Content Detail

Big-rooted geranium, also known as cranesbill, flowers in early to mid summer and tolerates hot summers better than other geraniums.

  • Family (English) Geranium
  • Family (botanic) Geraniaceae
  • Tree or plant type Ground cover, Perennial
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Medium plant (12-24 inches)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites
  • Season of interest late spring, early summer, midsummer
  • Flower color and fragrance Pink, Purple
  • Shape or form Creeping
  • Growth rate Fast

Size and Method of spreading: 

Big-rooted geranium grows 12 to 18 inches tall and each plant can spread up to 2 feet wide. It is a colonizing ground cover. Colonizing ground covers produce underground stems that spread out horizontally and shallowly, produce roots, and then send up new shoots. Big-rooted geranium is a strong grower that spreads well by rhizomes.

Native geographic location and habitat: 

Big-rooted geranium is native to southern Europe.

Leaf description: 

This plant has leaves arising directly from the base of the plant as well as along the stems. The leaves are deeply 3- to 7-lobed, with each lobe often subdivided into large, rounded teeth. The leaves are pubescent and fragrant.

Flower description: 

The five-petaled flowers are purple-pink in the species, although the cultivars offer other colors. The flowers are held in clusters on stems that hold them above the foliage. The calyx of each flower is inflated. It flowers from late spring into mid-summer.

Fruit description: 

The fruits are beaked capsules said to resemble a crane’s bill. It is not ornamentally important.

Plant care: 

Big-rooted geranium tolerates full sun to partial shade.  It will have the best growth with regular watering, but this species is a little more drought tolerant than other geraniums.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances: 

This plant has no serious disease or insect problems. It is tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Bevan’s Variety big-rooted geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Bevan’s Variety’):

This cultivar has deep magenta flowers.

Czakor big-rooted geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Czakor’): 

This cultivar is considered an improved version of Bevan’s Variety and is more tolerant of shade.

Ingwersen’s  big-rooted geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Ingwersen’s Variety’):

This cultivar has pale pink flowers and foliage which develops red and bronze tones in fall.

Minor big-rooted geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Minor’):

This plant has magenta flowers on a shorter plant, maturing to 9 to 10 inches tall.

Spessart big-rooted geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Spessart’):

This plant has white flowers that are blushed with pink.

White big-rooted geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Album’):

This is a white-flowered variety.


Your support is vital to the Arboretum, where the power of trees makes a positive impact on people’s lives.

Make a gift