Scented geraniums were chosen as Herb of the Year for 2006. This offers a great opportunity to take a look at these plants.
If I had to choose one group of plants that I couldnít live without, it would definitely be a close tie between scented geraniums and plectranthus. Both have beautifully textured, scented foliage.
What isnít there to love about these plants? They obligingly remain indoors during the winter months, but get to spend the long growing season outdoors.
However, I do want gardeners to know something important about these plants. They can be quite addictive. Buy one, and before you know it, youíll have a whole collection.
During my move from upstate New York, my collection was purged because the movers will not ship plants. My car would only hold a certain number, but I am in the process of replacing them.
Beginners might want to start with one of each scent type, for example a rose, a fruit, and a citrus. For starters, choose one of the rose-scented varieties. Of these, my favorite is the Atomic Snowflake. Its foliage bears hints of gold. The leaf margins tend to be uneven. The fragrance wafting from the leaves is lemon-rose. Under good growing conditions, it bears lovely lavender blossoms.
Among the mint-scented, my favorite by far is the peppermint. Its delightful foliage has the same woolly texture as lambís ears. The leaves are very large as is the rest of the plant. In contrast, the white blossoms are quite delicate. Peppermint has a spreading growth habit. Whether you grow it outdoors in flower beds or in containers, give it lots of space.
The aromas of the citrus-scented geraniums are particularly bold. There is any number of varieties available. I definitely favor lemon-scented geranium. The delicate leaves are folded and wrinkled. If left to grow naturally, the stem will cascade over the edges of hanging baskets. If you prefer an upright form, prune back the stems to keep them shorter.
Lime-scented geranium has foliage that is lightly crinkly. This tends to be a large plant that can be kept within bounds with regular prunings. It bears large, attractive, lavender-pink blossoms with dark markings towards the center.
There are enough kinds of fruit-scented geraniums to fill a conservatory. These include peach, coconut, and even strawberry along with numerous kinds of apple-scented ones. Of these, I prefer the apple. Its greenish-gray foliage has a soft texture. Because it tends to assume a low clumping growth habit, it is especially suitable for hanging baskets.
There are other scented geraniums with exotic scents. Take the chocolate mint, for example. I love two things about this plant. First, there are purplish-brown splotches towards the center of the leaves. This beautiful shape is reminiscent of oak leaves since one of this hybridís parents was an oak-leaf type. Its scent is quite powerful.
The fern-leaf scented geranium is much-loved for its finely divided, lovely foliage. This tends to be a rather large plant.
There are several varieties of oak-leaf scented geranium available. I tend to favor the variegated. The fact that there is no particular pattern to the white and cream variegation adds to the interest. The large leaves have a
coarse texture. This plant has a spreading growth habit.
Growing Scented Geraniums Outdoors
In colder areas of the country, scented geraniums are grown as houseplants or in greenhouses for the winter. During the warmer months, these pots can be set outdoors in sites with dappled shade.
Some gardeners also use scented geraniums in flower beds and borders during the growing season. However, these will need to be dug and brought back indoors before the first frost if you plan on saving the plants over the winter. An alternative is to take cuttings and discard the original plants at the end of the growing season.
For use in outdoor landscapes, dappled shade works well. Avoid planting them in western and southern exposures where they will receive full afternoon sun. Morning sun isnít as harsh.
Whether the scented geraniums are in pots or in the ground, give these plenty of air circulation. Avoid overcrowding.
Caring for Scented Geraniums
The amount of pruning depends upon the variety. The faster growing kinds tend to need it more.
Most scented geraniums benefit from a light pruning after they quit blooming. Since the flower stalks become tall and ungainly, I remove these once the flower petals fall.
When you bring the plants outdoors during the spring after the danger of frost is past, harden them off. During the fall before you return them to the indoors, reverse this process. As an example, I move mine to my shady porch for several weeks before the first expected fall frost. This allows the plants to acclimate to lower light indoors.
Scented geraniums are among the most decorative and useful herbs you can grow. These have many culinary uses, and are also used for