Scented leaf geraniums

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.


Comments

  1. Have just returned from the Malvern Show clutching a variegated 'Cy's Sunburst' which I am stroking gently every time I pass. I grew a fair number of scented geraniums several years ago but never cracked overwintering so eventually gave up on them. Determined to have another go Elizabeth though worried it could become a serious addiction. I also came back with a catalogue and have been making a wish list which is getting rather long. You probably know that the leaves can be used in cakes and sorbets. Look forward to your next post on the subject.

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    1. I had just the same problem with overwintering Anna. I am afraid they need a bit of cossetting!

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  2. Simply beautiful!!! Good work~! ♥♥♥

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  3. I, too, love the scent of geranium leaves and it has always baffled me how in this case, it is the leaves and not the flowers that smell. Thank you for introducing their nuances and the aroma oozing names. Some day I dream to have a huge garden of my own and then your blog would be my guidebook. :-)

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    1. I hope you have your garden one day Suman. In the meantime you can grow scented leaf geraniums on the windowsill!

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  4. I only have one rose scented geranium which has spent the winter in the garage and appears to have survived OK though I need to cut it back as it's very leggy at the moment. I've had others in the past and I do love the different scents. I shall look out for one or two more I think.

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    1. They do get leggy over winter don't they. I cut mine back to about a third of their summer growth at the end of the season and then might trim a bit in the spring too when they get going.

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  5. I love them too and I actually prefer their flowers form and subtle colours to their more blousy relatives used in bedding and baskets.

    Have you tried cooking with the leaves? Attar of Roses makes a pretty good jelly preserve with apples, or how about a perfumed cake? Have recipes if you want them.

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    1. I prefer them too! I know about cooking with the leaves but have never actually done it. Would love some recipes please! Thanks a lot.

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  6. Thank you for this post, Elizabeth. I have long wanted to buy scented leaved pelargoniums but obviously need to look further than the local nursery. Now then, one probably silly question: if you have massed ranks of them, is there a discernable aroma wafting baout in the breeze, or is the perfume only released when you rub the leaves?

    Also, can you leave them over winter in an unheated greenhouse if you throughly wrap and insulate them?

    Not sure I can stretch my meagre gardening skills to propagation, but will look forward to your next pelargonium post!

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    1. There is no scent wafting on the breeze generally Lynne. The scent is only released on contact with the leaves although you don't need much contact! I wouldn't try to overwinter in an unheated greenhouse. I think that is where I used to go wrong. However much you try to insulate them at some point in most British winters you will get a night or more where temperatures are below freezing and that does for them. If you can bring them inside, even into a garage attached to the house which doesn't actually freeze, that would be better!

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  7. Indulging me, more like! I lose pelargoniums regularly, so any advice and illustrations always welcome.....

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    1. Ah well, see above. My losing them was always to do with over wintering. I seem to remember your back corridor (don't think you call it that but it looked very smart) - quite a bit of glass, maybe a utility? The perfect winter home!

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  8. We stopped to linger over the scented pelargoniums in the floral marquee at Malvern last weekend, I love their beautiful elegant small flowers and range of scents. Don't have any yet, but one of these days...

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    1. oh go for them! They really are wonderful to have around and raise your spirits every time you rub a leaf - excellent value for money!

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  9. Elizabeth, this post brought me memories of some lemon scented geraniums my Mom grew way back when. It was always a childhood treat to catch the scent of the leaves and admire the delicate flowers.

    Please do continue with these posts. I so enjoy learning more about gardening, even if I am without a garden!

    xo

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    1. They seem to have a particular affinity with childhood, Frances. I think it is to do with the power of scent to evoke memory. I can't smell chalk without seeing the classroom I was in when I was about six! Rose scented geraniums remind me strongly of my paternal grandmother who loved them.

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  10. I'm a new convert to scented leafed geraniums. I have one that is just known as a scented leaf (cheers garden centre for your great information) and a newly purchased Attar of Roses. Would love more and so east to propagate.

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    1. Garden centres can be rubbish at things like this. I tend to use specialist nurseries. There is one called scentedgeranium.co.uk which is quite good.

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  11. Beautiful photos, Elizabeth. Your posts are always a treat and one I have promised myself more often, now I have freed up a little more time for myself and have fallen back into blogging.
    Thank you for the tips.

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    1. Do have a go with these Marianne! They are so rewarding, even if you don't keep them over winter!

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  12. Hi Elizabeth! I like scented leaf pelargoniums too and I'm very lucky because I leave rather close to a nursery that has a very vast collection of them! It is amazing to rub all their leaves until you have no finger left to rub another leaf! :) I only bought one with furry grey leaves and small white flowers which I keep in a terracotta pot in a very sunny position, as you suggested. The problem with me is that I don't know where to put all those pots in winter if I buy more, so I have to desist!!!
    BTW Citronella is the italian name for your lemon grass (genus cymbopogon), and the smell is like lemon but more than lemon... like a sugary lemonade with some mint and flowers on it! :)

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    1. Ah I did not know that about Citronella Alberto. Thank you. I am rather envious of your living so close to a specialist nursery!

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  13. I have some scented leaved pelargoniums which I grew from a mixed pack of seeds a few years back but I dont know which they are - there are two distinct types. Maybe if I photograph them when they are in flower you could have a go at identifing them

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    1. Happy to have a go Helen! Need both flowers and leaves and even then it might be beyond me.

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  14. My next post is my common or garden, nameless because it is a passalong, Pink Pelargonium. I hope it is the natural species.

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    1. You could call it pink passalong! I have so many plants that meet this description!

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  15. I do believe this post is all about something far above my nursery gardening grade of foxgloves and nasturtiums. But I do love big scarlet red geraniums, especially in window boxes.

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    1. Me too. I love the bright red geraniums which I associate with France and hot sunshine, as well as these delicate pale ones.

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  16. It is a pleasure to read about a type of plant bred for its scent. Especially after what has been done to roses.....

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    1. I do find it particularly satisfying that the scent is in the leaves rather than the flowers too.

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  17. The only geraniums I've ever known have been the run-of-the-mill types from the nursery that you plant in annual beds or pots. I'm absolutely intrigued and will add them to my list of things to try when I have a garden again...by the way, "Deerwood Lavender Lad" just rolls off the tongue!

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    1. They are truly worth giving time and room to. You could just have a pot of two with no garden whatsoever!

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  18. At last I am getting ionto my garden after ten years on the house I love these and massess of them. I love touching things so these are just fab!

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    1. I know just what you mean about the touching things! It is lovely to have something that you are positively meant to touch. It must make up for all those years as a child being told not to touch.

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  19. Lovely post - a great reminder of these floral delicacies. Have recently decided to add plants to my kitchin. Bringing a bit of garden indoors these would fit the bill perfectly. Aroma and scent at the tip of my nose and fingers. Will watch out for the how to post :)

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    1. I think they would be a perfect kitchen plant! Must try to resist the urge to buy more for my kitchen.

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  20. I live in New York, and I don't think I've ever seen anything but the regular old geraniums (whose leaves don't smell good at all) on offer at our local nurseries and DIY stores. I will have to research this scented pelargonium situation and see if I can get hold of any where I live! They sound wonderful!

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  21. Oh . . . I hadn't realised there are different kinds . . . I have a white flowering one . . . and love it.

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