We’ve all heard of the bright round blooms and interesting foliage of geraniums (known as zonal geraniums). Still, many don’t know there’s an entirely distinct group of geraniums in the genus Pelargonium that aren’t known for their blooms.
Instead of acclaim for big, showy flowers, the scented geraniums are prized for their fragrant foliage. Apple, mint, strawberry, rose, and coconut are just a few of the scents in this unique group of plants!
Scented geraniums are tender perennials that are hardy to USDA Zones 9 to 10. Most prefer full sun, but some (like the mint-scented geraniums) will thrive in part shade. They are particularly heat and drought-tolerant and prefer sandy or loamy soil. They make excellent container plants, spreading border plants, and even houseplants!
Scented geraniums are extremely easy to propagate from cuttings, even for the novice gardener. By taking cuttings in the fall and keeping the cuttings inside over winter, you can have scented geraniums in your garden each season! I am very strict about saving cuttings to overwinter inside so I can enjoy this foliage in the garden or in a fresh-cut flower bouquet.
Most scented geraniums are native to Southern Africa, where they grow as perennial in rocky, dry areas, but others have been discovered in Australia, eastern Africa, New Zealand, the Middle East, and various islands like Madagascar.
Eager to learn more about scented geraniums? In this article, I’ll discuss 17 different varieties/species of scented pelargoniums for your home and garden.
‘Attar of Roses’ P. capitatum
‘Attar of Roses’ is a popular scented geranium with bright green leaves, pink flowers, and a strong rose scent.
Of the scented geranium varieties, ‘Attar of Roses’ seems to be the most popular and the most widely cultivated (and available for purchase). Because of its strong, enticing “rose” scent, this scented geranium’s essential oil was used as a substitute for the real and costly Attar of Roses, an essential oil made from Damask or centifolia rose petals that was widely used in perfumery.
The leaves of ‘Attar of Roses’ scented geranium are bright green and softly textured when you rub your fingers across them. The flowers are pink. This variety can grow as high as 2 ½ feet tall and is useful as greenery in a cut flower arrangement. I love to use this variety in bouquets, personally!
‘Sweet Mimosa’ P. hybrida
This scented geranium has large shell-pink flowers with a lemon and rose scent.
‘Sweet Mimosa’ scented geranium has likely the largest flowers of all the scented geraniums. This variety has charming shell-pink flowers with coral to red brushing or stripping on some of the petals. The scent is like a mixture of lemon and rose.
The foliage of ‘Sweet Mimosa’ scented geranium is dark green, lobed, and slightly fuzzy. This variety can reach about 18 inches in height and makes a great standalone container plant.
‘Lemona’ P. crispum
This scented geranium features fringed dark green leaves with a sweet lemon scent and large lavender-pink flowers.
‘Lemona’ scented geranium has heavily fringed, rough, dark green leaves with a sweet lemon fragrance. The flowers are relatively large for a scented geranium with lavender–pink petals and raspberry-pink marks towards the center of the flower.
‘Lemona’ will reach about 1 ½ feet tall and is relatively leafy and compact, which makes this variety excellent for patio pots. Use the leaves as a culinary herb or garnish to a dish to impart a crisp lemon flavor.
‘Orange Fizz’ P. citriodorum
This scented geranium has textured leaves, big raspberry-pink flowers, delightful citrus scent.
‘Orange Fizz’ scented geranium has heavily textured leaves (described as leathery) that are a lighter shade of green than many other scented geraniums. The flowers are big, with a large raspberry-pink to maroon patch on the upper petals. The leaves have a delightful citrus scent.
‘Orange Fizz’ can reach up to 2 feet tall. Use this scented geranium in a pot or to line a pathway in the garden.
‘Citronella’ P. citrosum
The ‘Citronella’ scented geranium has a citrusy scent, lacy light green leaves, and white flowers with pink markings.
Widely cultivated and sold at plant nurseries and big box stores as “Mosquito Plant,” the ‘Citronella’ scented geranium is touted to repel insects like the mosquito (although this claim has been proven false).
Regardless, the leaves have a sharp citrusy scent. The “citronella” smell is the result of the citronellal, a lemon-scented component found in many lemon-scented plants like lemongrass and lemon balm.
Regardless of its effectiveness against warding off pesky pests, ‘Citronella’ has very finely cut, lacy, light green leaves. The plant is productive and reaches a height of 2 to 4 feet tall. Use it in a patio pot or for landscaping. The flowers are not as prevalent but are white to pale pink with pink markings.
‘Chocolate Peppermint’ P. tomentosum
The ‘Chocolate Peppermint’ scented geranium has unique leaves with a chocolate-colored center.
‘Chocolate Peppermint’ scented geranium has a pure peppermint scent with interesting leaves that gave rise to the use of the word “chocolate” in its name. The leaves are soft, lobed, and light green with a dark chocolate-colored or maroon center.
