Bloody Cranesbill (Geranium Sanguineum ‘Max Frei’)

Plant: Table of Contents

The Versatile Beauty of Bloody Cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei’)

Plants are essential to our environment and our lives. They provide us with oxygen, food, and medicine. But beyond their practical uses, plants also enhance our surroundings with their beauty and diversity. One such plant that captivates us with its stunning blooms and easy-going nature is the bloody cranesbill, scientifically known as Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei.’ In this comprehensive guide, we will explore everything you need to know about this versatile and charming perennial.

What is Plant: Bloody Cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei’)?

Introduction to Bloody Cranesbill

Bloody cranesbill, or Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei,’ is a herbaceous perennial that belongs to the Geraniaceae family. It is native to Eastern Europe and Asia, where it thrives in the wild with its vibrant magenta blossoms and deeply lobed foliage. Its graceful appearance and low-maintenance nature make it a popular choice among gardeners and landscaping enthusiasts.

Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Genus: Geranium
Species: sanguineum
Cultivar: ‘Max Frei’

Common Names

  • Wild Geranium
  • Hardy Geranium
  • Cranesbill Geranium

Key Characteristics

Height: 8-12 inches
Spread: 12-18 inches
Bloom Time: Late spring to early summer

Key Takeaways – Bloody Cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei’)

Before delving into the specifics of cultivating and caring for the bloody cranesbill, let’s highlight some key takeaways about this popular plant:

  • Versatile Use: Bloody cranesbill can be used in various garden settings, including borders, flower beds, rock gardens, and as a groundcover.
  • Low Maintenance: With minimal care requirements, this perennial is an excellent choice for beginners and experienced gardeners alike.
  • Wildlife Attraction: The vibrant blooms of the bloody cranesbill are known to attract butterflies and hummingbirds, adding a delightful touch to any garden landscape.

Now, let’s explore the various aspects of cultivating and caring for the Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei’.


Bloody cranesbill is celebrated for its adaptability and ease of cultivation. Understanding its cultural preferences is key to ensuring its optimal growth and blooming. Here are some essential cultural considerations for cultivating this charismatic perennial:


Bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei’) can be utilized in a multitude of garden settings and landscaping designs, adding color and elegance to various areas. Here are some common uses:

  • Borders and Edges: Its low-growing habit and eye-catching blooms make it a perfect choice for defining garden borders and edges.
  • Rock Gardens: The compact size and attractive foliage of the Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei’ make it an ideal addition to rock gardens, providing a pop of color amidst the rocky terrain.
  • Groundcover: Its spreading nature makes it an efficient groundcover, filling in bare spaces with a sea of delicate flowers and foliage.


Bloody cranesbill is known for its moderate water needs. While it is tolerant of occasional dry spells, it thrives best in evenly moist soil. It is important to avoid waterlogged conditions, as excessive moisture can lead to root rot.

To gauge the watering needs of Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei,’ perform regular soil checks and adjust the watering frequency based on the plant’s response and environmental factors.


In terms of sunlight requirements, bloody cranesbill prefers full to partial sun. Providing it with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day ensures robust growth and profuse blooming. In regions with intense summer heat, partial shade during the hottest part of the day can be beneficial to prevent sunscald and dehydration.


One of the appealing traits of bloody cranesbill is its minimal fertilizer needs. In nutrient-rich soil, this perennial can thrive without additional fertilization. However, if the soil is impoverished or if the plant shows signs of nutrient deficiency, a balanced, slow-release fertilizer applied in spring can support healthy growth and flowering.


The soil preferences of Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei’ center around well-draining, loamy soils with a slightly acidic to neutral pH. Amending heavy clay soils with organic matter and perlite can improve drainage and create an optimal growing environment for the plant. Additionally, a layer of mulch around the base of the plant helps retain soil moisture and regulate temperature fluctuations.


Pruning is an essential aspect of maintaining the health and appearance of bloody cranesbill. By following proper pruning techniques, you can encourage repeat blooming and prevent the plant from becoming excessively leggy or unkempt. Here’s how you can approach pruning Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei’:


Removing spent blooms through deadheading not only tidies up the plant’s appearance but also stimulates the production of new flower buds. During the blooming season, regularly check the plant for faded flowers and snip them off just above a set of healthy leaves.

Renewal Pruning

To rejuvenate the plant and prevent overcrowding, consider performing renewal pruning every 3-4 years. In late winter or early spring, prune back the entire plant to 2-3 inches above ground level. This encourages fresh growth and enhances the overall vigor of the bloody cranesbill.


The propagation of bloody cranesbill can be accomplished through various methods, allowing you to multiply your plant collection or share the beauty of Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei’ with fellow gardening enthusiasts. The following are the primary propagation techniques suitable for this perennial:


Division is a straightforward method to propagate Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei.’ It is ideally performed in early spring or early autumn when the plant is not actively blooming. Using a sharp, sterile tool, carefully separate the plant into smaller sections, each containing healthy roots and shoots. Replant the divisions in prepared soil and water them thoroughly to encourage establishment.

Seed Propagation

While division is the more common method of propagation, growing bloody cranesbill from seed can be a rewarding endeavor. Collect ripe seed pods from the plant and extract the seeds. Sow the seeds in a seed-starting mix in early spring, maintain consistent moisture, and provide gentle warmth for successful germination. Keep in mind that seed-grown plants may exhibit some natural variation in flower color and other traits compared to the parent plant.

Container Popularity

The adaptability and compact growth habit of Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei’ make it an excellent candidate for container gardening. Whether you have a spacious patio, a balcony, or a courtyard, the bloody cranesbill can brighten up your outdoor living space with its charming blooms and lush foliage.

