Content Detail

Dusky geranium is often sold as mourning widow geranium due to the dark purple flowers. The popular cultivar ‘Samobor’ also features a ring of dark purple on its leaves.  Dusky geranium is well adapted to shady sites.

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

Size and Method of spreading:

Dusky geranium grows 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 feet tall when in flower. Spread can be 1 to 1 1/2 feet. This is a clump-forming ground cover. Clump-forming ground covers are perennials that can be planted closely together to provide the visual effect of a ground cover. This species also spreads to some degree through short rhizomes and self seeding.

Native geographic location and habitat:

This plant is native to Europe and commonly found in wooded areas.

Leaf description:

The leaves are lobed, with jaggedly toothed margins. The general outline of the leaf is rounded. The leaves of the species are green, but some cultivars have purple-banded leaves.

Flower description:

The flowers of this species are small, about 1 inch, with five petals. They are a dark maroon or purple. The flowers are held above the foliage. Most of the flowering occurs in early summer.

Fruit description:

Fruits are beaked capsules said to resemble a crane’s bill and are not ornamentally important.

Plant care:

This ground cover does well in partial to full shade situations. It prefers a moist, well-drained soil, but will tolerate some dryness.  Excessive heat can cause the foliage to dieback. This geranium self-seeds readily and deadheading can control unwanted seedlings.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

No serious disease or insect problems.

Raven dusky geranium (Geranium phaeum ‘Raven’):  

This plant has very dark purple flowers with a white eye.

Samobor dusky geranium (Geranium phaeum ‘Samobor’): 

This plant has maroon-purple flowers and its foliage has a purple band.

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