The Jolly Green Giant of Geraniums


We visited Madeira almost three years ago, a gorgeous little volcanic island off the coast of Africa. Madeira’s year-round spring temperatures make it a gardener’s paradise, and I brought home more than a few souvenirs, including orchids and some cuttings.

I also brought home a package of Geranium maderense seeds, also known as the Madeira cranesbill. I found the package in the bottom of my gardening bag last spring, threw the seeds into a pot of something already growing, and promptly forgot about it. I figured the seeds were old by then and wouldn’t germinate. Well, a couple did, and when autumn came around I dug one up, put the seedling in its own pot, and brought it indoors for the winter.

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When I bought the seeds I’d never actually seen a Geranium maderense, let alone one in bloom. I figured it was a just an ordinary geranium of some type, how exciting could that be? That is, until the thing started growing. And growing. It’s a metre across now, and taking over my patio. No sign of flowers yet, and I’m wondering where I’m going to put this thing come winter since it’s not cold hardy. I joked with my landlord that I’ll just move all the furniture outdoors and bring all the plants indoors.

The leaves are quite pretty — kind of fern-like. And despite what some of the sites I’ve found have said, my Geranium maderense is much happier in the shade. When the sun comes out the leaves wilt with a decided pout.

San Francisco Botanical Garden: Geranium maderense

Royal Horticultural Society: RHS Garden Rosemoor