How to Grow Rose Scented Geraniums Indoor This Winter


It’s not really possible to grow roses indoors. I had a client that insisted on having a white tree rose indoors and even with bright light from a south-facing window, the rose was always stretched out and weak. Even worse, it was impossible to control the aphids, who loved the warm indoor air and lack of predators. One possible alternative, if you had your heart on an indoor rose, are scented geraniums. While they don’t produce flowers that look anything like a rose’s, rose scented geraniums have leaves that smell like rose flowers. You can also use scented geranium leaves to produce a rose scented syrup to use in your baking.

Not all scented geraniums smell like roses, and for that matter, none of them are really geraniums. Technically, most of the plants that gardeners call “geraniums” are technically pelargoniums. Pelargonium graveolens is specific branch of the pelargonium family that are all scented with wonderful essential oils, like mint, lemon, rose, chocolate, coconut, nutmeg, etc. It’s not a big deal if you don’t have a good memory for scientific names, and which plants are “real” geraniums and which are not. But some gardeners like to get snooty about subjects like this, so I thought I’d throw the info out there and save you the embarassment if you run across such a gardener.

How to Grow Scented Geraniums Indoors

Scented geraniums grow pretty quickly, and they’re also a little pricier than typical pelargoniums, so start off with a small plant in a four inch nursery pot. It will cost you less and it will grow into a nice bushy speciman in no time. Choose a container that is six inches wide and deep to transplant the geranium into. Make sure to use potting soil (not garden soil) and position the scented geranium so that it is one inch below the rim of the pot. Place the pot in a sunny window and water it whenever the soil dries out. Fertilize your scented geranium with an all-purpose liquid fertilizer once a month.

Using the Leaves in Baking

There are a number of ways to use scented geranium leaves. The easiest way to use the leaves is to toss a few into milk and slowly warm the milk over the stove (don’t allow it to boil), strain the leaves out of the milk. You can use the rose scented milk in tea (I really like it in green tea).

You can also use rose scented geranium leaves to make a rose syrup for use in anything from lemonade and cocktails to buttercream frosting. These rose scented cupcakes are particularly cute, not to mention yummy looking.

Rose Scented Geranium Syrup

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup washed, chopped geranium leaves

Mix sugar and water in a saucepan. Stir over high heat until sugar dissolves. Reduce to a simmer, cook about 10 minutes, until syrup thickens. Remove pan from heat and add chopped leaves. Steep for up to an hour. Strain, cover, and refrigerate. Use within two weeks.

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