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 Large plant (more than 24 inches), Medium plant (12-24 inches)
  • Light exposure Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Chicago), Zone 6, Zone 7
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Clay soil
  • Season of interest early summer, late spring
  • 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 5 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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