Geranium sanguineum 'John Elsley'
Common Name: bloody cranesbill 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Geraniaceae
Zone: 3 to 8
Height: 0.25 to 0.50 feet
Spread: 0.25 to 1.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to August
Bloom Description: Carmine red
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Good Fall
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer, Clay Soil


Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Tolerates some drought, but produces most vigorous growth in moist, humusy soils with good drainage. Deadheading is tedious for larger plantings and probably unnecessary. Side stems may be removed at any time to control spread. If not deadheaded, some self-seeding may occur in ideal growing conditions. Foliage may be lightly sheared back and shaped to revitalize after flowering. This is a variable plant that is noted for having better tolerance for heat in hot summers and for cold in cold winters than most other species of geranium. Propagate by division, tip cuttings or seed.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Geranium sanguineum, commonly called bloody cranesbill or bloodred geranium, is an herbaceous, clump-forming perennial that typically grows in a mound to 9-12” tall with white-hairy trailing stems spreading over time to as much as 24” wide. It is native to Europe and Asia. It is perhaps the most common species of geranium grown in the U.S. today. Foliage consists of small, shallowly cut, dark green basal leaves and thinner, more deeply cut stem leaves. Solitary flowers (to 1 1/2” diameter) feature five unnotched magenta to purple crimson petals with darker veins. Flowers primarily bloom in May and June with a sparse but variable rebloom occurring throughout summer. After first fall frost, foliage usually turns attractive shades of red.

Genus name comes from the Greek word geranos meaning crane in reference to the fruit which purportedly resembles the head and beak of a crane.

Specific epithet comes from the Latin word sanguineus meaning blood red in reference to the flower color and red autumn leaves of the straight species.

‘John Eisley’ is a prostrate cultivar which forms a mound of foliage which typically rises to 3-6” tall but spreads over time to 12” wide or more. It features five-petaled, carmine red flowers (3/4” diameter) and small, deeply lobed dark green leaves. Foliage turns red in fall. This cultivar was introduced by Wayside Gardens of Hodges, South Carolina in honor of John Elsley who served for a number of years as their Director of Horticulture.


No serious insect or disease problems. Some susceptibility to leaf spots and rusts.


Rock gardens or border fronts. Mass for small area ground cover.