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by Pernell Gerver

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"Growing the Many Different Scented-Leaved Geraniums"

Geraniums are popular bedding plants. Their non-stop blooms provide color all season long.

Rose-scented geranium flowerIn addition to bedding plants, there are also geraniums grown just for their fragrant leaves. Called scented-leaved geraniums, they resemble bedding plant geraniums, but most have more uniquely-shaped foliage. They are grown mainly for their fragrant foliage and it's amazing how many different scents there are. Rose, lime, lemon, peppermint, chocolate mint, apple, raspberry, citronella (mosquito), ginger, lemon rose, coconut, cinnamon, nutmeg, and apricot are just some of the fragrances. The fragrance of scented geraniums is most noticeable when its foliage is rubbed or crushed. Scented-leaved geraniums were named the Herb of the Year for 2006.

Scented-leaved geraniums have been grown in herb gardens for centuries and were very popular in the 17th Century. Their fragrant foliage was used as an air freshener in the home and as a personal deodorant. During Victorian times, their leaves were used in cakes, jam, wine, and skin creams. Nowadays, their scented leaves continue to have many uses. Dried leaves can be steeped in boiling water to make tea and dried leaves are also used in sachets and potpourri. The essential oil in rose-scented varieties is used by the perfume industry in place of the more-expensive attar of roses oil.

Scented-leaved geraniums are very easy to grow both indoors as house plants and in the garden as bedding plants or in the herb garden. Indoors they grow best in bright light and average to cool room temperatures. They can tolerate temperatures as low as 50 degrees indoors. It's best to let the potting soil dry between watering, especially during the cooler temperatures of winter. I fertilize with Electra Plant Food every few weeks throughout the year.

Outdoors in the garden, scented-leaved geraniums thrive in full sun. They are very drought tolerant and are a nice addition to a flower bed or herb garden. The smaller ones make a nice edging plant along a path where their foliage can be rubbed as you walk along, releasing the fragrance. They are also excellent container plants. I like to grow some in containers that I bring inside in fall and grow all winter long as house plants, then set them back outside come spring.

As I mentioned there are many different fragrances when it comes to scented-leaved geraniums. Rose-scented geranium has attractive foliage that has a sweet, rose fragrance. Its incised leaves are grayish green. It forms a handsome mound about a foot and a half tall. Small, pink flowers bloom in small clusters on tall stems.

Rose-Scented geraniumRose-scented geranium

Geranium 'Roger's Delight'
Roger's Delight

While most scented-leaved geraniums have insignificant flowers, there is one variety that combines both scented leaves and very showy flowers. It was developed by an old gardening friend of mine named Roger and it's aptly named 'Roger's Delight' in his honor. It's a cross between a Martha Washington geranium and a scented-leaved geranium and it has the best attributes of both. Its foliage looks like a Martha Washington geranium with crisp leaves and jagged edges. The scent of its leaves is almost like lemons with a hint of rose. It bears very-large clusters of flowers that almost look like an azalea or orchid. Each deep-pink flower has a deep-purple splotch in the middle. The large, showy flowers are held atop its foliage in clusters.

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Pinch Mums for Short, Bushy Plants"

Q. How do I get hardy mums to look like they do when you bring them home? I transplant them from the pot every fall. They come back and bloom the following year, but don't fill out thickly. They are rather wild and scraggly looking. Do they need to be pruned? Thanks for your advice.

A. Chrysanthemums naturally want to grow into tall plants instead of the short, bushy plants you see for sale. To get short, bushy plants, commercial growers treat mums with a plant growth regulator, but the second year the plants assume their normal growth.

Each year you can achieve the same effect without chemicals by pinching off the growing tips of the plant. In spring when the stems are six inches tall, do the first pinch. Let the stems grow another six inches then pinch again. Do this until July 15th and do not pinch after that date so the plants can set their flower buds.

Potted mums

Potted mums

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