Scented-Leaved Geraniums Care: From Planting to Pruning

HomeHow ToCare GuideScented-Leaved Geraniums Care: From Planting to Pruning

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Scented-leaved geraniums, known botanically as Pelargonium species, have a rich history and interesting origins. They are not true geraniums but belong to the genus Pelargonium within the Geraniaceae family.

Scented-leaved geraniums are native to South Africa. They primarily grow in the Cape Province region. European explorers and botanists first collected these plants in the 17th and 18th centuries. Scented-leaved geraniums were introduced to Europe in the late 17th century. They became popular in England and Holland due to their aromatic leaves and were grown in conservatories and gardens.

During the Victorian era in the 19th century, scented-leaved geraniums gained immense popularity. They were often used in fragrant gardens and indoor potpourri. Their pleasant scents, ranging from lemon and rose to mint and nutmeg, made them highly desirable for domestic use. In addition to their use in gardens, scented-leaved geraniums became part of the perfume industry. The French extracted essential oil from scented-leaved geraniums as a cheaper alternative to Attar of Rose oil for perfumery.

Today, scented-leaved geraniums are cultivated worldwide. They are popular in gardens, as houseplants, and in herb gardens. They are also grown commercially for their essential oils.

What are Scented-Leaved Geraniums?

Scented-leaved geraniums have aromatic leaves that emit fragrances such as rose, citrus, fruit, and mint when touched or lightly bruised. The leaves come in various shapes and colors, adding visual interest to the garden. The flowers are relatively small but charming, with five petals that vary in color from white to pink and red.

  • Botanical Name: Pelargonium (scented-leaved group)
  • Plant Type: Tender perennial, annual
  • Family: Geraniaceae
  • Height: 1 to 3 feet tall
  • Foliage: Varied shapes and colors, from round to finely cut and lacy, gray-green to lime green
  • Bloom Time: Summer
  • Climate: Warm, temperate
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • Soil Requirements: Loamy, well-drained soil
  • Hardiness Zones: USDA zones 10 to 11
  • Flowering: Small flowers with five petals
  • Seasonal Features: Fragrant leaves, small flowers
  • Special Features: Aromatic foliage, drought-tolerant
  • Toxicity: Toxic to pets (cats, dogs, horses) and mildly toxic to humans

Where to Plant Scented-Leaved Geraniums

Plant scented-leaved geraniums near walkways, patios, or entrances where you can enjoy their fragrance. They are also excellent for container gardening and can be placed indoors or outdoors.

When and How to Plant Scented-Leaved Geraniums

Plant geraniums after the last frost date in spring. Geraniums also can be planted in fall or winter for winter and spring bloom.

  1. Choose the Right Location: Scented-leaved geraniums thrive in full sun to partial shade. Plant them near walkways, patios, or entrances to enjoy their fragrance.
  2. Prepare the Soil: Use loamy, well-drained soil, or amend heavy clay soils with compost or sand to improve drainage. It has a slightly acidic to neutral pH.
  3. Sowing Seeds: Start indoors in December. Spread seeds across a tray filled with seed-starting medium. Cover seeds with soil to a depth of 1/8 inch. Mist the soil to moisten it, but avoid leaving it soggy.
  4. Transplanting: When transplanting seedlings or young plants, space them 1 to 3 feet apart to allow for growth.
  5. Care: Water the plants moderately, use a balanced fertilizer, and regularly prune the plants to encourage new growth.

Scented-Leaved Geraniums Care

Water

Watering Scented-Leaved Geraniums requires a careful balance to ensure healthy growth. Water them thoroughly and deeply every few days during their growing season, especially and more frequently during hot weather. It is crucial to empty the saucer beneath the pot after watering to avoid stagnant water. Use a soaker hose or trickle system to allow the water to gently filter through the soil, ensuring it reaches the roots without wetting the leaves. Between waterings, let the soil dry out to prevent root rot. This method helps maintain the plant’s health and promotes vibrant growth.

Sunlight

Scented-leaved geraniums thrive best in full sunlight, requiring at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day to maintain their vibrant foliage and aromatic leaves. Adequate sunlight ensures that these plants produce the essential oils responsible for their delightful scents. While they can tolerate partial shade, insufficient sunlight may result in leggy growth and reduced fragrance, which require frequent pinching back to keep them full. Therefore, placing them in a sunny spot, such as a south-facing window or a well-lit garden area, is ideal for their optimal growth and aromatic development.

Fertilizer

Scented-leaved geraniums are light feeders, and their scent will be stronger if they are grown on the lean side. Young scented geraniums may benefit from a little boost. You can use a water-soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer and feed your plants with a small (diluted to half-strength) amount every 2 to 3 weeks during the growing season.

Potted scented geraniums will need more fertilizer than those planted in the ground. You can feed potted geraniums every three to four weeks through the spring and summer with an all-purpose fertilizer at half the label’s recommended dilution.
Scented geraniums planted in the ground, generally need less fertilizer. However, if you choose to fertilize, use a balanced, slow-release fertilizer once every two to four weeks during the growing season.