‘Chocolate Peppermint’ flowers are pale pink with dark pink markings. This variety is not overly floriferous. Rather than ‘Chocolate Peppermint’ regarded purely as P. tomentosum, some say this variety was actually developed from a cross between the ‘Peppermint’ scented geranium (P. tomentosum) and ‘Giant Oak’ scented geranium (P. quercifolium).
‘Grey Lady Plymouth’ P. graveolens
This scented geranium has finely cut, sage green leaves scented like roses.
‘Grey Lady Plymouth’ scented geranium boasts a thin white line around the edges of its very finely cut leaves. The leaves are shaded in the color of sage green. Flowers of ‘Grey Lady Plymouth’ can be pink or lavender. The leaves are scented like a rose with slightly fruity overtones. Many hybrids have been produced using P. graveolens.
‘Grey Lady Plymouth’ is touted to be a great houseplant because of its compact, mannerly size. It rarely grows past 18 inches. Its quite close relative, ‘Lady Plymouth,’ has more white around the edges but does not have as strong of a scent to its leaves.
‘Peppermint’ P. tomentosum
The ‘Peppermint’ scented geranium has distinct peppermint-scented leaves with a soft, wooly texture.
Leaves of the ‘Peppermint’ scented geranium are usually easy to distinguish from others because of their peppermint scent and soft, wooly texture. The maple-shaped leaves almost glow due to all the little white hairs covering the surface of the leaves.
‘Peppermint’ scented geranium and the other mint-scented geraniums enjoy a dappled or shady part in the garden compared to many of the other scented geraniums, which require full sun. The plant is 1 to 2 feet tall and is best grown in containers or as a ground cover near a garden path.
‘Mabel Grey’ P. citronellum
‘Mabel Grey’ scented geranium has a lemony scent, unique rough leaves, and larger lavender flowers.
It seems that there was much debate about ‘Mabel Grey’ scented geranium when it came to classification. In the 1980s, this variety was finally distinguished as its own species rather than a mere hybrid. The scent of ‘Mabel Grey’ is said to be “more lemony than lemon”.
The leaves of this variety are very distinct compared to the maple-shaped or finely-cut leaves of other scented geraniums. I would describe ‘Mabel Grey’ as having finely-lobed hemp-shaped leaves that are rough to the touch and a shade of light dull green.
The flowers are lavender with carmine splotches and larger than many scented geranium varieties. This variety could be strained “as a standard”, which means trained into more of a tree-like habit.
‘Strawberry’ or ‘Lady Scarborough’ P. x scarboroviae
This scented geranium has round, crinkled-edged leaves with a sweet scent and showy pink flowers.
‘Strawberry’ scented geranium has pale green, round, crinkled-edged leaves that emit a sweet strawberry-citrus fragrance. The flowers range from pink to light pink, with darker pink marks on the upper petals. This species is said to be “exceptionally showy” for a scented geranium.
The ‘Strawberry’ geranium is suitable for hanging baskets or the landscape and reaches 1 to 2 feet in height. Another name for this variety is ‘Countess of Scarborough’.
‘Skeleton Rose’ or ‘Dr. Livingston’ P. radens
‘Skeleton Rose’ scented geranium has lacy foliage resembling a skeleton leaf with a lemony rose scent.
The lacy, “rasp-leaved” foliage of ‘Skeleton Rose’ scented geranium sounds and looks just like it is written. The leaves are very finely-cut, like a “skeleton” of a leaf. The foliage smells of lemony rose. And the citronellal content is said to be 100 times higher than ‘Citrosa’, the “Citronella Plant” that was originally thought to repel mosquitoes.
‘Skeleton Rose’ or ‘Dr. Livingston’ scented geranium is quite mannerly when pinched, and many gardeners remark that it provides a lot of interest in the garden. It is not as free-flowering as other scented geraniums. The flowers are pale-pinkish with deep raspberry streaks on the upper petals.
‘Apple’ P. odoratissimum
This scented geranium, with its trailing habit, is ideal for hanging baskets or as a border plant.
‘Apple’ scented geranium is a variety that has been around for quite some time (and there are many other apple-scented varieties, too). The stems are long with a trailing habit. For this reason, ‘Apple’ scented geranium would be a great candidate for a hanging basket.
In the landscape, it is best grown as a border plant and is quite mannerly in growth habit, only reaching about 18 inches all around.
‘Apple’ scented geranium has wavy-edged leaves that are very true green (called pea-green by some). The flowers are white. This variety will readily cross-pollinate with others in the garden and therefore is the ancestor of many other scented geranium varieties with apple or nutmeg-scented foliage.
