Scented geraniums, aka Pelargonium genus, are a romantic and luscious way to incorporate interesting textures and scents into outdoor landscaping, patio pot collections and household plant groupings. These are tender perennials, so most varieties bloom, but the scent comes from the leaves. They aren’t true geraniums, which have a somewhat pungent smell when blooming. The leaves of scented geraniums offer delicious scents that waft up when passers-by brush by them or when you deliberately rub the leaves.
A Flowerful History
Scented geraniums first came from in South Africa in the 1600s. From there, people brought them to the Netherlands as exotic curiosities. And by the 1800s, they spread throughout Europe and were extremely popular in England, too. There, they used the leaves in finger bowls on fashionable tables.
They helped create visual interest in nosegays and, according to Victorian-era author Kate Greenaway in The Language of Flowers, several varieties had meanings. For example, nutmeg scented geraniums mean an “expected meeting.”
Five Things About Scented Geraniums
If you’re interested in adding scented geraniums to your life, here are five things you need to know:
Start with Citrus-Scented Flowers
Not only are they easy to find at local nurseries, but they are also extremely useful in controlling mosquitoes and bugs. Plant a few in pots on your porch or deck for a natural and spicy-smelling way to banish pesky insects. The leaves can also be dried and used to make a potpourri.
Plant a Variety for Teas and Tisanes
The leaves of rose, lemon, mint, strawberry, apricot and apple-scented geraniums make a delicate, caffeine-free beverage. Tisanes, which you make from steeped leaves, are naturally light in color and flavor. So if you desire a heartier tea, add one teabag per cup of boiling water. You can also use honey for flavoring.
Deadhead Spent Blooms
Like regular geraniums, to keep a scented geranium in the peak of health, regularly remove spent blooms. This will encourage continued plant growth.
Provide Optimal Growing Conditions
These plants grow best in well-drained soil and full sunlight. In southern climates, provide afternoon shade; in northern climates, overwinter indoors.
Shape Throughout the Growing Season
In September or October, cut the plants back to two to three inches above the soil to help them survive the winter. You can also move them indoors for more controlled winter growth.
Scented geraniums are beautiful and easy to grow. Just remember to maintain them, and you’ll be able to enjoy them much longer.