Scented Geraniums: A Worthy Addition To The Home Garden

Scented geraniums (Pelargonium species) are excellent herbs to grow in the garden. They are tender perennials and are planted in containers so that they can be easily brought in for the winter. These plants are treated as annuals, but have been known to survive the winter if mulched and the temperatures do not get too cold. They are grown for their scented leaves, not for their flowers like traditional geraniums. Scented geraniums come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some have highly aromatic foliage. Some varieties have bright red flowers, while others vary from white to pink. Their leaves range from rounded to finely cut. The leaves can be dried and used in potpourris or added to teas.

They should be grown in well-drained soil and in full sun. However, during the hot part of the day, they need some shade to keep from being scorched. The smaller leafed varieties have a tendency to become “leggy.” Consistent pruning will encourage a more dense growth. It is best to pinch them back with your fingers to remove the stem tips above a leaf. Leave several leaves on the stalk because the plants will branch out from here.  They are light feeders and only occasionally need a dose of all-purpose fertilizer like 10-10-10.

Cuttings can be rooted in a glass of water but do better when rooted in a soil-less growing media like sand or vermiculite. Take six-inch cuttings, strip of the lower leaves, and dip into rooting hormone. Keep the rooting medium damp. After a few weeks, gently tug on the plants. If there is resistance, then they have formed roots and can be transplanted to a growing medium.

There are a multitude of scented geraniums available. They are categorized by aroma, such as rose, mint, fruit, spice, and other pungent fragrances. The scented geranium can smell like rose or lemon, or the plant may give off a scent of cloves or nutmeg. It may have the odor of pine or peppermint; apple or apricot; or chocolate or coconut. One of the most commonly grown cultivars is ‘Attar of Roses.’ Rubbing the leaves together of this old-fashioned scented geranium will reward with the fragrance of roses.