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The Benefits and Uses of Geranium Pelargonium in Your Garden and Home

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Fiona is a qualified naturopath, herbalist, and aromatherapist with thirty years of experience which she wants to share.

benefits-and-uses-of-geranium-pelargonium

Why I Plant Rose-Scented Geranium in My Garden

There are many other scented geraniums, but not all of these are edible. I only use the rose geranium myself. If you choose another type, please ensure it is edible before ingesting it.

This is one plant that I always make sure that I plant. It is a strongly scented herb that is an excellent addition to a sensory garden and is very pretty. The leaves are succulent and crush effortlessly, making it a fun experience for little ones exploring their world. Also, as it's non-toxic, your children can bite the leaves without ill effects.

It's hardy and effortless to grow. However, it tends to take over a bit, so be ruthless when cutting it back. It grows into a large bush with many baby plants around it.

We usually take cuttings or uproot some of the baby plants and place them in a pretty pot as a gift.

It is worth looking for the correct variety—once you have it in your garden, you will never need to be without it again, and once you start using it, you'll wonder how you managed without it. In addition, the plant self-seeds, and the little seedlings make great gifts.

Alternatively, cut the stem, leave it in water until it roots, and plant it. Do be patient here because it could take a little while.

This article will look into the benefits and uses of rose-scented geranium.

This article will look into the benefits and uses of rose-scented geranium.

Safety Notes

Rose-scented Geranium is generally a safe herb to use. That said, however, you should use it responsibly. As with any herbal remedy, it's wise to use the tea for two to three weeks at a time and then take a week's break.

If you want to use it on your skin, crush a leaf, apply to a small patch of skin, and leave it on for 24 hours. Allergic reactions to the compounds within the plant are rare, but it pays to be cautious.

When you use essential oil, always dilute it before applying it to your skin. You should never take the essential oil internally. Also, keep the oils away from little fingers. Store them somewhere your kids cannot reach, as the undiluted oil can burn the skin.

These flowers come in various tones of pink.

These flowers come in various tones of pink.

How You Can Use This Herb

Rose-scented geranium is simple to use. It can be used fresh, in tea, or as a cream or oil base. Alternatively, you can use its essential oil. However, the herb does not dry very well, so it is best to use the fresh herb. In each of the following sections, I will give you ideas on the best method to use it, but here is a rundown of the basics.

Fresh From the Garden

You can use the leaves and flowers. First, bruise the leaves to get more of the oils out. Bruising the leaves is simply crushing them a bit. Alternatively, you can chop them up. Apply as necessary and discard when done.

If I have an insect bite or a scratch, I bruise the leaves and place them on the affected area.

Making a Tea

To make a cup of tea, pick about half a cup of leaves and flowers and fill the rest of the cup with boiling water. Steep for about 5-10 minutes, strain, and sip slowly. Add a teaspoon of honey if you don't find it sweet enough already.

Making a Cream

Making your cream is pretty simple—all you need to do is bruise a cup of the leaves and flowers, put them in a pot with a cup of aqueous cream, bring to a boil, and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes.

Alternatively, add a few drops of the essential oil to the aqueous base and stir until thoroughly combined.

Using the Essential Oil

When it comes to essential oils this is one of the most useful, especially when it comes to skincare. It blends particularly well with equal parts of Palmarosa oil and Sandalwood oil in an aqueous cream to combat eczema.

You must, however, always dilute the oils properly—at a maximum concentration of 2%—by mixing them into a carrier oil or cream base. Beneficial carrier oils include sweet almond oil, grape seed oil, and extra virgin olive oil.

Be careful to use only rose-scented geraniums—not all geraniums are edible. This is an example of one that is not edible at all—very similar in looks, but quite toxic.

Be careful to use only rose-scented geraniums—not all geraniums are edible. This is an example of one that is not edible at all—very similar in looks, but quite toxic.

The Health Benefits of Rose-Scented Geranium

Rose-scented geranium is best known for its relaxing properties. A tea made with the herb will help relax the nervous system and soothe the digestive system.

It is excellent for treating headaches, stiff and sore muscles, spasms, and cramps and relieving feelings of helplessness.

Using the Fresh Herb

Believe it or not, this herb is excellent for the gardener—if you get bitten by a bug in the garden or scratch yourself, scrunch up a couple of leaves and apply them to the area. This will remove the itchiness and help the skin to heal. It'll also help to soothe minor burns.

