Dusky Cranesbill Geranium phaeum var. lividum

👤 Non-toxic to humans
🐾 Non-toxic to pets
🌸 Blooming
🍪 Not edible
‍🌱 Easy-care
leaden dusky cranesbill


Geranium phaeum var. lividum, commonly known as dusky cranesbill, is an ornamental perennial plant known for its attractive foliage and flowers. The leaves are typically deeply lobed and can have a somewhat ragged appearance, with a lush, green color that can sometimes feature dusky or purple spots, which adds to the visual interest of the plant. The flowers are the standout feature of the dusky cranesbill, usually appearing in late spring to early summer. They tend to be small and elegant with a rich, dark purple or maroon color. The petals are slightly reflexed, and they hang in a nodding fashion from slender stems, giving them a delicate, understated appearance. This variety of geranium is favored in garden settings for its shade tolerance and the contrast it provides when planted alongside lighter or more vibrantly colored flowers. It can serve as an effective groundcover due to its foliage, which remains attractive throughout the growing season. Additionally, the dusky cranesbill is known for being a hardy plant that can endure in various conditions once established, adding to its popularity among gardeners seeking a low-maintenance yet aesthetically pleasing option.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Synonyms

      Dusky Cranesbill, Mourning Widow, Black Widow

    • Common names

      Geranium phaeum subsp. lividum, Geranium lividum.

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      Dusky Cranesbill, or Geranium phaeum var. lividum, is not known to be toxic to humans. There are no well-documented cases of poisoning or adverse symptoms arising from ingesting any part of this plant. It is commonly grown in gardens and used in traditional medicine in some cultures without reports of toxicity.

    • To pets

      Dusky Cranesbill, or Geranium phaeum var. lividum, is also not considered toxic to pets. It does not appear on lists of plants known to be poisonous to dogs, cats, or other domestic animals. Therefore, if a pet were to ingest parts of this plant, it is unlikely to cause serious harm or exhibit poisoning symptoms. However, as with any non-food plant, ingestion can sometimes result in mild stomach upset.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Flower color


    • Height

      2 feet (60 cm)

    • Spread

      2 feet (60 cm)

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area



  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Aesthetic Appeal: Geranium phaeum var. lividum, commonly known as dusky cranesbill, has deep maroon flowers that add a unique color contrast to garden settings.
    • Easy to Grow: Dusky cranesbill is known for being low-maintenance, adaptable to a variety of soil conditions, and generally easy to grow.
    • Pollinator Friendly: It attracts bees and other pollinators, which are essential for the pollination of many other plants.
    • Garden Dynamics: As a perennial, it provides reliable structure and continuity in garden design throughout multiple seasons.
    • Ground Cover: With its spreading habit, this plant can act as a ground cover, reducing soil erosion and suppressing weed growth.
    • Drought Tolerance: Once established, dusky cranesbill can be quite drought-tolerant, requiring minimal watering.
    • Seasonal Interest: It provides visual interest throughout its blooming season and even in autumn when its leaves turn red.
    • Wildlife Habitat: It can be part of a wildlife garden offering habitat and shelter for various insects and small animals.
    • Shade Tolerance: This geranium performs well even in partial shade, giving gardeners a flowering option for less sunny areas.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    • This plant is not used for medical purposes.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • As a natural dye: Geranium phaeum, also known as dusky cranesbill, can be used to produce a natural dye for coloring fabrics or wool, yielding shades of brown or grey depending on the mordant used.
    • In art and photography: The intricate pattern and deep color of the dusky cranesbill's foliage and flowers can be a subject for botanical illustration or artistic photography, often highlighting the plant's aesthetic appeal.
    • Culinary garnish: While not a traditional edible, the dusky cranesbill's flowers could potentially be used as a decorative, non-toxic garnish for culinary dishes, adding a splash of color.
    • Educational tool: Due to its unique morphological characteristics, dusky cranesbill can be used in educational settings to teach botany and plant identification.
    • Companion planting: Dusky cranesbill might be planted alongside vegetables in gardens to attract beneficial insects or provide ground cover to reduce weed growth.
    • Erosion control: The dense foliage and spreading habit of dusky cranesbill make it useful for planting in areas that are prone to soil erosion.
    • Habitat restoration: Geranium phaeum can be used in wildflower and woodland garden restoration projects to help recreate native habitats and support biodiversity.
    • Handicraft inspiration: The form and colors of dusky cranesbill can inspire designs in handicrafts such as embroidery, jewelry making, or pottery.
    • Natural insect repellent: When crushed, the leaves of dusky cranesbill may release a scent that can deter certain insects, although this is not its primary use.
    • Indicator species: In some regions, the presence of dusky cranesbill could indicate certain soil conditions or the quality of the habitat, serving as a bioindicator of environmental health.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    The plant Geranium is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    The plant Geranium is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Mourning: Geranium phaeum var. lividum, commonly known as Dusky Cranesbill, often symbolizes mourning due to its somber-colored flowers, which can evoke a sense of sadness or remembrance.
    • Hardiness: As a plant that is adaptable and resilient, it often represents someone's ability to endure difficult conditions and persevere through challenges.
    • Unexpected Beauty: With its subtle beauty that might be overlooked initially, the Dusky Cranesbill can symbolize hidden or understated attractiveness, suggesting that not all beauty is immediately obvious.

