Scented Geraniums: Planting, Pruning, Fertilizing, and Using
their uniquely scented and often ornamental leaves, Scented
Geraniums are fast
growing and highly tolerant of variable soils and conditions. They vary in
heights and widths. Some are more tolerant of cold and some are more
tolerant of shade. Stroking their leaves or splashing water on them on a
hot summer's day is joy not to be missed. Wherever you put them, make it
close to you. You will want to brush against them often. Plant patches
of them in all your garden beds so that when you prune your other plants
you will become engulfed in their fragrance. Here are a few things to
consider once you decide to add Scented Geraniums to your garden or
Scented Geraniums die if they get too cold.
Here in Zone 8, we
usually have good luck with the larger leaved varieties surviving in the
ground as long as we don't actually reach our average winter time
temperature of 10 degrees. We are rarely below the mid 20's and they do
fine. They will die back to the ground but return
(most years) in the spring. Smaller leaved varieties, like Lemon Crispum
and Prince Rupert, do best in Zone 8
if their dead stems are left until the plant has grown up around them in
the spring. Often these stems are not actually dead, just dormant, and will produce
new leaves in the spring. Larger leaved varieties, like Attar of Rose and
Peppermint, may have their dead
stems removed in winter or spring.
In Zones 9 and up, where these lovelies
are evergreen, fall pruning of long and lanky stems to a fairly short
length will produce a tidier, more attractive-looking shrub in the spring.
LOCATION: SOIL and SUN
Scented Geraniums range from 12 inches tall (Nutmeg and Fringed Apple)
to 3 feet tall (almost all of the rest of them) and from 12 inches wide
to 8 feet wide or more. They mix well with other landscape plants to
add color and texture. We have planted them at the top of walls and the
bottom of hills. Scenteds
(as they are often referred to) like it warm, sunny and dry.
If you are having a hard time getting something to grow in a certain
area, try a Scented Geranium.
If planting in the garden, the soil needs to contain enough air pockets to allow water to drain freely
and enough organic matter to hold the moisture so that the plants don't dry
out too quickly. If water puddles where you want to plant, then
choose another spot. Mulching the bare ground around your scented geraniums with compost
or other organic matter will, over time, help create the perfect soil. As
mulch breaks down, earthworms and other beneficial bacteria take essential
elements below the surface, which not only enhances the texture of the top
soil layer, but also helps to correct pH, which should be somewhere in the
neutral range, and improve fertility. If you are not mulching, and your
soil has poor fertility, then apply an all-purpose organic fertilizer
once or twice a year.
If planting in a container, use a high quality organic
potting soil with lots of texture and organic fertilizer. Our three-inch
pot should be transferred to a pot that can hold about three gallons of soil. Each spring, check the root ball to make sure it has not filled up the
pot. Root bound Scented Geraniums should either be repotted into a container
at least two gallons larger or root pruned and returned to the same
container with fresh soil added. Container-grown Scented Geraniums will need continual
fertilization with an all-purpose
organic fertilizer throughout the growing season.
Scented Geraniums love the sun, but most do well in
partial shade in southern areas. A Scented Geranium that
does not get enough light will be leggy and will develop fewer essential
oils. Sometimes you just have to try the plant in an area to see if it
will be happy.
PLANTING: Scented Geraniums should be watered
in the three-inch pot before trying to remove them. Plant them at the same
depth they are in the pot; not planting deeper or higher. Dig a hole just big enough to plant the
starter Scented Geranium and water well. Check
often to make sure the little plant's root zone is not dry. Until it takes off into the
soil around it, the original root cube needs to stay moist. This usually
takes about a month depending on the time of year. Be sure to gently firm
your little plant into the ground so it makes good contact with the native
soil, but don't smash the soil so hard that the soil becomes overly
established, Scented Geraniums don't take a lot of water but they do
need some. Leaves should never be allowed to wilt but the soil should
not be wet enough to make mud pies. In humid areas, drip irrigation is
advised to keep moisture off the leaves. Keeping the leaves dry helps to
thwart fungal diseases. If you use drip make sure to expand the wet area
as the plant grows bigger. Overhead watering is not usually an issue in
a container or in a hot, dry climate. Indeed, watering overhead in a dry
climate cleanses the leaves of dust which is a healthier environment for
How often to water is an age-old question that can only be answered by each
gardener. Sites, soil and conditions vary to such an extent that only
on-site inspection can answer this question.
can help the novice gardener
to be more confident in their watering acumen. Be sure to place the meter within
the root zone for an accurate reading.
PEST AND DISEASE:
In humid areas where plants are crowded, white flies and fungus can be
an issue. Giving plants proper space to grow and adequate sun and air
movement will go a long way toward keeping this insect away. The only
other pest we have noticed that can devastate a Scented Geranium is the
slug or snail. Peppermint Geranium seems to be more of a beacon for
these pests than other varieties.
Sluggo is an effective
organic slug and snail killer. Growing Scented Geraniums among
other flowering plants will provide a diverse haven and encourage
beneficial insects to take up residence
in your garden. Full sun, good air circulation and proper drainage will
go a long way toward discouraging diseases
PRUNING: The only reasons to prune a
Scented Geranium is if it outgrows its space, has dead stems or needs to be
shaped. They are perfectly happy left alone. If you do prune, be sure to use
the leaves for crafting or cooking.
Leaves of Scented Geraniums add interest to fresh flower arrangements.
Peppermint, Peacock, Skeleton Rose and Mint Scented Rose are really nice in
small bouquets. They last about a week in water. All Scented Geraniums can add
add bulk and fragrance to potpourris and sachets when dried.
Scented Geraniums have been used in cooking for centuries. Normally, we
don't really eat the leaves but use them as flavoring and scenting agents.
Attar of Rose Geranium leaves packed into apple jelly or laid at the bottom
of a cake pan before the batter is poured add a bit of Je ne sais quoi, that
little bit of some indefinable extra. Lemon cripsum leaves were often
layered with sugar and left to scent the sugar. Today, there is more use for
the beautifully colored flowers than the leaves (which frankly can be a bit
hairy)! The delicate flowers can be added to salad or stir fry. They can also
be candied and used to decorate desserts. All of our Scented Geraniums are
safe to use in cooking as long as they are grown organically.