Fragrant Plants with Scented Leaves

Plants with scented foliage are not often noted for their showy flowers, but the leaves are usually attractive. Grown under glass, the fragrance from the leaves is generally even more pronounced, especially when the temperature rises, and the air of the greenhouse can become filled with their scent.

In most cases you can release the fragrant essential oils from the leaves of plants with scented foliage by gently pressing (or sometimes crushing) a leaf between the fingers.

Hardy plants with scented foliage

A number of the plants are almost hardy, some may even be perfectly hardy in sheltered parts of the country. This makes them a good choice for a cold or unheated greenhouse or conservatory. Popular as a house plant in recent years is Eucalyptus globulus (Tasmanian blue gum). This will eventually become far too large for pots, but in mild regions it can thrive outdoors. The leaves on young plants up to about three years old are roundish. Mature foliage is elongated. When crushed, the foliage emits the familiar smell of eucalyptus, but the scent is more ‘flowery’ and pleasant than the oil you buy from the chemist when you have a cold. The plants are easily raised from seed sown in early spring (February).

In mild areas Choisya ternata, sometimes called Mexican orange blossom, is hardy. In colder regions it may be successful if given a sheltered spot. It makes a good evergreen for large pots in cold greenhouses (provided you give it room to spread), or it can be grown as a wall shrub. The foliage is a glossy light green, giving out a strong citrus smell when bruised. Clusters of small, attractive and fragrant white flowers are also produced from time to time during the year, often continuing well into winter in a cold greenhouse. Small container-grown plants are usually available from good garden centres.

A few alpine species (such as the alpine species of artemisia) have scented foliage, and there are various reasonably-compact or low-growing aromatic herbs that, with frost protection, may also serve a useful purpose by providing leaves to flavour cooking during the winter.

Sweet-smelling myrtles

Excellent for a cold greenhouse are the various species and varieties of myrtle. Myrtus communis (common myrtle), can be grown but it needs a tub or a large pot and may become too big for a small greenhouse. It is erect in habit and the white blossom is delightfully fragrant; the rarer double form is especially attractive. Where space is lacking the compact variety Myrtus c. Tarentina is useful. It bears pink buds that open to creamy-white flowers from early to mid autumn (August to September).

Especially suited to a greenhouse, too, are Myrtus bullata and Myrtus ugni. Both can be kept to below about 110cm (3-1/2 ft). The former is a splendid foliage plant and is sometimes sold as a house plant. It has bronze-coloured puckered foliage of waxy texture, giving it the common name of puckered-leaf myrtle. Large white flowers are followed by red berries. Myrtus ugni is the edible myrtle having pink, bell-shaped flowers and dark red fruit rather like the strawberry in flavour. It is neat and compact in growth.

For a cold conservatory with plenty of height there are two lovely myrtles. Myrtus apiculata (Chilean tree myrtle) needs at least 2.5m (8 ft) of height. The form Myrtus a. Glanleam Gold is very striking, having dark green foliage with golden-yellow margins.

Myrtus lechleriana also needs plenty of height — at least 1.8m (6 ft) to display itself properly. The white flowers, borne in spring, are deliciously scented and the young growth has a bronze tint.

Lemon-scented leaves

Lippia citriodora, lemon-scented verbena, often called aloysia, can easily be grown in 20-25cm (8-10 in) pots in a cold greenhouse. The leaves emit a powerful lemon scent when crushed, but the shrub is deciduous. Panicles of small, mauve tubular flowers appear in early autumn (August). The shrub is easy to keep `within bounds’ and will withstand quite drastic pruning — best done in late spring (April).

Another plant giving a powerful lemon scent when the foliage is crushed or gently pressed between the fingers is Eucalyptus citriodora (lemon-scented gum). However, this species is suited only to reasonably warm conditions. Raise it from seed sown in spring in a warm propagating case and it will grow on slowly during the summer. In autumn you must put it in a warm greenhouse or on a warm windowsill in the home. The leaves are a pleasing olive green and slightly hairy. The minimum winter temperature it needs is about 10°C (50°F), preferably higher, and you should be sure to maintain a fair humidity. It can be kept for several years quite happily in a 13cm (5 in) pot before you will need to repot it, or replace the plant altogether.

Fragrant-leaved pelargoniums

The most popular of all scented-leaved plants are the pelargoniums. There are numerous pungent-smelling varieties and species and others that have a specific scent such as rose, lemon, mint or a fruity smell. The shape of the foliage is very variable and they often make good house plants although the flowers are rarely showy. Pelargonium crispum Catford Belle and Pelargonium c. Mabel Cirey have lemon-scented leaves and good flowers. Pelargonium crispum minor (finger bowl geranium) has very tiny leaves and a scent that is fragrant and lemony, rather like citronella. Pelargonium citriodorum Prince of Orange grows to be a fairly large plant with white flowers. Pelargonium quercifolium has an unusual scent — a mixture of pine and lime. It has ‘oak-leaf’ foliage and a somewhat creeping habit.

Pelargonium capitatum (attar of roses) has attractive foliage that is strongly rose-scented. The variety Pelargonium denticulatum (fern leaf) is so named because of its ferny leaf-shape. It has a fairly strong rose scent and also very small white flowers.

Pelargonium denticulatum tomentosum has a powerful mint scent and Pelargonium tomentosum a peppermint-like perfume. Both have rather hairy foliage.

Among the fruit-scented types, P. fragrans has a pleasing, piney-nutmeg smell and P. odoratissimum resembles apples. P. grossularoides has an apricot-rose perfume, while P.g. Lady Plymouth has attractive variegated foliage and a peppery lemon scent.

12. July 2011 by admin
Categories: Foliage Plants, Plants | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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