When selecting a container for bloody cranesbill, prioritize options with adequate drainage holes to prevent waterlogging. Additionally, choose a high-quality potting mix with excellent drainage properties to create an optimal growing medium for the plant.

Common Diseases

Despite its resilience, bloody cranesbill is susceptible to certain diseases and issues that can impact its health and appearance. Being familiar with these common ailments and their respective management approaches is crucial for effectively caring for Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei.’ Here are some prevalent diseases that may affect this perennial:

Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is a fungal disease characterized by a powdery white coating on the leaves and stems of the plant. It thrives in humid conditions and can weaken the plant if left unchecked. To manage powdery mildew, ensure proper air circulation around the plant, avoid overhead watering, and apply fungicidal treatments if necessary.

Botrytis Blight

Also known as gray mold, botrytis blight presents as fuzzy gray mold on the foliage and flowers, often leading to wilting and decay. To prevent botrytis blight, maintain good air circulation, promptly remove and dispose of affected plant parts, and avoid overhead watering to minimize moisture on the foliage.

Crown Rot

Crown rot is a serious issue that affects the crown and root system of the plant, often resulting from overly moist or waterlogged soil. To prevent crown rot, ensure proper drainage, avoid overwatering, and promptly address any drainage issues in the planting area.

Disease Diagnosis

Diagnosing diseases in plants can be challenging, especially for inexperienced gardeners. However, understanding the common symptoms and signs of plant diseases can aid in accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. Here are some key pointers for diagnosing potential diseases in bloody cranesbill:

Symptoms of Powdery Mildew

  • White, powdery spots on leaves and stems.
  • Distorted or stunted growth.
  • Premature leaf drop in severe cases.

Signs of Botrytis Blight

  • Grayish, fuzzy mold on plant parts.
  • Softening and decay of affected tissues.
  • Rapid wilting and decline of the plant.

Indicators of Crown Rot

  • Dark, water-soaked lesions at the base of the plant.
  • Foul odor emanating from the affected area.
  • Sudden wilting and collapse of the plant.

Common Pests

While bloody cranesbill is relatively resistant to pest infestations, it may still encounter a few troublesome pests that can cause damage if left uncontrolled. Identifying and addressing these common pests promptly is essential to safeguard the health and beauty of Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei.’ Here are some pests that may target this perennial:


Aphids are small, sap-sucking insects that can congregate on the foliage and tender shoots of the plant. They may cause leaf distortion, yellowing, and stunted growth. To manage aphid infestations, spray the plant with a strong jet of water to dislodge the pests, or apply insecticidal soaps as a targeted control method.

Spider Mites

Spider mites are minuscule arachnids that feed on the chlorophyll-rich cells of the plant, causing stippling, yellowing, and webbing on the foliage. A regular misting of the plant with water and the introduction of natural predators, such as ladybugs, can aid in controlling spider mite populations.

Slugs and Snails

Slugs and snails are notorious for their voracious appetite for plant foliage. Their feeding activity results in ragged, irregular holes in the leaves of the bloody cranesbill. To deter slugs and snails, use physical barriers, such as copper tape or diatomaceous earth, or employ natural repellents like beer traps.

Botanist’s Tips

As a plant scientist and enthusiast, I have gathered some insightful tips for cultivating and caring for Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei.’ These practical suggestions can help you elevate the health and beauty of your bloody cranesbill plants:

  • Prioritize soil preparation: Invest time and effort in preparing the planting site with well-draining, nutrient-rich soil to provide a strong foundation for the plant’s growth.
  • Regular inspection: Routinely inspect your plants for signs of pest activity, disease, and nutrient deficiency, and take proactive measures to address any issues promptly.
  • Embrace natural methods: Whenever possible, opt for natural pest control methods and organic amendments to foster a harmonious, eco-friendly garden ecosystem.
  • Keep records: Maintain a gardening journal to document observations, care routines, and the performance of your bloody cranesbill plants throughout the seasons, enabling you to make informed decisions.

Fun Facts

To further your appreciation for the captivating nature of bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei’), here are some intriguing and delightful facts about this beloved perennial:

  1. Medicinal history: Various species of the Geranium genus, including Geranium sanguineum, have been utilized in traditional medicine for their astringent and antibacterial properties.
  2. International charm: The striking blooms of the bloody cranesbill are cherished around the globe, featuring in gardens from Japan to North America and beyond.
  3. Perennial resilience: Under the right conditions, Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei’ can thrive for many years, rewarding gardeners with its enduring beauty and reliability.

Links to External Resources

To enrich your understanding of bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei’) and delve deeper into topics related to its culture, uses, and care, I have curated a selection of valuable external resources for your reference:

  1. Royal Horticultural Society – Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei’
  2. Missouri Botanical Garden – Geranium sanguineum
  3. University of Florida IFAS Extension – Hardy Geraniums for North Florida
  4. American Horticultural Society – Plant Propagation by Division
  5. North Carolina State University Extension – Recognizing Crown and Root Rots of Geranium and Pelargonium
  6. University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program – Natural Enemies in the Garden

By exploring these reliable sources, you can gain further insights into the fascinating world of Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei’ and enhance your expertise in cultivating and caring for this exceptional perennial.

In conclusion, the enchanting appeal and adaptable nature of bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei’) make it a cherished addition to any garden landscape. Whether you are captivated by its vibrant blooms, its easy maintenance, or its role in supporting local wildlife, this perennial stands out as a delightful and versatile plant that deserves a place in your garden. With proper understanding and attention to its cultural preferences, you can cultivate thriving and beautiful specimens of Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei’ that brighten up your outdoor spaces for years to come.

Picture of Peter Taylors

Peter Taylors

Expert botanist who loves plants. His expertise spans taxonomy, plant ecology, and ethnobotany. An advocate for plant conservation, he mentors and educates future botanists, leaving a lasting impact on the field.