Geranium: The Plant That Just Keeps on Giving

Whenever Carol Pope is asked for a suggestion on an effective groundcover for a deer-trampled strip of soil, she always thinks of big-root geranium.

Credit: Carol Pope

Above: Planted with just a few shoots
last year, this little garden bed is now
brimming with G. macrorrhizum.

Whenever I’m asked for a suggestion on an effective groundcover for a deer-trampled strip of soil, I always think of big-root geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum). 

Perennial, deer resistant, shade and sun tolerant, hardy to zone 3, of virtually no interest to pests, weed smothering, drought hardy and with attractive spicy-scented evergreen foliage and a spring sprinkling of magenta-hued blooms – one has to ask what more a gardener could ask for.

On top of that, G. macrorrhizum spreads super fast, providing tons of free shoots that are easy to pull out and plunk into any bare spot in the garden, yet it is not invasive. Buy one plant this season and you’ll have half a dozen by the end of the year. Plant those out and you’ll have 36 or more plants by next summer. You get the idea…

I’ve been growing G. macrorrhizum for almost two decades alongside the high-traffic deer trails in my garden, and only once have they disturbed it: One weary doe decided to make my fluffy geranium bed her bed for the night, and I woke up to a deer-shaped flat spot that fortunately perked up a few days later.

And the best thing about G. macrorrhizum is that it will grow where no others have grown before. Meaning that in both my last garden and current garden, I’ve had sandy-soil-and-mostly-rock, shady, under-the-eaves, impossible-to-plant spots where other drought-resistant stalwarts have simply expired over time. What does grow there, even managing to look lush? You guessed it: G. macrorrhizum…