Rose-Scented Geranium Tea

Make your tea by putting a leaf or two into boiling water and leaving it to seep. Then, drink one or two cups of tea daily to help soothe anxiety.

Making a Skin Cream

Get a good quality aqueous cream and add a few drops of essential oil. (About 2–3 drops per 50 ml of oil). Mix in 2 drops of Palmarosa and two drops of Sandalwood essential oils. Mix well and keep in a sealed container. This makes a nourishing cream that is especially good for dry, sensitive skin. It is also helpful in treating eczema and other rashes.

Rose-Scented Geranium Essential Oil

This is also a beneficial essential oil to keep around the house. It helps treat stress, depression, skin problems, PMS, and insomnia. In addition, this is one of the best oils for treating skin conditions, rashes, and sunburns. I always add the essential oil to any skin creams I make—it is nourishing and mixes quite quickly with many different oils.

Aromatherapy

You can always use essential oil if you don't have a plant in your garden. As with any other oil, dilute it in a carrier oil or aqueous base (as above). I quickly make my own "sniffer" from an old medicine bottle—or any bottle that can seal tightly. Rinse very well and leave to dry. Stuff a cotton ball, tissue, or toilet paper into the bottle and add a few drops of essential oil. Open and sniff when you need a boost—the scent will last ages. I keep one of these in my car to help me when I'm exhausted. Replace the tissue every couple of months.

Alternatively, use a burner. Use in moderation as it has a powerful scent. It often replaces Rose essential oil but smells much more herbaceous.

benefits-and-uses-of-geranium-pelargonium

Cosmetic Uses

Take a few sprigs and bunch them into a face cloth. Use this in the bath as a scrub to help relax muscles and revitalize skin.

You can also make an excellent vinegar bath by immersing half a cup of the chopped herb in 500 ml of good-quality vinegar. Leave in the sun for a week, strain, and repeat.

Used in a cream base, the oils are very moisturizing and excellent for dry skin. Smooth it over tired feet and legs for an instant boost.

Make Your Own Soothing Body Lotion

If you want to, you can make an excellent skin cream from scratch—use a good quality aqueous cream. Add a quarter cup of chopped leaves and flowers for every cup of aqueous cream. Simmer for about 20 minutes over moderate heat. Strain it and place it into a clean jar. Keep in a sealed container out of direct sunlight.

In summer, I keep a jar of this cream in the fridge—it is perfect for soothing tired, hot, sun-burnt skin. I lather it on after a shower, and it helps perk me up. For bad sunburn (easy in the South African sun), I add a couple of tablespoons of Aloe Vera gel as well—it just gives the cream that extra bit of oomph.

Scented Geranium Leaves are Crinkly and Fleshy

The leaves of Pelargonium graveolens

The leaves of Pelargonium graveolens

Culinary Uses

The flowers are beautiful and edible and useful in decorating icing, etc. Use fresh flowers to decorate cakes and other edibles. Alternatively, put flowers in ice trays, cover them with water and freeze them. Use iced tea or juices to make them look pretty.

I tend to use flowers rather than leaves because the leaves have a relatively strong taste. However, if you like the taste of lavender sugar, you might want to try this herb instead. Add crushed leaves to sugar and let the flavors infuse for at least an hour. Strain the sugar afterward and use it within a day or two.

You can chop up about a tablespoon of the fresh leaves and add them to your savory dough recipes to impart a nice flavor—this works best with scones, pancakes, or sponge cakes.

Chop up some fresh leaves and add to softened butter to create a delicious and unusual butter.

Use the leaves sparingly in baking—they're better fresh or as an accent rather than the main dish.

Rose-Scented Geraniums are gorgeous in the garden and vase. Hardy and long-lasting in the vase and garden, and they smell good too!

Rose-Scented Geraniums are gorgeous in the garden and vase. Hardy and long-lasting in the vase and garden, and they smell good too!

Uses of Rose-Scented Geranium in the Home

If you do not have space outside, you can try and grow the rose-scented geranium indoors. However, you should note that it needs full sun and can grow quite big. I prefer to have them out in the garden, but they will do almost as well on a small patio.

Rose-Scented Geranium and Insects

Insects do not love this plant. So in summer, I hang bunches of Rose-Scented Geranium in the kitchen to deter flies. Every time someone goes past the bunch, they crush a leaf, refreshing the scent.

