If the fragrances of nutmeg, lemon, apple and roses appeal to you, maybe it’s time you added some scented geraniums to your garden. There are more than 100 varieties of scented geraniums (in the genus Pelargonium) to choose from. While they’re really grown for their wonderful scents rather than their blooms, they’re still sure to put on a visual show that won’t disappoint!

Geranium mass planting

Try your scented geranium in a mass planting for a wonderfully fragrant show of blooms!

Photo Credit: Fir Trees Nursery

Attar of Roses Geranium

If you enjoy fragrant roses but not the care that goes along with them, consider growing ‘Attar of Roses’, a rose-scented geranium.

Photo Credit: Fir Trees Nursery

Scented geranium foliage

Some scented geraniums offer attractive foliage as well as rich fragrances.

Photo Credit: Fir Trees Nursery

Scented geraniums have been around for quite some time. In fact, these particular pelargoniums have been used for centuries as ingredients in perfumes, food recipes and herbal medicines. But gardeners didn’t take to them until Robert Sweet, a nursery professional and plantsman, published a series of articles from 1823-1830 that highlighted these beauties. Once they learned about them, gardeners strategically placed scented geraniums throughout their Victorian gardens so their wonderful fragrances would filter through the air as visitors strolled through and brushed up against them. In fact, the full skirts in fashion during that time often aided gardeners in their goal, as ladies’ crinolines would release the aromas as they swept against the plants along garden paths.

As I mentioned, there are many scented geraniums out there, but here are some of the best:

These wonderful geraniums can be grown in containers or straight in the ground in well-drained soil that retains some moisture – just be sure to give them a sunny location so they keep a full, bushy appearance (think about these for your garden “hot spots”). To keep your pelargoniums well-supplied with nutrients, apply a slow-release fertilizer at their base when you plant them. This should give them food for 6-8 weeks. At the end of the season, just pull the annuals out of your garden – but save some of the leaves for a potpourri mix to fill your home with summer’s fragrances until next season.

If you’re growing a scented pelargonium in a container, use a soilless professional potting mix along with play sand. Mix ⅔ potting mix together with ⅓ sand so the medium can drain freely when you water but still retain enough moisture to keep the plant supplied during the heat of the day.

If you plan to overwinter your scented geraniums for the next season, dig up your inground plants, pot them up and move them inside before the first frost hits. (As for containers, just bring them inside to a sunny indoor location until the following spring.) Water them when the soil feels dry to the touch, but don’t fertilize them again until you set them outside for the next year.

Another option is to take cuttings from your plant about 30 days before your first frost. Just snip off a 3-inch tip from your plant and trim off all but the three topmost leaves. Stick this cutting in a cup that contains half sand and half potting soil mix. Water the mix until it’s moist, and be sure to keep it moist until your cutting roots, about 10-12 days. (You can test to see if your cutting has rooted by gently pulling up on it. If there’s resistance, chances are you have a rooted plant.)

Set your cutting in a warm area for about 10-12 days (perhaps on top of your refrigerator), then move it to a well-lighted windowsill. Keep the plant watered and watch it grow. The following spring, use it as starter stock for your garden.

If you’re looking for something truly “scent-sational” for your garden this year, give these geraniums a try. With so many wonderful aromas to choose from (not to mention beautiful forms, bloom colors and sizes), you’re sure to find to the perfect scented geranium for that sunny spot in your garden. And once you do, one thing’s for certain: This year you’ll be sure to find the time to stop and smell the…geraniums.