Garden Lifestyle

Scented Geraniums (Pelargonium)

Grow these as houseplants for their taste as well as their scent

Scented geraniums are easily started from cuttings and come in an array of sizes and shapes, not to mention aromas. These were grown at the Ozark Folk Center. Photo: Susan Belsinger

While gathering edible blooms from the wild this week, I noticed that the scented geraniums are blooming indoors in the greenhouse. The plants in the Pelargonium genus are fairly easy to cultivate—they are tender perennials—so I grow them in pots as houseplants.

Most of these perennial herbs are grown as houseplants, as they are very tender. If cultivated in pots, they can easily be moved indoors and outdoors as the weather permits. They like full sun but will tolerate some shade, and they need a well-drained growing medium. Without pruning, some plants can grow quite large, reaching 3 to 4 feet in height and width. They have a tendency to get leggy, so pruning is recommended.

Scented geraniums bloom sporadically throughout the year depending on the variety, climate, and growing conditions. The different varieties have quite an assortment of flower colors in hues of white, yellow, pink, salmon, lavender, and red.

To use the blooms, pinch them from the stems just before using, rinse gently, and pat dry.

All flowers from this large family of perennial herbs can be eaten; however, generally only the scented ones are palatable. The leaves and flowers taste reminiscent of each variety; lemon geraniums have a citrusy flavor, rose geraniums taste perfumey and roselike, while nutmeg geraniums and ginger geraniums taste of those spices. The blooms have mild, pleasing scents and sometimes taste slightly sour, while the leaves are more intense and also have a green taste along with their named characteristic. I prefer to infuse the leaves or finely chop the more tender ones, since some of the leaves are thick, tough, and/or hirsute. I make lemon as well as rose geranium sugar with the leaves and also add them to cooked fruit desserts or baked goods and to savory pilafs and grain dishes.

Scented geranium flowers are excellent for candying. They are used in all sorts of baked goods, from teacakes and breads to cookies and cakes. Their sweet perfume adds mild flavor to jellies, sauces, custards, ice creams, and fruit salads. Use them to garnish desserts, beverages, and salads.

To learn how easy it is to root scented geraniums from cuttings, read this post.

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