It is hard to imagine a group of plants that give as much pleasure for so little trouble.
Scented-leaved pelargoniums will fill a garden or courtyard with rich aromatic perfumes throughout the summer.
Rose geranium ‘Attar of Roses’ has lovely pink and pale purple flowers for month after month from summer until Christmas. In addition to their delicate and abundant flowers, these pelargoniums have heart-shaped grey-green leaves which are deliciously fragrant with the most amazing rose scent.
Gardeners sometimes refer to the members of genus as 'pelargoniums', but the older common name 'geranium' is still in regular use. Scented-leaved pelargoniums, often called 'sweet geraniums' are easy to grow, provided they have very good light and air circulation, and are not exposed to any degree of frost. If you want them to flower all year, make sure that the winter night temperature is 7°C (44°F) or above. They can be planted out in containers or herb gardens in the summer, and brought back inside in the autumn.
Pelargonium capitatum 'Attar of Roses has been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
Sowing: Sow from midwinter through to late spring.
Fill small pots or trays with moistened compost. The compost should be moist not wet. Wet compost will be cold and reduces the oxygen that the seeds need to germinate. Take a small handful and squeeze it in your fist; if water drips out it is too wet, leave it for a short while in a well ventilated spot to dry off
Sow the seeds on the surface of the compost, cover with approximately 1.5mm (1/16in) of vermiculite. Place in a propagator or inside a clear plastic bag and seal with an elastic band. Put in a brightly lit place, but not in direct sun light. This will help hold in the humidity and heat required.
The soil temperature should be a steady 21 to 24°C (70 to 75°F). Some seed will often germinate in 3 to 5 days, others may take much longer. If this is the case, transplant the germinated seedlings and return the pot or tray back into your propagator.Check the compost for dryness regularly. If this is the case, add a little water from below, being careful not to over water.
Geranium seeds are very temperature sensitive. If you live in a cold area, it would be advisable to wait a few weeks before sowing. Too hot or cold, or even a sudden drop at night may cause the seed to become dormant. If the seed has been in your propagator for three or four weeks, examine the seed carefully. If the seed is still hard, they will germinate given time, (and a steady, non-fluctuating temperature) if they have become soft and squashy remove them.
When the seedlings are large enough to handle, (3 to 6 weeks) without touching the stem, just handling the leaves, transplant them carefully into 7.5cm (3in) pots. Grow on in a cool, frost free, well lit place, but avoid direct sun light. To ensure a really well branched plant, pinch out the growing tip after they have rooted well into their pots.
Finally, pot them on into 15cm (6in) pots or baskets and grow them on for a few weeks in a frost free greenhouse or similar. Gradually acclimatise them to the outside conditions by placing them in a sheltered place during the day and bring them back inside at night. Watch out for cold winds as well as pets, birds, mice etc. After all risk of frost has past they can be left out or planted into their final flowering position.
Geraniums are frost tender, (Hardy to about 2°C/35°F) so before the first frost, lift the plants with a little soil around the roots, place them in a seed tray or similar and dry them off in a frost free shed or bright garage. Cut the plants back by about a third. They must have good ventilation and be left with very little water to die back naturally. Keep frost free and re-pot in late winter as the new growth appears.
Hanging baskets, Containers, Indoor Plants, Bedding and Borders
Other than being grown for their beauty, species of scented Pelargonium are important in the perfume industry and are cultivated and distilled for its scent. Although scented Pelargonium exist which have smells of citrus, mint, pine, spices or various fruits, the varieties with rose scents are most commercially important.
Pelargonium distillates and absolutes, commonly known as "scented geranium oil" are sometimes used to supplement or adulterate expensive rose oils.
The edible leaves and flowers are also used as a flavouring in desserts, cakes, jellies and teas. It is great for making scented sugar, by putting several leaves inside a container of sugar for a few weeks. Scented sugar and fresh leaves can be combined for use in jams and baking to give food a rose flavour.
Pelargoniums also known as Geraniums are made up from about 230 species mostly originating in South Africa arid Turkey, growing in mountain ranges right through to deserts.
The first species known to be cultivated was Pelargonium triste, a native of South Africa. It was probably brought to the botanical garden in Leiden before 1600 on ships which stopped at the Cape of Good Hope.
In 1631, the English gardener John Tradescant the elder bought seeds from Rene Morin in Paris and introduced the plant to England. Thousands of ornamental cultivars have been developed, most of which have been bred from about 20 species.
Botany wasn’t an exact science when the first geraniums and pelargoniums were introduced en masse into Europe from South Africa in the 17th century. All the early imports were labelled "geraniums" and continued under that blanket name for many years. When some observant botanists finally started a closer examination of these lovely new plants, they discovered many differences and then decided that the imports were not all the same plant type, but there were differences so were then moved into different named classifications.
It was not unusual that the word about the name changes was not spread and adopted by those early days growers of the 1700s and 1800s, there was no public media to pass this information rapidly to the entire garden world as there is today. The wrong name became so entrenched that it is, even today, in general use.
A true geranium is a hardy perennial it dies down in the autumn to re-appear the next spring. A pelargonium, at least the great majority of them, will not survive temperatures much below freezing.
Linnaeus originally included all the species in one genus, Geranium, but they were later separated by Charles L’Héritier in 1789. One group of plants was given the original name of geraniums. A second group was classified as pelargoniums, there were also erodiums and sarcocaulons/monsonias. The name Pelargonium is taken from the Greek pelargos meaning 'stork', because part of the flower looked like a stork's beak.
The public themselves put a lot of their own names on the popular "geranium". They were, and still are, commonly known as "zonals" for the darker zone in the leaf.
L.H. Bailey, in 1929-1930 decided to further name the sub groups of the pelargonium family. The ones we know as geraniums he labeled P.X hortorum, the ones with leaves that resemble an ivy leaf named peltatum family and what is known as a regal was labelled P.X domesticum.
One can only assume that there was such a mixed bag in other plants such as the scented leaf and uniques that he did not give them a specific name.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 10 Seeds Family Geraniaceae Genus Pelargonium Species capitatum Cultivar Attar of Roses Common Name Scented leaved, Sweet or Rose geranium Other Common Names Sweet Geranium Hardiness Tender Perennial often used as an Annual Flowers Pink and Pale Purple Natural Flower Time Summer, July to October Height 45cm (18in) Spacing 45cm (18in) Position Full Sun Time to Sow Sow from midwinter through to late spring. Germination At 21 to 24°C (70 to 75°F) Some germinate in 3 to 5 days, others may take longer.