Often called avens, Geum is a genus of over 50 species of herbaceous perennials in the rose family, Roseaceae, that also include cherries, almonds, and lady’s mantle.  Plants are valued for their attractive dark green hairy foliage and colorful  5-petaled flowers over a long bloom time but are best grown where summer temperatures are cool.  The pinnately compound leaves form basal clumps and have a terminal leaflet that is usually larger than the laterals.  The flowers are saucer-shaped and may be yellow, orange, red, or purple.  They are carried well above the foliage on long erect, usually branching stems. Some species have attractive fluffy seedheads.  All but one, a bog plant, require  fertile soil with excellent drainage and full to partial sun  with some afternoon shade in warm climates. Propagation is by fresh seed or division in spring or fall, but most require division every 3-4 years to keep plants vigorous. Pests and diseases are rarely a problem in cool climates.


Boris Avens (G. x borisii)

This hybrid is the result of a cross between Geum bulgaricum and Geum reptans .  It has wiry branched stems with trifoliate leaves with rounded terminal lobes that are twice the size of the lateral lobes. The bright orange flowers are 1-2″wide, appear from late spring to early summer, and give way to fluffy seed heads.

Height: 9-12″

Flower Color: Orange

Bloom Time: Late spring to early summer

Hardiness: 3-7


Mountain Geum (G. montanum)

Mountain avens is native to the Pyrenees, Alps, Corsica and Carpathians eastward to western Russia and southwest Greece, where it grows in sub alpine meadows.   Plants are 9-12” tall and produce a rosette of 4” long leaves that are densely pubescent. The flowering stems bear 1-3 golden yellow flowers that are 1’ across and give way to feathery seed heads.

Height: 9-12″

Flower Color: Yellow

Bloom Time: Late spring to early summer

Hardiness: Zones 4-8


Chilean Avens (G. quellyon)

Also known as scarlet avens, double bloody Mary, and Grecian rose, Chilean avens has pinnately divided, coarsely toothed leaves 6-12” long with the terminal leaflet up to twice the length as the laterals. The single or double  1-1.5″ wide scarlet flowers appear in late spring to early summer and give way to fluffy seedheads.  Many cultivars are available that vary most significantly in color and number of petals, from single to double. ‘Mrs. Bradshaw is in old cultivar with semidouble scarlet flowers.

Height: 1-2′

Flower Color: Scarlet

Bloom Time: Late spring to early summer

Hardiness: Zones 4-7


Creeping  Avens (G. reptans)

Native to high mountains in Central Asia and Europe, creeping avens has long runners up to 32″ in length and pinnately divided leaves with deeply toothed leaflets that are all about the same size. The yellow flowers are 1-1.5” across, appear singly in late spring to early summer and give way to fluffy pink seedheads.

Height: 6-8″

Flower Color:Yellow

Bloom Time:late spring-early summer

Hardiness: Zones 6-8

Photo Credit: Wikipedia


Water Avens (G. rivale)

Also known as purple avens, and chocolate root ,water avems is native to Eurasia and north central US where it grows in bogs, marshes, wet meadows and other damp to wet sites.  Plants have a rhizomatous root system and form dense clumps of dark green pinnately compound leaves that are hairy and serrated.  Each leaf has 3-6 lateral  serrated leaflets  and a large terminal leaflet twice the size of the lateral leaflets.  Nodding, bell-shaped flowers  appear from late spring to mid summer consist of a brownish-purple hairy calyx and 5 dull red to pink heavily veined petal surrounding numerous pistils and stamens with yellow anthers.  The common name, chocolate root, comes from the fact that when the rootstock is boiled the resultant liquid has a slightly chocolate flavor.

Height: 8-18″

Flower Color:dull red to pink

Bloom Time: Late spring to mid summer

Hardiness : Zones 3-7

Photo Credit: Wikimedia


Prairie Smoke (G. triflorum)

A native of North America, prairie smoke  has gray-green fern-like leaves that are pinnately divided into seven to nine narrow toothed leaflets. The plant is soft and hairy and has red stems. In spring , pink to purplish pendent globose flowers 1.5” wide appear and are followed by fuzzy silvery pink seedpods that look like smoke, giving the plant its common name. Other names inspired by the seed pods include lion’s beard and old man’s whiskers.

Height: 6-15″

Flower Color: Pink to purplish

Bloom Time: Early spring

Hardiness: Zones 3-7




By Karen