Every 1-2 weeks
2500 - 10000 Lux
Every 2-3 years
Spring to Summer
As needed
  • water dropWater

    Dusky cranesbill requires regular watering, about once a week, providing the equivalent of 1 inch of rainfall or approximately 0.6 gallons per square yard of soil. Ensure the soil is moist but not waterlogged, as overwatering can lead to root rot. During the growing season in spring and summer, keep the soil consistently moist, and reduce watering in the fall and winter when the plant is not actively growing. If it's particularly hot or dry, you may need to water twice a week to maintain soil moisture levels.

  • sunLight

    Dusky cranesbill thrives in partial shade to full shade. It's best to plant it in a spot where it can receive filtered sunlight or morning sun followed by afternoon shade. Avoid placing it in full sun, especially in hotter climates, as this can cause the foliage to scorch. The ideal location will mimic its natural woodland environment, offering dappled sunlight throughout the day.

  • thermometerTemperature

    Dusky cranesbill does well in a temperature range of 50°F to 75°F, which is ideal for its growth. It can tolerate a minimum temperature of around 10°F and a maximum temperature of 80°F. However, prolonged exposure to temperatures outside its comfort zone may affect the plant’s health. Keeping dusky cranesbill in its preferred temperature range will ensure vigorous growth and flowering.

  • scissorsPruning

    Dusky cranesbill should be pruned to remove dead or fading flowers, which encourages further blooming and prevents self-seeding if not desired. Light pruning can also be done to maintain the plant's shape and remove any damaged or diseased foliage. The best time to prune is immediately after the first flush of blooms has faded, generally in late spring or early summer, which may prompt a second bloom period.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    To grow Mourning Widow (Geranium phaeum var. lividum) successfully, the best soil mix is well-draining, fertile loam with plenty of organic matter, such as compost or leaf mold. The ideal soil pH should be neutral to slightly alkaline, ranging between 6.5 and 7.5.

  • plantRepotting

    Mourning Widow does not typically require frequent repotting. Repot the plant when it outgrows its current container, which may occur every 2 to 3 years, to maintain health and vigor.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    Mourning Widow thrives in average room humidity conditions. It does well in outdoor humidity levels and does not require any special humidity adjustments when grown indoors.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Place in bright, indirect light and maintain moderate moisture.

    • Outdoor

      Plant in partial shade, well-drained soil, and water regularly.

    • Hardiness zone

      4-8 USDA

  • circleLife cycle

    Geranium phaeum var. lividum, commonly known as Dusky Cranesbill, begins its life when seeds germinate in the spring, given moist soil and cool conditions. The seedlings grow into a rosette of leaves at ground level, with heart-shaped foliage that may have a reddish hue during the cooler months. As the plant matures, it develops upright stems and dark purple to maroon flowers with reflexed petals, which are pollinated by insects, primarily bees, during late spring or early summer. After pollination, the plant forms distinctive beak-like seed pods that distribute seeds when ripe, completing the reproductive cycle. Throughout the growing season, Dusky Cranesbill can spread by rhizomes, producing new clonal plants that contribute to the expansion of the plant's presence in its environment. The plant becomes dormant in the winter, with the above-ground parts dying back, and then re-emerges from its overwintering rootstock when the conditions become favorable in spring.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Spring to Summer

    • Propogation: The most popular method of propagating the Mourning Widow, scientifically known as Geranium phaeum var. lividum, is by division. Division should ideally be carried out in the early spring or autumn. The plant's clump is gently dug up and carefully split into smaller sections, ensuring that each new piece has a good amount of roots and a few shoots. These divided clumps can then be immediately replanted in well-prepared soil, spaced about 15 to 18 inches (approximately 38 to 45 centimeters) apart, and watered thoroughly to help establish them. Care should be taken to plant at the same depth they were growing before division to avoid burying the crown too deeply or leaving the roots exposed.