Scented geraniums, which are not actually true geraniums (but we’re not judging), are woody perennial shrubs in the Pelargonium genus. Scent varieties arise from different species and different cultivars within those species. Plants grow to about 2–3′ tall with fragrant lobed, crinkled, evergreen leaves. When grown in good soil and with adequate warmth, scented geraniums are easygoing and require little care whether planted in the garden or in a container. Pink to white flowers and dense foliage can be used in flower arrangements or potpourri. Leaves can also be used as a flavoring in cooking.
The Lemon Scented Geranium releases its namesake lemony scent when the leaves are bruised or brushed. This garden beauty originated in South Africa and often cannot survive winter frosts that occur in Zones 9 and below. If your garden gets frosty, try growing as a container plant that can be brought indoors at any time.
Seed Depth: 1/8–1/4″
Space Between Plants: 6–12″
Space Between Rows: 12″
Germination Soil Temperature: 55-70°F
Days for Germination: 12–45
Sow Indoors: In late spring, before the average last frost.
Sow Outdoors: Early summer or after all danger of frost has passed.
Vegetative: Propagation from 3–4″ cuttings or through root division is recommended for most scented geraniums. Plant cuttings 1/2–1″ below soil level.
Will grow best in temperatures between 65 and 75°F. As it prefers warmer temperatures, it will not survive the winter and is therefore grown as an annual in most regions in the US. If growing in warmer regions, avoid extreme humidity or heat as they will generally cease to grow over 90°F.
Natural: Full sun. Partial shade.
Artificial: Fluorescent light placed a few inches above the plants will help them grow indoors. Generally requires at least 4 hours of light per day, but note that hours will vary depending on your light source.
Soil: Prefers a well-drained loamy or sandy soil. A pH of 6.0–6.8 will keep plants healthy and nourished.
Soilless: Will grow in a soilless mix such as peat moss or perlite.
Hydroponics: Will thrive in a hydroponic system using a medium such as clay pellets.
Water: Requires low levels of water. Be careful not to overwater your plants as they prefer a drier climate and their roots can easily become over saturated.
Nutrients: Requires moderate to high levels of nutrients. Scented geraniums have a particular affinity for magnesium, and a water and Epsom salt mixture applied every 3 to 4 weeks directly to the roots can help meet these needs. A 15-15-15 fertilizer applied to the soil throughout the growing season can also help plants stay healthy.
Pruning: Deadheading old flowers is essential. Trim tops of new growth to promote bushiness and reduce leggy, woody growth which does not harbor or exhibit much leaf production.
Deficiency(s): A magnesium deficiency will result in yellowing spots on leaves. Phosphorus or boron deficiency can cause reddish leaves.
Rotation: Alternating scented geraniums with most other crops can help keep soil healthy. Geraniums act as a natural deterrent to many pests, especially nematodes. They’re like a pretty, sweet-smelling bouncer at the door to your floral club.
Companions: Grows well with asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, grapes, roses, corn, tomatoes, and peppers, but will grow well with almost any plant.
Harvest: Can be harvested at any time, but it’s best to harvest in late summer to early autumn once the plant is well established. Pick leaves and flowers by hand.
Storage: Can be stored fresh for a few weeks in the refrigerator or dried.
Fun Fact: It’s not recommended to that you plant most scented geraniums from seed. Since they have been so extensively hybridized, they will not generally grow into their “true” form. Lemon Scented Geraniums, however, are one of the few varieties left that are considered a “true” variety and can be grown from seed, if desired.
Preserve: Leaves may be dried by hanging them upside down by their stems in a warm, dry location or by placing in the oven on low temperatures (200°F) until dry.
Prepare: The leaves of Lemon Scented Geraniums are often used to infuse various concoctions such as teas, sugars, juices, cocktails, and jams and jellies. To infuse, the leaves often need to be dried first and then crushed to release the scent and flavor. If using in desserts, the leaves may be used while still fresh to line the pan and removed after baking.
Nutritional: Mostly used for light flavoring and scent, there is little nutritional value associated with scented geraniums.
Medicinal: The oils of scented geraniums have been cited in the past as being able to reduce fevers, lessen stomach cramps, and act as an astringent. It’s also believed to have a calming effect when used in aromatherapy.
To add some sweet scents to your home and kitchen, try some of these Lemon Scented Geranium recipes for sugars, teas, and potpourris!