These amazing plants, astonishing in both their variety of leaf shape and texture, their growth habits, and their fragrances (which mimic numerous familiar fragrances), are said to have been discovered off the coast of Africa in the l7th century. They are beloved by gardeners and cooks, who enjoy using their leaves in numerous recipes and teas.
A brief note about their name: Properly referred to as Pelargoniums, Scented Geraniums are commonly referred to as “Geraniums”, which confuses them with members of the related genus Geranium. The genus Pelargonium includes about 250 members of annuals, perennials, and subshrubs. The various examples are dramatically different in appearance, and many people collect them because of their incredible varieties of shape and scent.
Scented Geraniums love the heat and are easy to grow, becoming tough and woody enough in their first year to withstand our hot, humid summers. They lend themselves very well to container growing and if planted in the garden, most will withstand full sun.
Because Scented Geraniums tend to be leggy in habit, they should be pruned back after blooming and given a good feeding. If container-grown, this is also a good time to repot them to prevent crowding their roots.
Scenteds can tolerate winter temperatures in the upper 30’s without severe damage. The large-growing favorites, called Rose Geraniums (P. graveolens) do well in the ground in temperatures as low as the 20’s, especially when deeply mulched.
NOTE: During 2013, my monthly Arbor Gate Herb Picks will emphasize herb choices as great landscape additions. Many of them also have culinary uses, of course, but our focus will be on their visual, scent, and textural qualities.