Scented-leaf pelargoniums are relatives of the pelargoniums we grow in summer tubs (the ones that get called geraniums). They have strong, intense scents, but unlike flowers that emit their scent anyway, you get the fragrance if you brush their leaves.
They’re not as striking as the pelargoniums grown for summer bedding, with tiny flowers compared to those big sturdy-stalked blooms, but look closely and small though they are, their petals are intricately marked and very pretty and these plants have a long flowering season. But the biggest reason to grow them is their leaves – there are lots of leaf shapes and colours, before you even start on the wonderful aromas they release.
Some people dislike the distinctive aroma that most pelargoniums emit, but the scented-leaf varieties smell of lemon, orange, mint, chocolate, nutmeg, pine and rose to name but a few. And by growing them on a windowsill at home, they’ll be perfectly placed to enjoy.
Two of my favourites are Pelargonium crispum ‘Variegatum’, which has crinkly, lemon-scented leaves and light mauve flowers and P. odoratissimum, whose leaves are apple-scented, topped by small white flowers. ‘Snowy Nutmeg’ has heart-shaped grey-green leaves with strong nutmeg scent while ‘Old Spice’ is strong and spicy. The scented oils are released from the leaves during cooking so can be used in baking or to flavour ice creams!
They’ll all grow happily in a multi-purpose potting compost and they’re really easy to take cuttings from. Nip out the tops of the cuttings to make them branch and produce lots of those beautifully aromatic leaves. If you’re growing them in small containers on a windowsill they’ll need regular watering and in spring and summer, add a little high-potash fertiliser to your can to give their growth a boost. If they’re getting a bit straggly, prune them back and they’ll re-shoot to give a bushy plant again. Remember to turn windowsill plants occasionally so all sides get to enjoy some sunshine.
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