I love scented leaf geraniums. I love the flowers, delicate and perfect, and the scent of a leaf rubbed on your fingers. I have Attar of Roses, Orange Fizz, and Lady Plymouth, Clorinda, Sweet Mimosa, Atomic Snowflake, Citronella and Deerwood Lavender Lad. The names themselves are a pleasure.
This is Attar of Roses, grown for its strong rose scent which is used in the perfume industry.
This is Orange Fizz. Rub a leaf between your fingers and the scent is the smell released by peeling an orange. The flower, like all scented leaf pelargonium flowers, is simple: this one a pale pink flared with deep purple.
This is Citronella. The flower is similar. You might struggle to see the difference, although the purple flare is more delicate, but the scent of the leaves here is strongly lemon, more lemon than a lemon!
And this is Lady Plymouth. The leaf is a sage green with a white edge and the flower a simple, slightly lavender pink. The leaves are scented a peppery citrus.
So you can see that if you want a variety of colour and flower to rival begonias and gladioli, scented leaf pelargoniums are not for you. The differences are subtle, the flowers delicate and similar in size, shape and colour. The differences need a close eye. But the range and variety is in the scent of the leaves. The scent of a cedar leaved plant like Clorinda is vivid and particular, you could bottle it and put it in a wardrobe to keep moths away. The scent of Deerwood Lavender is as delicate and pure as lavender itself. The flowers are deep mauve. Sweet Mimosa is as sweet and light as its name.
Scented leaf pelargoniums are incredibly easy to keep although they seem to have a mystique about them. The essential message is to keep them lean. They grow best in pots in my experience. Plant them into a mix of potting compost and grit, about one third grit to two thirds compost. Because they can cope with drying out, they grow well in terracotta pots which dry out more quickly than plastic. Plastic pots are often more efficient with other plants because they dry out more slowly. Terracotta pots however are far more beautiful and this is a case where terracotta works on all fronts! You can include a slow release fertiliser but I have found that they are fine without as long as they are watered two or three times a week in the spring and summer.
Scented leaf geraniums are half hardy and should be kept in a cool greenhouse or porch until you are absolutely sure that the risk of frost has passed. In summer they can be left outside. In autumn, as the weather cools, keep an eye out for frosts and bring them inside if frost is forecast. Sound simple eh?
I must admit that for years I messed up with both these and flowering pelargoniums. I would buy them. I would look after them over the summer. I would put them in an unheated greenhouse and feel reassured. Winter bore on. It got colder and colder and life outside of the house disappeared from view. Why go outside when it is so supremely miserable? At some point in the year the temperature would drop from round about freezing to well below. My plants couldn't cope. I would go out a week or so afterwards and find them blasted. I would always persuade myself that they might revive. This was always rubbish.
These plants don't need much but they do need not to freeze, a simple lesson but one which took me years to learn. If you don't heat your greenhouse, bring them inside. If you do, make sure your minimal heating will kick in. If you don't have a greenhouse at all you might be better at keeping them going as the only thing to do is bring them inside. A cool porch, an unheated bedroom, a chilly corridor, all will do if they don't make your cat's water bowl ice over.
I might just be indulging myself here but I will do another post on cuttings and how to propagate them.