‘French Lace’ or ‘Variegated Prince Rupert’ P. x crispum
‘French Lace’ scented geranium has small, crinkly, tri-lobed leaves with cream variegation, emitting a lemony scent.
The leaves of ‘French Lace’ are small, tri-lobed, and crinkly in appearance. What distinguishes ‘French Lace’ from other crispum varieties is the cream variegation of the leaves along the margins. This scented geranium emits a fine lemony scent. The flowers are small and lavender in color.
‘French Lace’ scented geranium is best used as a container plant. This variety, in particular, is very sensitive to cool, damp conditions. Pinching the plant will also make it more compact and shapely, as sometimes it can be quite lanky in growth. ‘French Lace’ would make an excellent houseplant.
‘Fair Ellen’ or Oak-Leaved P. quercifolium
‘Fair Ellen’ scented geranium has oak-shaped leaves with a woodsy-lemon scent.
The leaves of ‘Fair Ellen’ scented geranium are shaped like oak leaves, more oval in shape than other scented geranium leaves because of the many dentations. The center of the green leaf has a unique maroon center and maroon shading to some of the veins.
The fragrance of the leaves is described as a “woodsy-lemon scent” or almond-scented. The blooms are lavender with a carmine center. ‘Fair Ellen’ is more floriferous than many other scented geraniums.
Other oak-leaved varieties are ‘Giant Oak’ and ‘Village Oak.’ It appears that ‘Fair Ellen’ may often be considered synonymous with ‘Village Oak,’ although true ‘Village Oak’ geraniums are said to be a little more self-contained in growth than ‘Fair Ellen.’
The oak-leaved scented geraniums appear to produce mixed emotions in scents. Some varieties emit fragrances that are not as pleasing to certain people, as mentioned in the renowned horticulturist Louise Beebe Wilder’s book, The Fragrant Garden.
Nutmeg Scented Geranium P. x fragrans
The Nutmeg Scented geranium has charming soft leaves with a sweet and spicy nutmeg scent.
The nutmeg-scented geranium has some of the most charming leaves. Personally, I feel this variety is very productive. The leaves are very soft, with gentle waves along the edges. They are a cool grey-green color that smells like–you guessed it–sweet and spicy nutmeg. The flowers are small and white with red veins.
Some say this variety has been sold under many names, including ‘Cody’, ‘Logee’, and ‘Old Spice’. The nutmeg-scented geranium is a great candidate for an indoor or patio pot, reaching up to 12 inches tall in height.
Fragrans–scented geranium is believed to have the apple-scented geranium in its parentage, so you may pick up a slight hint of crisp apple with the nutmeg smell.
‘Snowflake Rose’ P. x capitatum
‘Snowflake Rose’ is a rose-scented geranium with round leaves featuring white flecks.
Another rose-scented variety is the ‘Snowflake Rose.’ The leaves are unique in that they are rounder with splotches, streaks, or flecks of white. Scientists believe that the flecking is due to a virus because sometimes the plants will revert to plain green leaves after a time.
When propagating, make sure to select cuttings with leaves that have the most coloring to retain the streaking and flecking in your new plants.
‘Snowflake Rose’ scented geranium is particularly useful as a hanging basket plant or in the landscape as a sprawling groundcover because it can spread as much as 4 feet. The plant does not usually reach more than 20 inches high, so it is a low-growing ground cover. It is not as suitable as a houseplant due to its spreading nature.
As with many of the scented geraniums, this variety can be confusing to procure or identify because other names like ‘Scheidts Ice Crystal Rose’ or ‘Both’s Snowflake Rose’ are associated with it. Look specifically for Pelargonium ‘Snowflake’ to get this one!
Coconut-Scented Geranium P. grossulariodes
Coconut-scented geranium is an annual with round leaves and pink-lavender flowers.
Almost all scented geraniums are considered herbaceous perennials in their natural habitat except the coconut-scented geranium, which is an annual.
This species is also unique because it can withstand extremely high temperatures (120 degrees F) but will also thrive in the shady spots of the garden.
The coconut-scented geranium grows low and has a spreading nature. The leaves are small and round or kidney-shaped. The color of the leaves is deep green. The flowers range in color from pink to lavender. The scent of the foliage is described as either “coconut” or rose-mint-lemon-clove.
It is important to note that many of the scented geraniums in this article and throughout the world have been used as culinary accents in various dishes and drinks, but the coconut-scented geranium is considered an abortifacient and can be very dangerous. Do not ingest this plant.
As you can see, the Pelargonium genus is full of surprises regarding shapes, colors, and smells! This once-popular garden plant deserves a spot in your garden, and I honestly can’t believe more people don’t know about these fragrant geraniums.
Scented geraniums are easy to propagate, drought tolerant, and make great potted plants or houseplants, depending on the variety. The biggest question is, which scent will you choose for your garden?