Scented Geraniums are really not Geraniums at all. They are of the genus Pelargonium. Their leaves, however, do resemble Geraniums, and they are in the same botanical family. They have a variety of flowers and leaf shapes, and make lovely house and garden plants.
Scented Geraniums can be propagated very easily from stem cuttings or grown from seed. In their native habitat of the Cape of Good Hope, the scented geraniums are perennial. In most of Canada and the US, they are treated as annuals or tender perennials. The leaf form is highly variable and the leaf texture can be smooth, velvety or even sticky. It is the back of the leaf that releases the scent for which each geranium is known and named.
There are over fifty different geraniums with a rose odor. Some can reach a height of four feet in mild areas. They bloom in June and July in hues of lavender and pink. These are usually variations of Pelargonium graveolens.
‘Lady Plymouth’ grows very large, yet is slow growing. The leaf is deeply cut light green with a strong aroma. It is a vigorous plant with deeply cut gray green leaves bordered with white.
‘Rober’s Lemon Rose’ has one of the sweetest rose scents and flavors. The leaf is long and thick, resembling a tomato leaf.
Pelargonium capitatum ‘Attar of Roses’ is considered by many the best of the rose-scented geraniums. Its three-lobed, crenated leaves are light green, soft and hairy and the flowers are lavender.
Lemon geranium leaves are usually flatter, with edges more toothed than rose geraniums. They also bloom in June and July, often with pink flowers. Pelargonium crispum has one of the finest lemon scents. The leaves are small, fluted and ruffled, growing on upright stems. The flowers are orchid pink. Pelargonium crispum ‘Prince Rupert’ with its strong lemon scent can easily grow into a small shrub in a good growing season.
Pelargonium fragrans ‘Nutmeg’ has a strong scent. It creeps, making it excellent at the edge of a border or in a planter allowed to trail down the sides. The leaves are small and grayish green.
Not all scented geraniums have tastes that complement cooking. Recipes call for either rose, lemon, or mint. Most often their flavors are infused into the dish and they are removed and discarded before serving, although fresh leaves can be used as a decorative garnish. The leaves are used fresh.
Scenteds are typically used in sweet dishes. Rose varieties add a delicate but stimulating flavor to sugar which is then used in baked goods or tgo sweeten teas. Stack clean, dry leaves in a large canister between 1 inch layers of sugar. Place the canister in a warm spot for two to four weeks, and then sift out the leaves. Some cooks recommend first bruising the leaves to impart more flavor. The sugar can be substituted for all or part of the plain sugar called for in recipes for white cakes or icings. Cinnamon geranium can make a wonderful cinnamon sugar without the actual cinnamon Small rose- or lemon-scented leaves can also be candied by dipping them in egg white and coating them with sugar to create impressive cake decorations. Dry them on a rack before using.
The leaves can be arranged in the bottom of a lined or buttered baking pan and pouring cake batter over them.
Jellies flavored with rose-scenteds can be used as a filling for sponge- or angel-food cake layers. Apple and crab-apple jellies are most commonly used for this purpose. Other uses include fruit punches, wine cups, ice cream and sorbets.
Use lemon and rose scented geraniums in sweet vinegar recipes, they combine especially well with lemon verbena, lemon basil and mints. The dried leaves of a scented geranium can also make wonderful flavored teas. Simply steep a couple of teaspoons of dried leaves in a cup of hot water or add a few leaves to your pot.
You may also grind up the leaves and use them for “instant” tea or as a spice. To flavor baked goods line your pan or cookie sheet with a thin layer or scented geranium leaves, either fresh or dried and bake on top of them. After baking remove the leaves and the flavor remains. Scented geranium leaves can also be used to flavor sangria, fruit punch, lemonade, and sorbet. To make geranium jelly add a few scented leaves to a standard apple jelly recipe.
Health Benefits of Scented Geranium
Drinking tea made from scented geraniums can have a calming effect similar to chamomile and may be able to reduce stress and anxiety. The essential oil of scented geraniums has also been used in perfumes, insect repellents, astringents, and in aromatherapy oils. Scented geranium tea can be used to clean the face and is thought to help with pimples and acne because of its antibacterial properties. Drop a few leaves of scented geranium or essential oil of geranium into a bottle of witch hazel and use as a toner on problematic skin. Those with sensitive skin may want to avoid using geranium essential oil because it can cause irritation and redness. Dried leaves of scented geranium can be added to bathwater as well. When ingested scented geranium can also help with stomach aches, diarrhea, and headaches. Scented geraniums may help to reduce the pains associated with arthritis. Insecticide and deodorant sprays can also be made using the essential oil of scented geraniums. The essential oil of scented geraniums can be used to deodorize your home and pet (keep out of eyes and mouth). Dried geranium leaves can also be added to potpourri and sachets. Instead of moth balls try dried geranium leaves to repel insects in closets, dressers, and attics.
Plant Description and Cultivation
Geraniums grow well in slightly acidic soil with adequate drainage. For growing indoors, the scented geranium should be potted in soil layered upon a small amount of gravel to allow for sufficient drainage. The planted pot should be placed upon a saucer to prevent water damage to counters, table tops, and windowsills. When planted outdoors the scented geranium should be placed in an area that receives plenty of sun and water. When it comes to choosing a type of scented geranium there are many choices. Lemon, rose, cinnamon, peppermint, ginger, coconut, strawberry, orange, and pineapple are just a few of the more common scents to choose from. Fresh or dried leaves can be used in a number of ways. For the most intense flavor pick leaves off the plant shortly after it blooms. To dry the leaves lay them flat on a tray lined with a paper towel for a day or two until dry. For quick drying, spread the leaves flat on a cookie sheet and bake at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 5-8 minutes. When the leaves are dry store them in an airtight container in a cool location, but not in the refrigerator. Scientific Name Pelargonium spp.
Scented Geranium Recipes
Scented Geranium Lemonade
Adapted from The Herbfarm Cookbook, by Jerry Traunfeld. Makes about 1 1/2 quarts • 1/2 cup sugar • 6 cups water • 8 scented geranium leaves • 1/2 to 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice Syrup: Bring the sugar and 2 cups of the water to a boil in a small (1-quart) saucepan. Add the geranium leaves, cover, and remove from the heat. Let the syrup steep for at least 30 minutes. Finishing: Strain the syrup into a pitcher. Stir in 1/2 cup lemon juice and the remaining 4 cups water. Taste and add more lemon juice to taste. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Herb Substitutions: In place of the geranium leaves, use 2 tablespoons fresh lavender buds, 6 4-inch sprigs fresh rosemary, 1/2 cup fresh mint sprigs, or 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves.