Perry's Perennial Pages

Geranium phaeum 'Chocolate Chip'

    Perennial of the Month-- May 2003 

(ger-aa' nee-um fay'um) (pronunciation at link, turn up volume if too low)

Common name: Mourning Widow Perennial Geranium

Family: Geranium, Geraniaceae

Height x width: 18-24" x 12-18"

Growth rate: moderate

Foliage: generally circular outline widely cut into 5-7 lobes, lobes coarsely toothed, mature leaves to 5" across;
often purple at base or purple internodal blotches, otherwise mid-green;  mounded habit

Flowers: dark brown-maroon (RHS 79B), or dark chocolate purple; dark color of species in early summer (late May, early June in USDA zone 4)  suggest a "mourning widow", pistil and stamens are exserted; 1-1½" wide with 5 petals, single on axillary peduncles; long bloom period; darkest of phaeum species and perhaps main attractive feature of this cultivar in this species

Hardiness: USDA zones 3-7

Soil: moist, organic and well-drained

Light: sun to part shade in cool climates, part shade in hot climates

Pests and problems: seldom-- leaf spots, rusts, powdery mildew, mosaic virus, Asiatic garden beetle, four-lined plant bug

Landscape habit, uses: borders, containers

Other interest: species native to moist mountain areas of S. and Cent. Europe, although thick roots allow survival in drought; genus name from Greek word for crane, referring to the resemblance of the beaked fruit to a crane's bill or beak; this cultivar a selection from Robin Parer at Geraniaceae nursery in Calif.

Other culture: especially in hot climates moist soil is needed

Propagation: tip cuttings, division, seeds

Sources: specialty perennial nurseries and plant-oriented garden centers; Geraniaceae

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