Growing Scented Geraniums from Cuttings
by Karen Creel
People often ask me how can they have a great garden when they don’t have a lot of money. My answer is always the same. Buy perennials and herbs that are easily divided or propagated by cuttings.
While they do have small pretty flowers, Scented Geranium’s leaves are their claim to fame. Just brushing against the leaves releases their aromatic oils into the air. This makes them perfect for a scented garden, grouped into pots on the patio, lining your walkway, or on your kitchen windowsill. Scented geraniums are usually found in the perennial or herb section of the nursery. I buy mine from a friend who is an herb grower.
Scented Geraniums are different from garden geraniums
Scented Geraniums are a great choice for the gardener who wants a lot of bang for their buck. Purchasing three scented geraniums can yield 9 or more plants for next year’s garden.
When buying your scented geraniums, don’t be fooled by the name. They are different from the garden geranium we buy at our local garden center known for their colorful flowers. Scented geraniums are tender perennials from the pelargonium family.
Scented Geraniums come in a variety of scents
- Rose Geranium
- Lemon scented Geranium
- Mint scented Geranium
- Fruit and nut scented Geranium
- Spice scented Geranium
- Pungent scented Geranium
- Oak leaf scented Geranium
With over 100 varieties I’m sure there is at least one every gardener will love. Names such as Attar of Roses, Lemon Balm, Peppermint, Apricot, Nutmeg, Southernwood, and Pheasant Foot, make you want to become a collector of Scented Geraniums. There is even a Chocolate Mint!
How to Propagate Scented Geraniums
You can propagate at any time of the year, but in the fall the flowers have been able to grow all summer and will have a good choice of stems to choose from for taking a root cutting.
1. Choose a healthy stem and go up above at least three leaf joints from where the growing point of the stem begins. With a clean, sharp, knife, cut the stem just below that leaf joint. Take more cuttings than you think you will need in case you lose a few. You can always share any extra with your friends.
2. Remove any new leaf growth nubs with your finger. Just push them up with your thumb. Remove any leaves that will be below soil level.
3. Fill a small pot that will drain well with your choice of potting soil. I just use a regular potting soil that doesn’t contain fertilizer. Some people recommend sand and perlite, while others say just plain sand. I think the most important thing is that the pot will drain well. Your cutting will rot if it is over-watered, or your pot will not drain.
4. You may use a rooting powder if you like, but I don’t. If you choose to, tap off any access powder. With rooting powder, less is better.
5. With your finger or pencil, create a hole in the soil, and place your cutting in it. Do not place any leaves under soil level.
6. Firm down the soil around the cutting and water sparingly. Don’t saturate the mix. Pinch back the top of the plant to encourage it to put its energy into making roots.
7. You can either place outside in indirect light, or bring inside in bright indirect light. Allow the soil to dry out slightly before watering again. The stem will rot if it is over watered. Keep out of direct sunlight to prevent cooking your cuttings!
8. You can tell the cutting “takes” when the pinched back top start branches out and starts forming a bushy little plant. It can take anywhere from several days to several weeks. As long as your cutting continues to look healthy and green it’s okay.
9. Bring indoors before the first frost to overwinter. A sunny window is a great place to enjoy your cuttings.
Scented geraniums are so easy to propagate and care for that there is no reason you shouldn’t have these fragrant plants in your garden. And remember, when you are taking your cuttings, take enough to share with your friends!
Caring for Scented Geraniums in the Garden
- While they prefer lots of sun, the leaves will sunburn if they don’t have some protection when the sun is at its strongest.
- Don’t overwater. Scented Geraniums do not like wet feet and will rot if over-watered. If they are in pots, be sure they drain well, and use a potting soil that drains.
- If in the garden, amend your soil so that it drains well, and is not in a place that water remains after a rain or watering.
- Fertilize lightly and sparingly. Scented geraniums have a tendency to become leggy and over fertilizing will only make this worse. You will need to trim back to keep their shape bushy.
- Before the first frost, bring indoors.
- Keep the pots in a sunny window. Water when the soil becomes dry, and pinch back regularly to maintain shape.
- After a few years you may want to discard your original plant. They have a tendency to become woody and produce less and less leaves and flowers.
Karen Creel lives on 4 acres in North Georgia. Her garden is one acre in size and includes a large vegetable garden, grape vines, blueberries, and strawberry beds. Chickens and ducks free range. This year was her first year having a CSA garden where, along with a friend, she provided a weekly box of fresh vegetables, herbs, and eggs.
Karen is a mother and grandmother and has been a nurse for 38 years. Future goals include honeybees and a greenhouse and besides gardening she enjoys going to flea markets and repurposing finds in the garden and home. She also makes natural bath and skin care products often using the harvest from her garden. Find her on her blog Garden Chick.