If I Can Only Grow One Plant In The Next Year, It Will Be This – (Geranium maderense)


Call it an obsession if you will, but I am continually searching for the biggest and boldest plants that will wow our guests when they enter Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. One way of doing this is to bring in plants that many have possibly never encountered before. With a touch of the exotic in the garden, it makes garden visitors oooh and awww at the presence of something new in their midst. These oooh’s and awww’s can have a little special twist when these new plants look somewhat familiar. I can already anticipate the responses from avid gardeners when I tell them that the 5 foot tall plant in front of them is a geranium. “A geranium?!? Well, I thought it did look a bit like a geranium but there is no way that one could ever get this big.”

Enter into the garden the magnificent Geranium maderense or Madeira Island geranium. There is absolutely no way that this geranium would stand a chance of being hardy along our USDA zone 6a garden as it completely turns to mush below 25 degrees Fahrenheit. I do not care if it is hardy or not, I want to find someone growing these and plant them in our summer garden beds. Geranium maderense is a biennial so we would need to find someone growing them into their second year or set aside some valuable real estate in our greenhouse for a dozen or so plants. Our plant propagator would freak out if I asked her to grow a dozen plants that get up to 4 feet wide in a greenhouse for over a year.


The first time I saw one of these plants was in the conservatory of Longwood Gardens. I had that initial reaction of amazement along with some hint of familiarity with this plant. Since seeing these plants, I also saw an informal grouping in a courtyard at the Victoria and Albert museum in London. With our mild summers and continual moisture, I am hoping that Geranium maderense will thrive under our conditions. The large, light pinkish-purple flowers are borne on erect stems above the foliage. The large, dark green leaves are also spectacular. They are shaped like a mitt (technical term – palmate) and look spectacular even when the plants are not in flower.

I will end this week’s plant post with a plea: do you know of anyone growing the Madeira Island geranium for sale? If so, please let me know as we would love to add such a showstopper to our gardens next year. Also, have you ever been fortunate enough to grow this spectacular plant?


Images: inetgardens.com, soquelnursery.com

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rodney eason

Rodney Eason - Director of Horticulture and Plant Curator at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, father of 4, husband to a Renaissance woman. I spent the first part of my life in North Carolina, the middle in Pennsylvania, and now I am determined to become a Mainer  while keeping my southern drawl. I consider the rhetorical question, "you're not from around here, are you?" a compliment. I love great gardens, beautiful plants, and inspiring architecture. Because of this, I am on a lifelong quest to find a garden that artistically combines beautiful plants while being centered around an evocative building. For me, this would be Beatrix Farrand's Dumbarton Oaks, with the plants of Lotusland and Chanticleer, around Fay Jones' Thorncrown Chapel. My wife and I are now making our new home and garden in a 130 year old New England house with a farmer's porch near the Damariscotta River in coastal Maine. When our kids get into college, we want to hike the Appalachian Trail as a family over a summer break. My likes (in random order): the smell of fresh basil and rosemary, bold foliage, India Pale Ale, good running shoes, Top Gear, the smell of New England in the fall (it reminds me a bit of English Leather, which my grandfather wore), and the sound of our family laughing together around the dinner table. I dream of one day owning an old Toyota 4X4 pick-up and seeing the Avett Brothers in concert.
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  1. meagan on May 13, 2014 at 11:23 am

    now i want this plant too, it looks awesome. i could only find seeds online.


  2. Jackie Straw on May 13, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    I just ordered a packet of seeds for this beautiful plant. I ordered from plant world.com, it’s a great website; hope this is helpful! Can’t wait to get them.

  3. Denise on May 27, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    If you don’t mind substituting the white form, it’s currently available via mail order from Annie’s Annuals & Perennials in Richmond, Calif.: http://www.anniesannuals.com/plt_lst/lists/search/lst.srch.asp?prodid=2584&srch_term=geranium

    I actually prefer the white form to the species 😉

    you can see photos here: http://agrowingobsession.com/?p=39651

    • rodneyeason on May 27, 2014 at 6:57 pm

      Thanks! I will check these out.
      – re

  4. rosekraft on June 20, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    I am lucky enough to live 5 minutes away from Strybing Arboretum here in SF so at least once every couple of weeks I have the opportunity to peruse their small plant kiosk for unusual tidbits.
    Today they had a 4″ pot of Geranium maderense, and for some reason I had total recall of this post, and your commitment to find and grow this plant.
    If you would be so kind as to email a physical mailing address I would be more than happy to package the plant up – of course I bought it – and send it off to you.
    As gardeners I think we can all relate to the obsessive pursuit of our current “unicorn plant” – it’s been a good year already as I was able to score a Luculia gratissima a few months ago.

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