Geranium, any of about 275 species of flowering herbs. The geranium grows well in temperate regions of all continents. Most geraniums are perennials or biennials, but a few are annuals. They are divided into two groupsthe common wild geranium and the cultivated geranium.

Blossoms of Cultivated GeraniumBlossoms of Cultivated Geranium

The wild geranium is found chiefly in woods and thickets in eastern North America. It is also called crane's-bill, from its long beaklike seed pod. The stems are branched, the fingerlike leaves moderately lobed. The simple, five-petaled flowers are pink, blue, or white, and grow at the tops of the stems. Wild geraniums grow well as spring flowers in shaded gardens. The reddish-purple herb Robert is sometimes used in compounding medicines.

Cultivated geraniums are actually pelargoniums, members of a South African genus of the same family. They vary from one to five feet (30 to 150 cm) in height, have trailing stems, simple, roundish leaves, and clusters of five-petaled pink, red, purple, or white flowers. The slips from which they grow are planted in sand, and shifted to soil when well-rooted. Cultivated geraniums grow best in sunny, well-drained soil that is rich in phosphate and potash. Well-known species include the pink or red Lady Washington, the trailing ivy geranium, and the rose geranium, sometimes used in soaps and perfumes and in flavoring jellies.

The wild geranium is Geranium maculatum; herb Robert, Geranium Robertianum. Cultivated forms are Pelargonium; Lady Washington, Pelargonium domesticum; ivy, P. peltatum; and rose, P. graveolens. All belong to the family Geraniaceae.