Hardy Geranium or Aggressive Weed?

Mistaken identity seems to be a running theme with me these days.

While finally tackling the seemingly Herculean task of finally weeding the side garden, I noticed that what I have thus far believed to be a geranium was running rampant and spreading itself all over the place.

Full disclosure:  before I settled on “geranium,” I wondered if this particular plant might be one of the blue aquilegia from seeds I planted nearby last fall or possibly a bleeding heart  (Didn’t I plant one there my first summer here, gosh darn it?  And where did IT go?)  Sigh.

I thought it looked like a hardy geranium I had bought and planted across the driveway…it had lovely purple flowers last year and the leaves do indeed look similar…I don’t remember planting this particular plant, though, and I’m starting to wonder if it might be a plain old weed.  One that is spreading.  I pulled up many of the little babies that were popping up left and right but saved the big plant in hopes of figuring it out.

Last year I let several weeds grow happily nearly all summer long just because I wasn’t sure what they were and wanted to give them time to see who they became before ripping them out.  Nine times out of ten they were weeds.

In case it rings any bells for any of you, I’m including a few photos of the current culprit: (again with the camera phone!  Sorry!)

close up of Mystery Plant stem

close up of Mystery Plant leaf

Mystery plant seems to grow in a mound. This one is about a foot tall.

I am pretty sure that my aquilegia seeds DID come up behind this plant and that these are the young columbines here:


The leaves of this plant are kind of similar in size and shape to the Mystery Plant, but I’m pretty sure this one is Aquilegia…at least it came up right where the marker says I planted seeds! (See, I do mark *some* things now and then…trying to get better at this!)

Any ideas?  Is it geranium?


11 thoughts on “Hardy Geranium or Aggressive Weed?

  1. I can see why you might think it’s a geranium, but I’m pretty sure it’s a buttercup. And yes, they can be invasive, spreading by above-ground runners. I have it in my garden and I just rip it out when it gets out of hand, but if you need a good groundcover, it will do so pretty quickly! They have yellow flowers eventually.

    And yes, the second one is columbine! 🙂

  2. I agree, the second one is almost certainly Columbine.

    The first one does indeed look like the family of hardy perennial Geraniums. I have also grown the buttercups.

    The growth habit in your photo does not quite match what I have grown as Ranunculus acris ‘Flora Pleno’, the rampant buttercups. The foliage is close to that of the buttercups, but its habit is usually more open and running, less of a clumping mass. I view it as a hopping skipper across the top of the soil, rooting as it jumps. Maybe it depends on the site. Or maybe it’s a slightly different type of buttercup.

    If you get a bright yellow flower on a thin stem, it’s probably buttercups. They can be invasive if not hemmed in well. Usually easy to pull out, though.

  3. Boy the first does look like hardy geranium because it grows in a clump…the second is definitely the columbine…some times I have no idea either and then I let it grow for a while…oh well I have more weeds than anything right now

  4. Thanks everyone! I’m glad to hear that the 2nd plant photos do indeed look like columbine to all of you – that means I finally had some success with seeds I direct-sowed last fall! Bev, I believe these are some columbine seeds you gave me…my tag says “blue aquilegia…”

    As for the mystery plant, I am so curious now to see if it is in fact buttercup! The leaves look incredibly similar to hardy geranium. I took one of the little baby plants that I ripped out and compared it to what I KNOW is a hardy geranium…different growth habits! My hardy geranium seems to grow lower to the ground in more of a mound. This *buttercup* is taller and lankier, even though it does grow in a clump. Not really bad to look at so far, but if it’s this aggressive it might have to hit the road.

    Thanks for all the tips!

  5. Here’s another gardener’s blog photo showing the ‘Tower Blue’ Columbine in flower:

    It’s a very unique shape. I placed some of its seeds into the winter jugs in addition to tossing them around. I have a good handful of fresh seedlings. I am also hoping the original plant will rebloom this summer, but it’s not putting out any stalks yet. The seeds came from my sister in law in Bloomsburg, PA. Her whole color scheme is blue, pink and white, all around her farmhouse.

    • Ahhh…great photo on May Dreams Gardens – I can’t wait for these! Hopefully I’ll be able to save some seeds and have more next year too.

  6. Pingback: Weed Regularly! « Gardora.net

  7. It looks like hardy geranium to me..is not aquilegia. The seeded one’s you have marked is. Geranium can readily seed out, so what you probably have are rogue plants. To prevent that, dead head them when they get their spikey seed pods. Hope this was helpful!

  8. I don’t believe it is buttercup. I have this monster in my yard and i inherited it from my mother;s monster lingering in her yard, that she got from some plant from her mother’s yard. It hijacked a hydrangea in the root system. As far as I know, this plant has never bloomed. It smells strongly of geranium but never a flower. It will cross sidewalks and driveways. i have fried it with a flame thrower, a wand of fire, its awesome to fry weeds. You can pull it and dig it up and much like morning glories, if you leave any piece of the plant, it will recreate itself. I wish i knew what it was so i could tell if it had any good qualities, other than making a great 12″ high ground cover and killing everything in site because it wants all of the glory. It loves the sun and the heat, it loves the shade of the trees and the cool.I fear the only way i am going to get rid of it is to destroy everything in its path and start over. Its not butter cup, i have had that, and love that plant although very aggressive, it does earn its keep by the yellow blooms. If anyone has any info, please let me know, i would love to see what it is. Mom had always wondered and she knew everything about plants.Does hardy geranium bloom? if so, what color? if I fertilize the monster, will it bloom? Thanks,

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