Scented Geraniums

Photo by: Jerry Pavia

Jerry Pavia

pelargonium graveolens (rose scented geranium)

Scented-leaf geraniums (Pelargonium domesticum) are actually not geraniums at all but rather members of the pelargonium genus — much like zonal or garden geraniums and ivy geraniums. They are prized for their abundantly fragrant foliage. In fact, in comparison to garden or ivy geraniums they produce relatively few small blooms. You’ll find round, lacy, and serrated shapes when looking at their foliage, along with a wide range of scents from citronella to chocolate. Read on for the must-know info to grow these aromatic geraniums in your own garden.  

When and Where to Plant

Scented geraniums favor growing locations and conditions similar to that of common garden geraniums. Perhaps due to their native South African environment, they thrive in containers or flowerbeds where they can receive six to eight hours of sunlight per day. This can be in a full sun or partial shade environment. 

Care and Maintenance

When it comes to watering, allow the top-most portion of the soil to dry out before giving your plants another drink. Overwatering them can lead to root rot. If you choose to fertilize, select a water-soluble option and use it once per month.  


Prepare for your senses to be delighted when choosing a scented geranium. Here are just a few of the nearly 100 varieties available. For rose scents, look for ‘Attar of Rose.’ It is, perhaps, the most well-known of the rose-scented geraniums and produces tiny pink blooms. For lemon scents, look to ‘Mabel Grey’ or ‘Lemon Balm.’

In the fruits you’ll find a range of varieties with scents that include apple, orange, apricot and strawberry, while you may see nutmeg and ginger scents in the spiced varieties. ‘Mint’ and ‘Chocolate Mint’ are also popular choices. Finally, if you prefer a woodsy aroma, look for ‘Staghorn Oak,’ ‘Pine-scented’ and ‘Southernwood.’ 


Beyond their attractive leaves and flowering blooms in the summer, scented geraniums can serve a variety of purposes, making them all the more enjoyable. For example, the mint and chocolate versions may be used in culinary creations where they are used to infuse flavor. Additionally, plants that are marketed as citronella scented-leaf geraniums have a lemon scent, and when the oil of its leaves is rubbed on the skin it can reduce the attractiveness of your flesh to mosquitoes.

Scented geranium leaves can also be dried and crumbled for use. For example, you might add a few leaf pieces to a cake recipe or steep them in a glass of hot tea. The sweeter fragrances, such as rose, can be added to a bath or used in a sachet.