Scented Geranium Plants: Fragrant Herbs Indoors or Out
Grow Scented Geraniums from Cuttings or Pelargonium Seeds. You'll be Rewarded With a Bounty of Fragrance
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My love affair with scented geranium plants started decades ago. The proprietors of my husband’s restaurant cultivated an herb garden on the premises. They grew rose scented geraniums and asked me to make jellies for customers. The only geraniums I was familiar with were the large-flowered common geraniums. I had a lot to learn!
My research showed that scented geranium plants are old-fashioned cousins of common garden geraniums. But that’s where the similarity ends. Botanically known as Pelargonium gravolens, scented geranium plants are a separate genus in the geranium family.
Both the flowers and leaves of Pelargoniums are edible; the common garden geraniums are not.
There are over 250 species of Pelargonium, and most are native to South Africa. The leaf shapes along with the aromas vary widely, from citrus to spice, to herbal, to rose and more.
There’s a citronella scented geranium, formerly known as Mabel Grey that is supposed to repel mosquitoes. You have to brush or crush the leaves, though, to release its repellent qualities.
Some popular varieties include the rose scented geraniums, common during Victorian times. These are among my favorites, which I’ll be focusing on today.
Just remember, the fragrance of scented geranium plants comes from leaves, not flowers, which are tiny compared to common geraniums.
Grow Scented Geranium Plants from Seed or Stem Cuttings
Growing scented geranium plants from seed is more labor intensive than growing from stem cuttings.
I favor growing them from stem cuttings and in pots. Planting herbs in pots is the way to go with tender perennials like scented geraniums. You’ll have reliable growth with little care.
- Cut a stem two to four inches long just below a leaf node. I like to use a rooting hormone to give it a good start, but that’s not necessary.
- Fill a small pot with a soil-less potting mix that drains well and place the cutting in the pot. Scented geraniums will tolerate most soils but a slightly acidic pH of about 6.0-6.8 is ideal.
- Water thoroughly and put in a bright spot in the house, under grow lights, or outdoors (after the last frost), in a semi-shaded warm place.
- When the pot is filled with roots, which takes about five to six weeks, transplant into a larger pot or, if you like, in the ground in zones 10 or 11.
- In several weeks, you’ll probably need to transplant it again to a pot large enough to keep the plant happily growing as it reaches maturity.
Care of Scented Geranium Plants During Growing Season
My scented geraniums find a happy home in pots underneath the Chaste tree in my herb garden. The sun can get wiltingly hot here in southern Ohio (scented geraniums prefer 70’s temperature), and the Chaste tree provides cooling shade.
- Water plants well when the top inch of soil dries. Fairly drought tolerant, scented geranium plants don’t like wet feet.
- Feed a couple times during the growing season with a controlled release fertilizer. I use half the recommended dose.
- Scented geranium plants tend to get leggy, so a judicial pruning every once in a while is in order. They can range in size from one to four feet.
Overwintering Scented Geranium Plants Indoors
Scented geranium plants are perennials in zones 10 and 11, and annuals, for the most part, in zones nine and lower. I live in zone six, so I winter mine over in our attached garage.
Before tucking them away for their winter rest, get them ready.
- Cut them back a bit if leggy.
- Gently take them out of the pot. Check for any hitchhikers. I usually find pill bugs and they are easily removed.
- Because of their scent, rose geraniums are relatively insect free. If they do develop a case of whiteflies, spray with horticultural oil.
- If the plants are root bound, tease them and transplant into a larger container with fresh potting soil.
- Water thoroughly. During dormancy, though, resist the urge to over water. Water only when the top one inch is dry.
- Place under a south-facing window between 40-50 degrees so the plants enjoy a dormant rest during the short days of winter.
- Leaves may dry and turn brown and drop off; that is natural.
- Put back outdoors after last frost date. Water well and give a boost of fertilizer.
Yes, you can!
- Place in a sunny, south-facing window.
- Maintain temperatures between 60- 75 degrees.
- Follow same instructions for care during growing season outdoors regarding fertilizer and water.
Benefits of Scented Geranium Plants
- Relieve minor pain
- Anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory
- Immune system booster
- Lower stress
- Aid in digestion
Cooking With Scented Geranium Plants
One of the best plants to include in an edible flowers list, scented geraniums add a haunting, delightful fragrance and texture to cakes, cookies, fruit salads, and ice creams, to name a few.
Rose Geranium Scented Jelly
The color is a soft amber and the aroma is like summer in a jar.
- 2 cups rose geranium leaves, chopped coarsely
- 4 cups apple juice with no added sugar
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 package dry pectin, 1.75 oz.
- 4 cups sugar
- 5 jelly jars, 8 oz. each, with seals and rings
- Wash jars in the dishwasher and keep hot, or wash and boil 10 minutes. Keep in hot water. Place rings and seals in hot water.
- Add leaves to apple juice. Bring to boil, remove from heat, cover and let infuse 10 minutes. Strain. Measure three cups liquid infusion.
- Place three cups infusion into a large pot. Turn heat to high.
- Stir in lemon juice and pectin.
- Bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly.
- Add all the sugar at once, stirring constantly. Bring back to a hard rolling boil, one that cannot be stirred down. Cook for one minute.
- Pour into hot jars and skim off any foam.
- Wipe rims with clean, wet cloth.
- Place seals on jars, add rings and tighten. Turn upside down five minutes to kill any bacteria that may b the on lid. Turn right side up and let cool away from drafts.
- Check seals and if any are not sealed, store in refrigerator; otherwise store in pantry up to six months or so.
Can it – If you like, process in boiling water bath for five minutes.
Soothing Rose Geranium Tea
This is so relaxing. Just pour a cup of boiling water over a palmful of chopped leaves. Cover and infuse five minutes. Strain, add a squeeze of lemon juice and sweeten.
Rose Geranium Sugar
Use in place of sugar in baking, icings, teas and fruit salads.
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup chopped rose geranium leaves
- Place in food processor and process until leaves are very finely minced.
- Pour in a single layer on cookie sheet with sides.
- Bake in warm oven (170 degrees) until dry.
- Let cool and store in covered containers.
Rose Geranium Scented Cake
Mince leaves and stir them into the batter. Or lay leaves in the bottom of cake pan, topside down, pour batter on top and bake as directed. You’ll have a lovely rose scented cake with a beautiful, soft pattern of rose geranium leaves. A dollop of whipped cream is all you need to finish it off.
Crush a few leaves under running water for a warming, healing bath.
It’s the essential oils in the leaves that are valued. I sometimes combine scented geraniums with other soothing bath herbs. An essential oils guide is a handy research tool.
|Rose Scented Geranium Chart|
|Type||Snowflake/Rose Scented Geranium||Lady Plymouth||Mimosa/Sweet Miriam||Attar of Roses||Lemon Rober|
|Plant description||Rounded leaves flecked with white. Large plant. Clusters of lavender blooms peek through leaves.||Upright growth habit. Divided foliage, variegated with white edging and splotches. Lavender pink flowers||Large sprawling plant with upright growth. Clusters of light pink blooms with mauve stippling.||Trailing growth habit with clusters of small pink blooms.||Vigorous grower with pink blooms. Great pollinator.|
|Scent||Light rose scent||Lovely rose scent||Sweet, floral rose scent||Large leaves emit a distinctive rose perfume.||Tomato shaped leaves have a lemon/rose fragrance.|
|Uses||Nice for cakes, cookies, and bread.||Works well in cosmetics and bath products.||Beautiful in bouquets.||Lovely in bath salts.||A favorite for tea and sugars.|
Do you grow scented geranium plants? What’s your favorite?