They require more light than begonia rex and even less moisture but otherwise are similar in their requirements, being happy in ordinary room temperatures and able to survive long periods without moisture. They are essentially indoor plants, which are not only of fascinating appearance but will prove a never-ending source of interest. The plants are easy to manage.
When potting-on the plants, use 2 parts fresh, 1 part decayed manure and one part grit or sand. Geraniums do not like but are great lovers of decayed manure. Your local nurseryman will make up a box of suitable compost, though only specialist growers will be able to supply a wide variety of plants. Their comprehensive catalogues are well worthy of detailed study before deciding upon what varieties to order.
It should be remembered that the plants may occupy the same pots and the same compost for many years so it will be advisable to go to a little trouble in providing them with a suitable compost at the beginning.
As the plants make growth a number, such as P. crispum ‘Variegatum’, will require staking for though most are of compact habit some grow tall. At first a centre stake, which may be concealed by the main stem, should be inserted and when the plants are forming numerous side shoots these may also require supporting though this will not be necessary for two or more years, during which time large specimen plants will have been formed. Those such as P. tomentosum, which are slower growing and are of more prostrate habit, will not require support.
To maintain the plants in a healthy condition, any leaves should be removed as they die back and any unduly long shoots should be pinched back to maintain the shape of the plant; occasionally stirring the surface soil, and top dressing with a little fresh soil and decayed manure, will maintain the plants in a vigorous condition. Butmust be guarded against, for whereas begonias will enjoy an abundance of moisture, geraniums, being natives of South Africa, prefer a dry atmosphere in addition to dry conditions about their roots. Give only sufficient moisture to keep the plants alive and it is surprising how little they require during all but the three midsummer months. In prolonging one’s holiday away from home, there will be fear in that the geraniums will be requiring moisture if the plants are placed away from the direct rays of the sun before leaving. As with all plants grown for the fragrance of their foliage, the drier they are grown the more pronounced will be their perfume.
The fact that the scented-leaf geraniums possess a pungent, aromatic fragrance rather than a sweet perfume is greatly in their favour, for one never tires of the fragrance of peppermint, sage, lemon and orange, whereas a sweet, sickly perfume indoors can become oppressive.
Yet in addition to their perfume, the scented-leaf geraniums would be worth growing for the beauty of their foliage. With some varieties it is small and waved, with others it is large and hairy, whilst some have foliage which is attractively edged with gold, all of which contributes in making them the most interesting of all indoor plants.
SPECIES AND VARIETIES OF SCENTED-LEAFED PELARGONIUMS
Pelargonium abrotanifolium. Interesting in that the leaves have the appearance of and carry the aromatic scent of southernwood (Lad’s Love) whilst it bears masses of small white flowers.
P. andersonii. Of dwarf, compact habit, it bears dark mauve flowers whilst the rose-scented leaves have a deep purple zone.
P. aspericum. Its leaves are beautifully ‘cut’, like those of the oak leaf, and appear as if dusted with gold. They are oily to the touch and emit a strong smell of nutmeg.
P. capitatum. This plant is important in commerce, for its leaves, which smell strongly of roses, are now used for the essence, to replace the more expensive attar of roses in perfumery.
P. citrodorum. The attractive pale green foliage is deeply serrated like that of the oak leaf, whilst it carries a strong lemon perfume. It bears mauve flowers.
P. clorinda. It makes a bushy plant of excellent shape, the leaves having a pleasing eucalyptus perfume. The large rose-coloured blooms are feathered with purple and are equal in size to those of the Show pelargoniums.
P. crispum ‘Variegatum’. It is a plant of pyramidal shape and covers itself in a mass of small crimped cream-edged leaves which carry the pungent aroma of lemons. The form P. crispum ‘Minor’ bears even smaller leaves which have the aromatic scent of verbena. All members of the P. crispum section are excellent for making pot-pourri and scented bags. P. denticulatum. It has attractive large toothed leaves which carry a strong lemon perfume.
P. endsleigh. It is a plant of almost prostrate habit, the leaves having a dark centre whilst they carry a sharp, but not unattractive, peppery scent.
P. filicifolium. Cannell’s in their famous catalogue of 1910, suggest that with its fern-like foliage ‘it is well adapted for bouquets and button-holes’, whilst it carries the pungent smell of wormwood.
P fragrans. It forms a plant of beautiful shape, its foliage being silvery green, and though the catalogues describe its fragrance as like that of nutmeg, to some it is more reminiscent of featherfew.
P. graveolens ‘Lady Plymouth’. One of the finest plants in this section, for not only are its leaves beautifully serrated but are variegated with cream and carry the perfume of the old cabbage rose.
P. ‘Joy Lucille’. It is a hybrid having deeply cut foliage of bright green and which have the soft, downy texture and peppermint fragrance of P. tomentosum.
P. ‘Lady Mary’. It is a hybrid of the P. crispum section, having nutmeg-scented leaves and bearing a profusion of purple flowers. Listed in Cannell’s catalogue of 1910.
P. ‘Little Gem’. It is well named for it makes a dwarf, compact plant with tiny, waved leaves which carry the delicate fragrance of roses. P. odoratissimum. It is a rare plant, the leaves being small and velvetlike and with a most pronounced apple scent which is quite delicious.
Along the shores of the Mediterranean the leaves are used when making apple jelly.
P. ‘Pretty Polly’. Of dwarf habit its flowers are of vivid cerise, whilst its small leaves possess the scent of.
P. ‘Prince of Orange’. It makes a neat, compact plant, its tiny leaves being waved and serrated, whilst they emit a powerful orange perfume and should be included in all pot-pourris.
P. ‘Purple Unique’. It is one of the famous Uniques, popular during the early eighteenth century and possessing a strong, vigorous habit so that they make large specimen plants. The leaves possess the perfume of absinthe, whilst it bears trusses of large magenta flowers.
P. quercijolium. This is the true oak-leaf geranium of which there are major and minor forms, the leaves being deeply serrated and possessing an oily, pungent scent, whilst they are sticky to the touch.
P. ‘Scarlet Unique’. It is also known as Moore’s Victory, its leaves having a pungent smell like incense, whilst the vivid scarlet blooms are more showy than any in this section.
P. stenopelatum. This is a true ivy-leaf geranium and the only one having scented foliage. It is a lovely plant for a hanging basket or window-box, for apart from its leaves which carry the aroma of wormwood, it bears bright crimson flowers.
P. tomentosum. Its leaves are unique in that they are large and flat and covered with tiny hairs which gives them a tliick, velvet-like appearance.
The hairs are to protect the plant from the sun’s rays. The leaves were used to make mint-scented jelly.