Rose-Scented Geranium and Your Furniture

Upon reading about this tip, I thought it was a bit of a gag, but I did try it, and it worked well. Take a bunch of leaves and bruise them and then wipe down your wooden furniture with the leaves. It not only helps to nourish the wood, but it also leaves a charming scent that lasts for days—the smell is delicate and not overpowering in this instance.

Scenting Your Rooms

There are a few ways to scent a room using essential oils, and the good news is that you only need a few drops. This helps to infuse the space in both an environmentally friendly and cost-effective manner. For example, you can use an aromatherapy burner or a diffuser; you can use a bowl of water placed on top of a radiator; you can even drop a few drops into the toilet tissue tube inside the toilet tissue tube to scent the bathroom.

Growing Rose-Scented Geranium

Growing a rose-scented geranium is pretty straightforward. The plants prefer a milder climate but are frost-resistant and pretty hardy.

They need full sun and nicely composted, light soil.

You should prune them annually to prevent them from getting scraggly.

They Grow Fast

You need to be aware that these plants can take over a little—when they get going, they multiply. You can quite easily cut them back if this becomes a problem. Alternatively, they will do well in a large pot and make a great show on a sunny porch.

Grow Your Own Geranium From a Slip

Propagation is simple, and the plant will grow quite easily from slips. They are so easy to grow that there is no reason not to have fresh leaves on hand all year round. (In fact, it is best to use the leaves new.) You need to take a decent-sized sprig of the plant, put it in a vase of water or straight into the ground, make sure it stays moist, and it will form a robust new plant in no time.

This is one of the reasons that they can take over—leaves that drop off can take root, and the plant sends out lots of babies.

Still, they make lovely gifts, so grow a few slips, put them into pretty pots, and hand them out to friends.

Harvesting and Preserving Rose-Scented Geranium

When you're ready to harvest some rose-scented geranium, you can break off a piece or two or cut it with scissors. Choose unblemished leaves that are still relatively young for the best results.

Where possible, cut the plant before the heat of the day sets in. This ensures that you have the best concentration of natural compounds in the plant.

The downside is that this herb doesn't dry well. It's best to use it straight off the plant. You may freeze the flowers in ice cubes to use as decoration for drinks, but there's no way to restore the therapeutic properties of the leaves.

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Other Uses

  • Make tea and spray it onto plants to treat aphids on plants.
  • Made into a room freshening spray, it is especially effective in rooms with stale, smoke-filled air.
  • Make a strong tea with equal parts of geranium and comfrey and use it as a natural plant booster.
  • Planted near veggie gardens, it helps repel the white cabbage butterfly and acts as a trap crop for some beetles. It also helps to attract butterflies to your garden.
  • Take a few leaves, crush them slightly and rub them over wooden furniture to help to nourish the wood and to create a delightful delicate scent in the room.

Other Scented Geranium Cultivars in the Pelargonium Family

Citrosum

More commonly known as the Mosquito Plant or the Citrosa Plant, myths abound about this cultivar. Widely held wisdom is that it is related to Citronella and that it keeps mosquitoes at bay. Unfortunately, scientific research disproves both of these assumptions.

American Prince of Orange

The brashier scent differentiates this from the more common Prince of Orange. It's well worth the upgrade for a sensory garden. The flowers are pink like the rose-scented variety but far glossier.

The orange in the title comes from the flavor of the leaves. Add these to cooking to impart a citrusy flavor without impacting your food's acidity.

Chocolate Peppermint

Smelling strongly of peppermint, the leaves also have a dark brown center that strongly suggests that you poured melted chocolate over them. The plant is lovely and makes for a good show. Use the leaves in tea for a delicious after-dinner drink.

Cinnamon Rose

Cinnamon Rose is ideal if you have a smaller space. It reaches for the heavens instead of spreading out, so it is pretty compact compared to its relatives. It makes a great display on a patio in a pot, but do pick some of the leaves when you bake.

They add a delicious cinnamon flavor to your baked goods and make a palatable herbal tea as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here's a look at some frequently asked questions about growing rose-scented geraniums.

Is the rose geranium edible?

Yes. You can eat the leaves and flowers.

Can rose geranium hydrosol be ingested?

You can consume small quantities of rose geranium hydrosol if you buy it from a reputable brand. Be sure that you only choose an organic product.

What are some Pelargonium graveolens oil skin benefits?

The rose geranium has a potent effect on the skin. It is excellent for mature or highly sensitive skin can soothe eczema, rashes, and itching, and helps prevent wrinkles.

Is it easy to root lemon geranium or rose geranium from slips?

