Pelargonium Graveolens Guide: How to Grow & Care for “Sweet-Scented Geranium”

Guide to Pelargonium Graveolens for everything you will ever need to know! Tips for planting, growing and caring for “Sweet-Scented Geranium”

There’s something about this gorgeous plant that makes us wonder – how much will our beloved Mother Earth continue to surprise us? All you need to fall in love with Pelargonium graveolens a.k.a. Sweet-scented geranium or rose geranium is just a fleeting glance. And their obvious charm is not everything that these flowers can offer!

Pelargonium graveolens is a delicate-looking species of flowering shrubs in the Geraniaceae family. In cultivation, people know this flower as the Sweet-scented geranium, Rose geranium, Rose-scent geranium, or Old fashion rose geranium.

Sweet-scented geraniums are native to the Northern Provinces of South Africa, the Cape Provinces, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. These plants usually grow in moist habitats but mostly in the sheltered positions of mountains, such as kloofs. With time, they have become naturalized in many regions of North America and, nowadays, pretty popular ornamentals worldwide.

Although many plants appear in nurseries and markets under the name P. graveolens, they are different from wild specimens. In general, all these plants have hybrid origins but can adapt to the same environmental conditions as the true plants. Overall, they require little to no effort to grow at their best and to consider you the best owner out there!

About Pelargonium Graveolens

  • The most common hybrids and cultivars of these plants are P. ‘Citrosum’, P. ‘Cinnamon Rose’, P. ‘Dr. Westerlund’, P. ‘Graveolens’, P. ‘Lady Plymouth’, P. × melissinum, P. ‘Rosat’, and P. ‘Secret Love’.
  • One of the most attractive varieties of Sweet-scented geranium is ‘Lady Plymouth’, having silvery-green foliage variegated with creamy-white edges. This cultivar has gained the prestigious Award of Garden Merit.
  • The well-known P. ‘Graveolens’ and P. ‘Rosat’ play a big part in the perfume industry. People cultivate them on a large scale due to their strong-scented foliage.
  • An absolute or distillate product obtained from Pelargonium plants, known as geranium oil, is very common in aromatherapy and massage therapy. Sometimes, it can supplement more expensive products like rose oils.
  • These aromatic herbs have numerous medicinal properties including antiseptic, anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory, and astringent. They are also effective treatments for bleeding, poor circulation, sore throat, nausea, acne, bruises, or eczema.
  • Besides their various natural perfumes, the leaves and flowers of these plants are also tasty. Many people use them in several recipes of cakes, jellies, jams, sorbets, sugars, ice creams, salads, or teas.
  • The flavour of their flowers and leaves is among the favourites for smokers. Numerous admirers use this flavouring agent called ‘Lakeland Essence’ in their pipe tobaccos.
  • People use the stems and leaves of Pelargonium graveolens plants fresh in various arrangements or dried for potpourri.
  • Sweet-scented geraniums will look absolutely fabulous in outdoor settings at an entrance or along a walkway. They are also great potted-in-clusters plants that can fill any empty spot of your house.
Pelargonium Graveolens
Pelargonium Graveolens

Pelargonium Graveolens Features: An Overview

  • They belong to the Pelargonium genus that contains about 280 species of perennials, shrubs, and succulents. The most popular species in cultivation include P. citrosa, P. graveolens, P. odoratissimum, and P. tomentosum.
  • Sweet-scented geraniums are perennial shrubs that can reach up to 4.9 feet (1.5 m) in height and about 3.3 feet (1 m) in width.
  • These plants come with numerous cultivars and hybrids. They have a wide variety of fragrances and combinations of them, such as citrus, cinnamon, rose, mint, and eucalyptus, as well as different fruits.
  • They are multi-branched plants and have erect, succulent stems. While most plants come with numerous strong perfumes, some others can have little to no fragrance.
  • As with most perennial species, their foliage is evergreen. The leaves appear deeply incised, soft to the touch (hairy), velvet-like, and can vary in shapes and scents.
  • In general, P. graveolens plants are seasonal bloomers and produce flowers from late summer through mid-winter (August to January). Their blossoms exhibit different shades of white, pink, red, lavender, and also beautiful mixes of these tints.
  • They are great-looking and easy-going plants that can make for excellent companions to other plants like Coleus, Dusty Miller, Heliotrope, Mint, Nasturtium, Rose, Senecio, or Thyme.

