.

Fun Facts To Know

This the county flower of Northumberland, Great Britain.

The Greek word for the proper name and the common nickname all refer to the seed capsule shape which resembles the beak of the crane (“Cranesbill”).

If you like this plant, you may also desire the pale pink, Geranium sanguineum var. striatum or one of the more colorful varieties, ranging from pink to bright magenta and luscious purples.

  • “Ankum’s Pride”
  • “Aviemore”
  • “Cedric Morris”
  • “Elsbeth”
  • “Glenluce”
  • “John Elsley”
  • “Kristin Jakob”
  • “Max Frei”
  • “New Hampshire Purple”
  • “Purple Flame”
  • “Shepherd’s Warning”

Available At Nature Hills

Detailed evaluation for the hardy Geraniums can be found in the Chicago Botanic PDF

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.