Soil

The best soil for Scented-Leaved Geraniums (Pelargonium spp.) should be well-draining and slightly acidic with a pH of about 5.8 to 6.3. The ideal Soil Type is Loamy. Ensure the soil has good drainage to prevent root rot. A mix of peat moss, perlite, and compost can create the perfect soil for geraniums. Compost or aged manure can enhance the soil’s fertility and texture, ensuring optimal growth. However, the soil should not be too rich, as rich soil can lessen the strength of the fragrance.

Prune

Pruning scented-leaved geraniums is essential to maintain their shape, encourage bushier growth, and promote better blooming. Start by removing any dried or discolored leaves and stems, as well as any diseased sections. Woody stems can be cut back to a junction to stimulate new growth. Additionally, prune wild stems and leggy growths to keep the plant compact and tidy. Depending on how leggy or damaged your geranium is, you can reduce its size by one-third to one-half. Water the plant thoroughly after pruning. Ensure the soil is well-drained to avoid waterlogging. Regular pruning helps keep your scented-leaved geraniums healthy and looking their best.

Temperature & Humidity

Scented-leaved geraniums thrive best in indoor temperatures ranging from 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 24 degrees Celsius) and humidity levels around 40%. It mimics their native South African environment. They perform optimally when temperatures remain above 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) and scent-leaved geraniums prefer moderate temperatures and can tolerate slight variations but are sensitive to extreme cold and frost. If the humidity drops below 40%, it is recommended to supplement with a pebble tray to maintain the ideal environment. These plants are well-adapted to average household conditions, making them suitable for indoor cultivation.

Container

When planting Scented-Leaved Geraniums in a container, it is important to choose a container that is at least 12 inches in diameter or larger and has excellent drainage. Clay pots are an excellent choice as they allow the soil to dry more thoroughly than plastic pots. If you plan to move the container around to different locations, consider a container with handles or a lightweight material. These plants thrive in containers filled with a peat-based potting mix. They are especially nice in containers where they can fill out and spill over the edges, adding a delightful fragrance to your garden or home.

Potting and Repotting Scented-Leaved Geraniums

Potting and repotting scented-leaved geraniums are essential tasks to ensure their health and vigor. When potting initially, choose a well-draining soil mix rich in organic matter, and select a container with drainage holes to prevent waterlogging. Repot annually in the spring to refresh the soil and accommodate root growth, choosing a slightly larger pot to allow for expansion. When repotting, prune back any rogue stems or branches and gently remove the plant from its old pot. Gently loosen the roots before placing the plant in the new soil, avoiding burying the stem deeper than it was previously. During both processes, handle the plants gently to avoid damaging their fragile roots and foliage, ensuring they receive adequate sunlight and moisture afterward to facilitate recovery and growth.

Types of Scented-Leaved Geraniums

There are dozens of varieties of scented-leaved geraniums, each with its unique fragrance. Some popular types include:

  • Rose Scented (Pelargonium graveolens) is known for its rose-like fragrance, it is widely used in the perfume industry.
  • Lemon Scented (Pelargonium crispum) is known for its strong lemon scent, it is often used in culinary applications.
  • Mint Scented (Pelargonium tomentosum) emits a refreshing minty aroma.
  • Nutmeg Scented (Pelargonium x fragrant) is known for its warm, spicy nutmeg scent.
  • Chocolate Scented (Pelargonium quercifolium) features a unique chocolate-like aroma.

Propagating Scented-Leaved Geraniums

Scented-leaved geraniums are typically reproduced through stem cuttings, which is a straightforward and effective method that capitalizes on their ability to root easily in soil or water. To propagate these plants, a healthy, non-flowering shoot is selected, and a stem cutting of about 3 to 4 inches in length is taken. The leaves are stripped off from the bottom inch of the cutting, and it is then inserted into a mix of sand and perlite. The cutting is kept moist, but not soggy, until roots form, after which it can be transplanted into a regular potting mix. This method allows gardeners to propagate identical clones of the parent plant, preserving its unique fragrance and characteristics with relative ease.

How to Get Scented-Leaved Geraniums to Bloom

To encourage blooming, ensure the plants receive adequate sunlight and are not overwatered. Fertilize regularly and prune to promote healthy growth.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Scented-leaved geraniums are susceptible to a few common diseases and pests. Powdery mildew can affect these plants, appearing as white, powdery patches on leaves. Fungal diseases such as powdery mildew and botrytis can be prevented by keeping foliage dry and avoiding overhead watering using fungicidal sprays if necessary.

Among the most common pests are aphids, which cause leaves to curl and distort. Another nuisance is spider mites, which create fine webbing on the undersides of leaves. causing leaves to yellow and distort. they can be controlled with insecticidal soap or neem oil sprays.

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