Growing Pelargonium Graveolens

If you want to give your Sweet-scented geraniums the time of their life, proper sunlight exposure is what you are looking for. These plants prefer locations with full sunlight, but they can also do just fine in partially shaded ones. In regions with very warm climates, your flowers will actually benefit from some afternoon protection from harsh sunlight. However, shady conditions for too long will cause your plants to grow somewhat leggy.

Like most tropical species, Pelargonium graveolens plants grow at their best in hot, humid environments. These flowers can also do just fine in dry climates and will withstand short periods of light frost. If you live in a zone with cooler temperatures, we recommend you transplant your plants in pots and bring them inside in early autumn.

Sweet-scented geraniums are typically trouble-free when it comes to pests and fungal diseases. However, common pests like aphids, spider mites, or mealybugs can bother these shrubs occasionally. Due to this, you must prepare yourself for any possible infestation. If you notice any suspect presence on your plants, handpick them if possible and apply suitable insecticides/pesticides.

Scented Geranium
Scented Geranium

Planting Pelargonium Graveolens

Pelargonium graveolens plants thrive in well-draining soils that are not too rich in nutrients or organic matter. In general, most herbaceous plants can lose their strong fragrance if you are growing them in rich substrates. And these shrubbies are no different! They will tolerate a wide range of soil pH, but your geraniums will perform best in slightly acidic growing mediums.

Overall, geraniums do not require too much fertilizer to grow healthy and happy. Potted plants, however, will demand more frequent fertilizing than those from the garden. Feed your potted geranium flowers with a balanced fertilizer at ½ strength once in spring. If they look a bit lifeless, you can repeat this process once every three to four weeks during the summer.

Sweet-scented geraniums are shrubs by nature, so they will need occasional pruning and pinching to look all full and bushy. The ideal time to prune your plants is in spring because this will give them enough time to produce flowers. You should remove all damaged or spent blossoms to allow new ones to show up. Moreover, if your shrubs grow larger than you might want, you can always prune them back during any season.

Watering Pelargonium Graveolens

Pelargonium graveolens plants are very tolerant of drought, making them excellent start-ups for beginners or forgetful gardeners. These shrubs do not enjoy soggy conditions or waterlogging, so you should avoid over-watering in their routine.

For best results, make sure you always check the substrate in-between waterings. When the soil feels dry to the touch at 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep, you can provide your plants with a touch of water. If you want to grow your Sweet-scented geraniums indoors, look for pots that have drainage holes at the bottom.

Although Pelargonium graveolens plants are drought-tolerant, prolonged periods of dry soil can damage them. When you under-water your shrubs, their foliage will turn yellowish-brown and eventually fall off. But no worries! You can fix this problem by giving them a nice, deep soaking and adopting a proper watering routine.

Propagating Pelargonium Graveolens

Even if you can always start Pelargonium graveolens plants from seed, most specimens are hybrids and will not come true to the parent. However, this is not a reason to get all sad and discouraged! You can easily propagate these shrubby friends through stem cuttings with little to no experience required as a gardener.

Look for healthy stems and cut about 6 inches (15 cm) off them using a sharp and sterilized knife. Once you have your cuttings, remove all leaves from each one but make sure you are letting an upper pair of leaves untouched. For optimal growth, dip the cut ends of your Pelargonium graveolens cuttings in rooting hormone.

Fill a large container or bed with fresh, moist vermiculite. After this process, you must plant your cuttings in their growing medium and place them in a bright, warm location. If you maintain the substrate constantly damp, the cuttings will develop a healthy root system in several weeks.

You can check the progress of your cuttings by pulling them gently once in a while. When you start to feel some resistance, you can transplant them in their permanent spots. Plant them in the garden when the last danger of frost has passed or into individual pots filled with peat-based potting soil. If you have too many Sweet-scented geraniums plantlets around, you can always show your beloved ones how much they mean to you by gifting them one of these beauties!

In Conclusion

When you provide your sweet-scented geraniums with proper care and lots of love, nothing can go wrong. Thanks to their easy-going nature, these shrubs can make for great buddies, especially if you are at the beginning of your journey in the gardening world. And once you find the perfect specimen, all the little time and effort will surely pay for the enchanting presence of these flowers!

Are you growing geraniums? Share your experience in the comments below!

Miruna is an experienced content writer with a passion for gardening. She is the proud owner of an outdoor rose garden and an indoor collection of tiny succulents. She bought her first succulent 10 years ago - an adorable Echeveria Setosa. Now she owns more than 100 succulents and cacti of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Miruna is a versatile writer and, as you might have guessed, her favorite topic is gardening. Contact

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