Geranium Phaeum

The Complete Guide to the Geranium Phaeum

The geranium phaeum is a flower species of the Geraniaceae family and is also often referred to as ‘mourning widow’ or ‘dusky cranesbills’. It is a Nordic plant, commonly found in Alpine regions and southern Scandinavia. Thus, in nature it usually grows in shady areas where the soil is cool and moist.

The geranium phaeum is an herby plant which can grow many consecutive years. When it is flowering, it can grow up to 50cm and produce rich green leaves and a dark blossom. In rare cases, the flower can also be white or pink, but it is usually black or dark brown and looks as if it has a sunken head, hence the name ‘widow’. Although the plant prefers shady or semi-shady areas, it is very easy to care for and can survive in sunny spots as well. The seeds are inexpensive and will grow in virtually any type of gardening soil, but it is highly recommended to loosen the earth up once in a while to enable the roots to develop and become strong.

It is a known fact that loosened soil results in quicker growth and a stronger flower, so that it should be a regular process throughout the year. Apart from that, the geranium phaeum does not require much attention and grows by itself. About 9 seeds can be planted on 1sqm, and while this might seem like a small amount, the plant will produce thick bushes and many blossoms. Depending on the type of ‘geranium’ it can even take less seeds to achieve great results. Fertilizer is not necessary at all unless the flowers are growing in unfamiliar conditions, such as in a very sunny spot or in very dry areas.

After the first season of flowering, the plant must be trimmed and will blossom again in the following year. Disease and pest are usually the result of neglect, and while the geranium phaeum does not require much attention, the previously mentioned conditions of loose soil, shade and trimming should be observed. Although the soil should always be humid, soaking and over-watering is to be avoided as the roots or even the entire plant will mould and die.  Depending on which climate zone the flower is planted, watering guidelines vary. In Mediterranean-like climate, water is very important because the plant will dry out in extreme heats and it is crucial to provide shade. Those who live in colder regions should make sure the soil is moist during the summer while watering decreases largely in winter.

The geranium phaeum is the ideal plant for gardeners and hobbyists who have just started out. The success rate for this hardy type is very high no matter where it is planted and the flowers look absolutely gorgeous. The ‘mourning widow’ has even been observed growing in sand and effectively suppresses the growth of unwanted weed. They are also great for indoors and grow easily in a pot, containers or even in rocky areas.

The beautiful flowers are often used as decoration against white backgrounds for instance on white plates or serviettes when hosting a dinner party. Black flowers like these are rather unusual and although the name ‘widow’ may suggest a sad theme, they are beautiful to look at. When fully grown in the garden, it spreads a woodland flair and reminds of mountain scenery. Even if planting and growing the flower fails, it is not the end of the world due to the fact that new seeds are very affordable. These can be purchased in professional nurseries or at a gardener, but they are often also available in normal supermarkets when it is season to plant them.