Pungent Pelargoniums

Published on November 15th 2018
From peppermint to rose, nutmeg to lemon, there is an astounding array of sun-loving scented pelargoniums to choose from for your garden this summer! These pretty perennials are ideal for hanging baskets, window boxes, the herb garden, sunny borders, even in between your kitchen garden crops.
Pelargoniums are grown mainly for their scented leaves and attractive foliage. The leaves are velvety and soft to the touch due to the numerous glandular hairs on the leaf surface. With such fine fragranced leaves it’s no wonder that they are used extensively in the perfume industry!
They bloom from spring to autumn, with their most floriferous period between spring and early summer. Scented pelargoniums are versatile and hardy plants, drought-tolerant, and can even tolerate light frost.
Here are a few favourites to choose from that will add a little fragrance, texture and even taste to your garden:
  • Rose-scented (P. graveolens, P. radens and P. capitatum)
Attractive, strongly rose-scented leaves with pinkish-white flowers that add texture, fragrance and colour to your garden borders. A delicately rose-flavoured tea can be made by adding some leaves to boiling water.
  • Peppermint-scented (P. tomentosum)
A low-growing pelargonium with far-spreading stems. The leaves can also be used to ease a sore throat similar to the fresh menthol in mint. The leaves are also known to have good antibacterial activity.
  • Balm-scented (P. vitifolium)
A lovely shrub about 0.5-1 m tall. It produces vine-shaped leaves with a strong balmy scent and is stunning when in full flower.
  • Coconut-scented (P. grossularioides)
A low-growing ground cover which may grow as long as 0.5m, and produces flowers almost all year round. Grows well in damp areas or as a pot plant.
  • Lemon-scented (P. citronellum)
An evergreen, strongly lemon-scented shrub that can grow up to 2m in height and can spread up to 1m. It produces pinkish-purple flowers. This is a common companion plant used to repel pests with its lemony scent that acts as a natural insecticidal.
  • Apple-scented (P. odoratissimum)
A relatively flat-growing shrublet with a short thick main stem, producing extensive herbaceous flowering branches 60 cm in length. It does well in containers and can be grown successfully indoors.
  • Nutmeg-scented (P. x fragrans)
An exquisite hybrid with a bushy growth habit and leaves with a fragrance of nutmeg and a faint trace of lemon. Can also be used as a mulch as it deters plant-eating insects.
*Tip: plant these aromatic beauties along pathways or near entrances where the leaves can be brushed against and the delightful fragrance can be enjoyed.
  • Pelargoniums are sun-loving, however, they should be planted in semi-shade in very hot gardens.
  • Good drainage is important, as they dislike wet feet and are prone to root rot when overwatered.
  • In cold gardens, plant in an area with a warm microclimate.
  • Pelargoniums benefit from a layer of mulch around their roots.
  • To encourage a good floral flush, sprinkle a handful of potassium-rich fertiliser in September.
  • For the promotion of new lush growth, it is essential to prune! Prune at the end of the flowering season in late summer.
  • Take cuttings in March to propagate new plants. Here are how-to guides on making hard- and softwood cuttings.
  • Pelargonium hybrids do not like too much heat so plant them in semi-shaded areas.
Kids take great pleasure in the sensory delight these plants present and it can be an interesting exercise to discover the variety of scents and flavours of the crushed foliage. Leaves can be added to jellies, sauces, potpourri, and can even be used to add a delicate flavour to a delightful cup of tea.
With their wide variety of uses and pleasurable fragrances, they are a perfect addition to any summer garden!
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