Yes, remarkably simple. I pop a slip into some water and wait for the roots to grow. You could use a rooting hormone powder if you wish, but it isn't necessary. I always do this in the early spring to grow small rose geranium plants as gifts and to donate to our local charity shop.

Where does the Pelargonium graveolens plant originate?

Rose geraniums and several other scented varieties, like lemon geranium, come from the South African Eastern and Western Cape provinces.

Does the pelargonium flower have a strong scent?

No, the rose geranium plant itself is strongly scented. The flower has a far more delicate aroma.

Is Geranium pelargonium essential oil worth buying?

It is one of the oils that I always have in my cupboard. Its lovely scent, excellent skin-healing properties, and relaxing vibes make it a great addition to any collection. It doesn't hurt that it's also a relatively inexpensive oil.

Are the true geranium benefits the same?

A true geranium is a very different type of plant and is not considered a herb. It's safest not to eat any plant marked "true geranium." Instead, look for the scented Geranium called Geranium pelargonium or Pelargonium graveolens.

The most common varieties are the rose geranium and citrus or lemon geranium. People may also refer to these as rose-scented Geranium or lemon-scented Geranium.

Is scented geranium care difficult?

No, it's effortless to care for the plant once it has established itself. Weekly watering is good, but the plant is drought-tolerant and relatively hardy.

How do you define geranium oil and its distinctive odor?

It falls under the title of a floral oil in blends. To me, however, there is a somewhat herbaceous note to it. This is even more evident in the freshly crushed leaves.

Is the citrus or lemon geranium worth planting?

There has not been as much scientific study into the properties of the citrus or lemon geranium as is the case with the rose geranium. However, crushed flowers and leaves impart a fresh flavor to butter and can be used to flavor sugar delicately.

Does a scented geranium make an excellent addition to a sensory garden?

Yes. It has a powerful scent, making it ideal for little kids to find when blindfolded. Brushing past the bush releases a relaxing scent, and crushing the fleshy leaves is fun for little fingers. Finally, if the little ones scratch themselves in the garden, a little of the crushed leaves will ease the sting.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

Question: Where can I buy these seeds, and do they say Rose Geranium, or do they go by a different name in store?

Answer: Hi, the botanical name is Pelargonium graveolens. You might find it under this name. You could also see it listed as Rose-Scented Geranium. It is native to South Africa, and so it might not always be that easy to get your hands on elsewhere, but it is a fantastic plant if you can find it.

Question: I have a scarlet firework geranium, is the flower edible as I would like to use it to decorate a cake?

Answer: I wouldn't use the scarlet firework geranium in any edibles. Borage flowers, nasturtiums, roses, lavender, pansies, and violets also make great options for cake decorating.

© 2013 Fiona

What are your feelings on geraniums? Are there any more you would like to know about?

Fiona (author) from South Africa on June 12, 2016:

Thanks Thelma

Thelma Alberts from Germany on June 12, 2016:

I have no idea that this plant has many uses. Thanks for all the infromations you shared with us.

Fiona (author) from South Africa on June 10, 2016:

Thanks RTelloni and Reynold Jay

Reynold Jay from Saginaw, Michigan on June 09, 2016:

Eat'm!?!?!?! I learn new things everyday! Well done Fiona!

RTalloni on June 09, 2016:

Thanks for an interesting post on rose scented geranium. It was surprising to read some of the info and I'm glad to have it in my back pocket!

Fiona (author) from South Africa on October 28, 2015:

Hi Reynold,

Yip - still haven't actually finished it yet - got about halfway and got whacked with writer's block. Have, however, been making quite a good living writing non-fiction ebooks for clients - not quite the same thing but I guess it just shows that I can write when I really want to :)

Reynold Jay from Saginaw, Michigan on October 19, 2015:

Hi Fiona! I ran across you on one of my HUBS about 2 years ago and saw you had written a note about writing a novel. I wonder if you ever did? nine great articles here. I hope all is well for you.

Fiona (author) from South Africa on December 16, 2013:

Hi Jeanetter - I wouldn't eat the leaves as is, rather use them in a tea or in butter.

jeanetter on December 16, 2013:

We have always had this in our garden - didn't know it was edible.

Fiona (author) from South Africa on July 07, 2013:

Me too Rajan. Thanks for stopping by.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on July 07, 2013:

Thanks for sharing the benefits of Rose scented Geranium and for cautioning that this is the only edible variety. I prefer natural remedies to drugs anytime.

Voted up and useful.