Saturday, April 24, 2010

Scented Geraniums

It isn't this lovely flower that brings the fragrance to your garden; it's the leaf. And these plants aren't geraniums - they are pelargoniums. Scented geraniums have a few things in common with geraniums; they do well without abundant water and they don't need a lot of care. In our climate, scented geraniums bloom for many months each year and most will not only survive the winter, but will thrive during most of it. Frost may burn the outer leaves and you should leave those be; they are protecting all the lush new growth coming up from below. Wait to give them a good pruning in late spring after the danger of frost has passed - about NOW! - and your plants will experience an immediate growth spurt and bloom.
I have to make a confession. I love these plants because they can survive in our world of neglect. We have so many plants to grow for sale, that we have little time left for landscaping or garden plants. If scented geraniums thrive is this brutal environment; little water, poor soil, nearly total neglect - then your plants will look terrific! (Note: When you take them out of their pot, you should see a large tap root. This is the root that enables this plant to survive drought.)
There are so many varieties and frankly, I can barely tell them apart - aromatically - after a while. The mint geraniums are obvious, the apple and nutmeg are unique, the lemon is apparent; but all the rest smell like rose to me. Most are in the rose geranium category; Attar of Rose, Capitatum, Clorinda, Velvet Rose, Rober's Lemon Rose, Little Gem, and so forth. It really doesn't mater - they all smell good! Find ones that you like the looks of. Some are very weird and, of course, those are the ones I really like. Gooseberry is chaotic and fascinating. Strawberry can be gangly and arrogant; yes, arrogant. Fingerbowl Lemon is upright and parsimonious - and one of the old Victorian types. Put the leaves in fingerbowls on your table to scent the water that refreshes greasy fingers. French Lace, great name! Not one of the prettiest but nice variegated leaf and sweet little pink flowers. Apple is nice; a satin finish to the leaf and slight, ever so slight, apple scent. Nutmeg is overwhelmed by its own little but abundant flowers. And I will always love the Peppermint Tom with its huge fuzzy leaves, tiny flowers and robust fragrance. (One of our customers told me she throws a leaf in the dryer.)
There has to be room for one, two or more scented geraniums in your garden. Bees love them; hummingbirds are interested, butterflies stop by, kids like to wallow in them and you can always crush the leaves into sugar to spice it up. Put them in containers, plant them amidst the herbs in your garden, fill a backyard slope, or keep one on your window sill. You will enjoy these plants; large or small.


  1. Have seen the peppermint pelargonium planted in the shade of another pelargonium. Then you get a shimmer of tiny white flowers waving above the second colour.

  2. I have several pnk and also blue pelargonium in my garden, but this year the blue ones are spectacular, and the pink ones put out 1 stem of flowers each. Why is this?? We have had a wet spring so far.

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