Coalitions with left-of-centre parties have traditionally been regarded as the only viable option for Green parties that have shed their stance of radical opposition. The German Greens are investigated as a case study putting this assumption into doubt. Historical analysis of their relationship with the Social Democratic Party reveals how they slipped into life-threatening dependency on the latter. A survey of consecutive reinterpretations of the positioning formula 'Neither right, nor left but ahead' maps the struggle for an independent Green identity. An appraisal of recent debates about Conservative– Green alliances investigates the basis for Green coalition politics beyond the Social Democratic embrace.