Plant Hardy Geraniums For Bees

Plant hardy geraniums for bees.  Pictured: Common carder bumble bee foraging on <I>Geranium sanguineum var. striatum</I>.Common carder bumble bee foraging on Geranium sanguineum var. striatum.

I would encourage everyone with a garden to plant hardy geraniums for bees.

Hardy geraniums are among my favourite plants, not only because so many different bee species visit the flowers, but because they are also very easy to care for.


Geraniums in my garden

I have three varieties of hardy geranium in my garden, and if I had gaps to fill, I'd consider adding more.  

Geranium sanguineum var. striatum - also known as 'striped bloody cranesbill

The low growing, pale pink geranium pictured at the top of this page and below is Geranium sanguineum var. striatum - also known as 'striped bloody cranesbill'.  It grows in the front garden on the rockery, and is useful for providing dense coverage.  It provides long-lasting, cheerful flowers from June to August, and every year it attracts a variety of bee species.

Honey bee foraging on <I>Geranium sanguineum var. striatum</I>.Honey bee foraging on Geranium sanguineum var. striatum.


Geranium
'Brookside' - cranesbill 'Brookside'

This geranium has rich purple petals, reddish veins and a paler centre.  

Leafcutter bee foraging on <I>Geranium </I> 'Brookside'.Leafcutter bee foraging on Geranium 'Brookside'.

It flowers from June to September, and dies back for winter.  Fresh new growth appears the following year.  You can prolong flowering easily by deadheading this plant.  

Red-tailed bumble bee foraging on <I>Geranium </I> 'Brookside'.Red-tailed bumble bee foraging on Geranium 'Brookside'.

I increased the number of colonies of this specimen by dividing the plant I had originally purchased in spring a couple of years or so after it had become well established. 

One point I would make is that the flower stems of this geranium are about 50cm in length, and stand above the foliage.  In my experience they are prone to being flattened by rain, without springing back up again.  For this reason, I recommend it for underplanting suitable shrubs and bushes near the front of the border.

Honey bees are also attracted to <I>Geranium </I> 'Brookside'.Honey bees are also attracted to Geranium 'Brookside'.


Geranium pretense
'Striatum' ('Splish-splash')

Another favourite with the bees in my garden is Geranium pratense 'Striatum' ('Splish-splash') - meadow cranesbill (similar to Geranium pratense 'Delft Blue').  This geranium has quite sturdy flower stems of about 60cm, and as you can see from the images below, the petals are white with lilac/mauve-blue 'splashes'.  No two flower heads are the same, and they are quite striking.  

Red-tailed bumble bee on <I>Geranium pretense</I> 'Striatum' ('Splish-splash').Red-tailed bumble bee on Geranium pretense 'Striatum' ('Splish-splash').

Again, you can easily prolong flowering by deadheading the plant, so the bees could be visiting the flowers from May through to September.  As with 'Brookside' above, this geranium dies back in winter, followed by new growth the following year, and you can also divide the plants in spring.

Solitary bee species inside  <I>Geranium pretense</I> 'Striatum' ('Splish-splash') flower - bee species not yet identified!Solitary bee species inside Geranium pretense 'Striatum' ('Splish-splash') flower - bee species not yet identified!


Not in my garden, but popular with bees:  Wlassov's cranesbill - Geranium wlassovianum

This is very similar to the wild 'sticky purple geranium', Geranium Viscosissimum.  I don't have this in my garden.  The photographs below were taken in the garden of a stately home.  It was very popular with bees, and is another geranium plant I would consider adding to my flower border.

Honey bee on Wlassov's cranesbill - <I>
Geranium wlassovianum</I>.Honey bee on Wlassov's cranesbill - Geranium wlassovianum.

Again, the plant can be propagated by division in spring.  Flowers from June through to September.

Honey bee on Wlassov's cranesbill - <I>
Geranium wlassovianum</I>.Honey bee on Wlassov's cranesbill - Geranium wlassovianum.


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