Max Frei Hardy GeraniumGeranium sanguineum 'Max Frei'
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Geranium sanguineum 'Max Frei'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun, Shade
Nothing like what most gardeners think of as ‘geraniums’, and sometimes called ‘cranesbills’ instead, the Max Frei Hardy Geranium is an outstanding hardy ground cover plant for all locations in your garden. It forms a low mat of small, round but deeply-lobed green leaves with a distinctive aroma, which turn red in fall when grown in sun in colder zones. Spring and early summer bring a profusion of open, cup-shaped flowers of a rich magenta-pink, adding a sparkling and bright touch to the front of your beds. The flowers are often visited by butterflies. Grow it spilling over paths and hard surfaces, in terraced walls, in rock gardens and on slopes, and in planter boxes too. Virtually maintenance-free and reliable, this plant is exactly what good ground cover should be. It has good tolerance for heat and humidity, making it a top variety for the southeast.
The Max Frei Hardy Geranium is very adaptable, growing in full sun, partial shade and even in full shade. The mat of foliage is weed-resistant, and stays neat and attractive. A light trim after blooming can be useful to encourage dense, compact growth, and remove any old flower stalks. Grows in almost any soil that is well-drained, including poor soil and urban gardens. Thrives best in soils that are generally rich and moist, but grows fine almost anywhere that isn’t wet. Deer and rabbits leave it alone, pests and diseases normally don’t bother it, and established plants are drought tolerant.
No modern garden is complete without hardy geraniums – no, these are nothing like those annual flowers called ‘geraniums’. Hardy, reliable, easy to grow, and excellent ground cover, for smaller gardens and smaller spaces, the Max Frei Hardy Geranium is a winner. Contour hugging, and so excellent spilling out of beds, among rocks and on slopes, this compact plant has handsome foliage, but really comes to life in spring and early summer, when it is carpeted with bright, glistening magenta-pink blooms. Magnets for butterflies, they give a real lift to your late spring garden, and brighten both sunny and shady spots. For the rest of the year it is a dense, weed-resistant mat of slightly glossy leaves. These turn bright red in fall – another reason to grow this great plant. No matter how big or small your garden, Max is a great guest, and one you will wish you had invited in years ago. If you live in an area with long, hot and humid summers then this is the hardy geranium for you – it loves those conditions (unlike many other hardy geraniums).
The Max Frei Hardy Geranium is a perennial, mat-forming plant that spreads slowly by underground stems to form a plant up to 2 feet across. It isn’t invasive, and can easily be removed should it spread further than wanted. It forms a low mat of leaves on many short stems, rising 6 or 8 inches into the air, and the leaves die back in winter, resprouting quickly in spring from buds just under the ground. The small leaves form a dense mat of attractive foliage. They are round and slightly glossy, but they don’t look round at all because they are deeply divided into 5 lobes, and these are each then divided into 3 parts, so the look is fine and almost feathery. The leaves are mid-green, and in fall they turn shades of rich red, holding well into the early winter months. The leaves have a pleasant aroma when handled.
In late spring and into early summer, for several weeks, a profuse carpet of blooms springs up. These are carried in short clusters, with several flowers in every cluster, rising to about 12 inches above the ground. The buds are nodding, and then open into relatively large blooms up to 1½ inches across. These are simple cups of 5 broad petals surrounding a small white center. The color is a bold magenta-pink and with the slightly glossy petals the look is vibrant and colorful – lots of impact from a small plant. Blooming continues for about a month, and the flowers turn into long, narrow seed pods that give the plant its alternative name of ‘cranesbill’.
The Max Frei Hardy Geranium is a fabulous ground cover for all smaller spaces, where you don’t want much height. It makes a dense, weed-resistant cover in rocky pockets, on slopes, in the spaces of retaining walls, and along the front of garden beds. Plant it at the edges of paths and patios and let it spill over in an appealing fashion.
The Max Frei Hardy Geranium is incredibly cold-hardy, thanks to its underground buds, and grows well even in zone 3. Yet it has outstanding resistance to heat and humidity – for a hardy geranium – and does well all through zone 8, even in the southeast.
You can plant the Max Frei Hardy Geranium in full sun or partial shade, and even in light, dappled, full shade – it has good resistance to low-light levels, but it won’t grow well in deep full shade. It will grow in all kinds of soil, including heavy clay soils, and in just about anything that is well-drained. It is less demanding than some of the larger types of hardy geraniums that need moist soils, and has good drought resistance, once established. Avoid wet ground.
You won’t have any problems from deer, rabbits, pests or diseases with the Max Frei Hardy Geranium. Trim lightly after flowering, to remove the old flower stems, although it isn’t essential to do this. Cut back completely in late fall or early spring, removing all old foliage but not cutting any stems that are lying on the ground. That’s it – job done for another year.
Plants of the genus Geranium sound like they must be those red or pink flowering annuals called geraniums, but those are actually Pelargonium, so we call then ‘hardy geraniums’ to make the difference clear. There are over 400 different species of hardy geraniums, and many have lots of varieties too, so there are many to choose from for your garden – and they are all lovely and useful plants. They grow naturally mainly in south-eastern Europe and Asia. The bloody cranesbill, Geranium sanguineum, is native to much of Europe, and England, as far east as the Caucasus mountains. It grows wild in rocky places, open woodland and on sand dunes, which is why it is more drought resistant than many others. The variety called ‘Max Frei’ is more compact and lower-growing than wild plants. It was discovered as a seedling in an alpine garden belonging to Max Frei in Wildensbuch, Switzerland. It was released in 1976 by Gärtnerei Simon, a nursery in Germany just north of the Swiss border.
The Max Frei Hardy Geranium is one of the most reliable and tough plants of this large group. It’s a great starter plant if you haven’t grown hardy geraniums before, and a top choice for both the southeast and for gardeners in zone 3. You will love its easy-going nature and abundant flowers, and the compact size fits in any space at all. Order now – it’s a top choice of many, and always sells out fast.