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With fragrances of fruits, flowers, spices, or even chocolate, scented geraniums delight the senses. Scented geraniums have tactile leaves—some fuzzy, some smooth—and come in a wide range of shapes and hues. These plants have been favorites of herb and indoor gardeners since Victorian times. Brush against the leaves of scented geraniums to release their strong aroma.
Visit a garden center specializing in unusual plants to experience their range of perfumes. Popular fragrances include rose (P. capitatum), lemon (P. crispum), pine (P. denticulatum), apple (P. fragrans), and peppermint (P. tomentosum). Most scented geraniums have small clusters of pale pink or white flowers in summer that rise above lobed green leaves.
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Planting Scented Geraniums
Scented geraniums' chief attribute is their fragrant foliage. Choose a planting place where you are sure to brush against them from time to time to enjoy their aroma. Add scented geraniums to colorful container plantings or integrate them near walkways in herb gardens or perennial beds. Unlike zonal geraniums and ivy geraniums, scented geraniums don't have ornamental foliage, but their clean, green leaves are a complement to nearly any container planting.
Scented Geranium Care
Plant scented geraniums in full sun or part shade and moist, well-drained soil. These easy-to-grow plants tolerate sandy soil and dry conditions with ease. They languish in wet, clay soil. When planting scented geraniums in a container, select a pot that has adequate drainage and choose a high-quality potting soil. Clay pots are an excellent choice as they allow the soil to dry more thoroughly than plastic pots. Scented geraniums rarely need fertilization.
Scented geraniums may be grown as annuals or they can be overwintered and enjoyed year-after-year. There are several ways to successfully overwinter scented geraniums. Overwinter them as a houseplant by bringing containers indoors in fall before frost and placing plants in a bright, sunny window. Reduce watering plants while they are indoors, allowing the soil around the roots to dry before watering. Or, you can overwinter scented geraniums as dormant plants by bringing container-planted specimens indoors before the first frost and storing them in a dark corner of a basement or in a frost-free garage. Allow the plant to go dormant by not watering during winter. Bring plants outside when the last chance of frost passes in spring.
More Varieties of Scented Geranium
'Chocolate Mint' scented geranium
This Pelargonium tomentosum variety is named for the maroon splotches along leaf veins rather than the scent of the plant, which is minty, not chocolaty. As leaves mature, the brownish coloration fades. The plant develops pale lavender flowers and grows 1-3 feet tall and wide. Zones 9-11
Pelargonium grossularioides is also known as gooseberry geranium or gooseberry-leaved scented geranium for the shape of its scalloped leaves. The plant grows as a spreading groundcover, reaching 6-12 inches tall and 12-18 inches wide. In California it has escaped cultivation to become a weed. Zones 9-11
Fernleaf scented geranium
This cultivar of Pelargonium denticulatum ('Filicifolium') is known by several common names, including fernleaf, toothleaf, and pine-scented geranium. It has finely divided leaves with toothed edges and a strong piney fragrance. Small pinkish-purple flowers develop above the lacy foliage. It grows 18-36 inches tall and 12-24 inches wide. Zones 9-11
'French Lace' scented geranium
Pelargonium crispum 'French Lace' is an upright sport of 'Prince Rupert' scented geranium. The pale pink flowers stand out against the plant's deeply lobed leaves, which have a strong lemon scent and variegated creamy yellow margins. The plant grows 12-18 inches tall and wide. Zones 9-11
This variety of Pelargonium crispum is also known as 'French Lace' geranium because its leaves have wavy margins and are closely stacked on the stems, giving the plant a frilly appearance. The foliage has a strong lemon fragrance. Pale pink flowers appear sporadically. The plant grows 12-36 inches tall and 6-15 inches wide. Zones 9-11
'Mabel Grey' lemon-scented geranium
Pelargonium citronellum 'Mabel Grey' is often considered the best of the lemon-scented geraniums. It has sharply lobed hairy leaves and bears pink flowers with darker reddish-purple veins. It can grow up to 4 feet tall, making it a good choice for topiary standards. Zones 9-11
'Old Spice' scented geranium
This type of Pelargonium fragrans is a selection of nutmeg-scented geranium. It has gray-green rounded and lobed leaves with a spicy aroma. Another common name is sweet-leaved geranium. The plant grows 12-18 inches tall and wide, and bears small white flowers. Zones 9-11
Pelargonium tomentosum is a spreading subshrub with fuzzy silvery-gray leaves. True to its name, the plant emits a strong minty aroma. It bears tiny white flowers with purple splashes in the throat. It grows 1-2 feet tall and spreads up to 4 feet wide. Other names include peppermint geranium and pennyroyal geranium. Zones 9-11
Pelargonium graveolens is also called velvet rose and sweet-scented geranium. The deeply lobed hairy leaves have a strong scent of roses. They are sometimes used for commercial production of geranium oil, a substitute for attar of roses in perfume production. Flowers are small and pinkish-white. Plants may grow 1-3 feet tall and wide. Zones 9-11
Spanish lavender-scented geranium
Pelargonium cucullatum is a shrubby plant that can grow up to 6 feet tall in the wild, but in cultivation it is more likely to grow 12-24 inches tall and wide. It is also known as hooded-leaf geranium because its hairy leaves are cupped upward, resembling a hooded cloak. It is one of the parents of regal geraniums and, like the regal types, requires cool nights for its pinkish-purple flowers to develop. Zones 9-11