Dusky cranesbill – planting, care and tips

Dusky cranesbill
Dusky cranesbill

The dusky cranesbill (Geranium phaeum) not only forms flowers with a very deep purple color, but can also be planted as a decorative flower due to its pretty foliage. In some areas, this flower is also known as the “mourning widow” or “black widow”.

Profile of dusky cranesbill:

Scientific name: Geranium phaeum

Plant family: geranium or cranesbill family (Geraniaceae)

Other names: mourning widow, black widow, dusky crane’s-bill

Sowing time: Spring, self seeding

Planting time: Spring

Flowering period: May to July

Location: sunny to shady

Soil quality: sandy to loamy, moderately nutrient-rich to nutrient-rich, humus-rich

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: flower beds, embankments, borders, rose companion, under wood planting, cottage garden, flower garden, inner courtyard, natural garden, rose garden, forest garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 3-5

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of dusky cranesbill

Plant order, origin and occurrence of dusky cranesbill

The dusky cranesbill (Geranium phaeum) belongs to the cranesbill family (Geraniaceae) and was originally native to the Prealps. Due to overgrowth, however, it has spread far north and can now be found even in the south of Sweden.

Characteristics of dusky cranesbill


Depending on the variety, the dusky crane’s-bill is between 60 and 80 centimeters (24 and 32 in) high. It is a very good ground cover.


The leaves of the dusky cranesbill, which have striking, purple spots, are hairy and only slightly incised.


The 2 to 2.5 centimeter (1 in) small flowers of this cranesbill species bloom in purple, blue violet, pink and white between May and July, depending on the variety

Flowers of dusky crane's-bill
Flowers of dusky crane’s-bill

Dusky cranesbill – cultivation and care


This vigorous plant tolerates direct sun but does not need it and can also grow in the shade.


It is satisfied with normal garden soil, although it also tolerates drought well.


Propagation of dusky crane’s-bill is done by division of plants, cuttings or sowing in spring. It likes to seed itself.


The dusky crane’s-bill is quite undemanding. Keep a planting distance of about 30 to 40 centimeters (12 to 16 in) to other plants. About nine plants per square meter are enough to achieve good coverage. However, if you want to prevent the plant from seed itself, you should cut it back before the seeds mature. Otherwise, it is sufficient to prune the stems in late autumn.


Because it is a native plant that survives in the wild even in Sweden and Russia, wintering is not a problem.

Use in the garden

The striking dark flowers of the dusky cranesbill are best emphasized by placing them in front of white or other brightly flowering plants.

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