I have a soft spot in my heart for the underdog, and scented geraniums (also called pelargoniums) are the underdog of the geranium world.
For the most part, they aren’t as showy as their cousins, the zonal or garden geraniums. But what they lack in pizzazz, they make up for in gloriously scented foliage and flowers.
That’s not to say they aren’t pretty. Though the blooms and leaves are a bit more petite and less dramatic, they’re still beautiful flowers to have in the garden. And oh yeah, did I forget to mention that you can eat them?
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Below are some of my favorite species and cultivars, and ones that you can often find at nurseries. There are lots more, though, so keep an eye out as you build your collection!
Here’s a quick preview of all of the varieties ahead:
15 Favorite Scented Geranium Varieties
Let’s take a closer look!
1. Angel’s Perfume Hybrid
Doesn’t this hybrid sound heavenly? ‘Angel’s Perfume’ has medium-sized dark red flowers edged in pale pink and white.
The leaves and flowers have a distinct lemon scent, which makes sense since this is a hybrid of P. citrosum, a botanical name given to plants with an aroma reminiscent of the citron tree.
This variety stays petite, growing to just a foot tall and wide. It does best in Zone 10, or it may be grown as an annual in other zones.
As you might have surmised by the common name, this type has a lovely apple scent with just a hint of citrus, which lends a subtle sour note.
P. odoratissimum (meaning “highly scented”) does best in partial shade, and in loamy soil with medium drainage.
It has white flowers that are smaller than those of some other species, and is hardy in Zones 9 through 12. It grows to about a foot tall and two feet wide.
There are a few lovely cultivars of P. odoratissimum to keep an eye out for, including ‘Big Apple,’ ‘Green Apple,’ and ‘Fringed Apple.’
With P. scabrum ‘M. Ninon,’ also known as ‘Apricot,’ you can have the best of both geranium worlds.
It has large, vibrant blossoms and large leaves like a zonal geranium, but it also has a sweet, fruity scent. The blossoms have a light pink base with splashes of vibrant magenta.
This variety grows up to two feet tall and thrives in Zones 10 and 11.
4. Attar of Roses
This cultivar of P. capitatum has a heady rose fragrance that is so pronounced, it has been used commercially to replace more expensive rose oil in perfume and soaps.
This is a good one to grow if you want to dry the leaves and pink blossoms for potpourri.
It’s a perennial in Zones 10 and 11, and grows to three feet tall and a foot wide.
The cedar scented geranium (P. copthorne) has larger blossoms than many other scented species, and it produces a lot of them.
The pink blooms have a maroon center on each petal, and both the flowers and the leaves have a subtle cedar scent.
Hardy in Zones 10 and 11, this plant grows to a large three feet tall and two feet wide when mature.
P. x limoneum has bright pink flowers and petite leaves, both of which smell distinctly of cinnamon.
This is one of my favorites for using in desserts. The candied flowers are phenomenal as cake toppers, since they retain that cinnamony scent.
Read more about making your own candied flowers at home on our sister site, Foodal.
Hardy in Zones 10 and 11, it grows two feet tall and wide, and prefers full sun.
Also known as the citronella, mosquito, or citrus geranium, P. x citrosum shouldn’t be confused with grassy plants in the Cymbopogon genus.
This popular species doesn’t have any mosquito-banishing properties, but it does have a similar lemony scent to citronella plants.
Growing three feet tall and a foot wide, this plant is hardy down to Zone 9 and has pretty, if petite, lavender flowers.
Burpee sells live plants if you decide you want to add one to your space (and honestly, who wouldn’t?).
8. Dr. Livingstone Hybrid
Don’t let this plant’s other name, skeleton rose, put you off.
This plant has unique leaves that really stand out in the garden. Instead of the typical large, round leaves, P. radens ‘Dr. Livingstone’ has deeply lobed, delicately cut leaves.
At nurseries, you may sometimes see the name of this cultivar spelled without an “e.”
Once mature, this type stands a full three feet tall and two feet wide. It is hardy in Zones 8 to 11.
The scent is extremely strong, with a sweet, citrusy aroma that is something like a rose and a lemon combined. And the blossoms are small, with a lavender hue and deep purple spots.
9. Lady Plymouth
P. graveolens variegata ‘Lady Plymouth’ has large, deeply cut leaves that are sage green on the interior, and highlighted on the outside with a creamy outline.
The leaves and light pink flowers smell like a pungent rose.
Hardy in Zones 8 to 11, this plant reaches three feet tall and two feet wide when mature. As with most geraniums with variegated foliage, it does best in a partially sunny area.
Some scented geraniums have just a whisper of scent that you really have to concentrate to detect. But not P. x nervosum ‘Lime.’
Just the smallest whiff and you’ll know where this plant got its name. It has a strong, sweet citrus aroma that smells like lime zest.
It grows two feet tall and is hardy in Zones 10 and 11, but don’t let its tenderness discourage you if you live in a colder area. This plant stays compact and lends itself nicely to container growing indoors in a sunny window.
The pinkish-white flowers are insignificant. Buy this one for the highly fragrant leaves.
11. Mrs. Taylor Hybrid
There aren’t many red-flowered scented geraniums out there, but P. x ‘Mrs. Taylor’ is one of the few. With brilliant red blossoms and frilly, curled leaves, it makes a beautiful ornamental in Zones 8 to 11.
Plant it somewhere you can brush up against the leaves to get a whiff of its musky, woodsy scent. In full sun, the plant grows to two feet tall – 30 inches when in bloom – and 18 inches wide.
12. Nutmeg Hybrid
This hybrid (P. x fragrans) smells uh-may-zing! You’ll sometimes see it called ‘Cody,’ ‘Logee,’ and ‘Old Spice.’
It has a subtle nutmeg scent to the leaves and flowers, with blooms that are small and white with a purple center.
This one grows to two feet tall when in bloom, and a foot and a half wide.
P. tomentosum, also known as the peppermint or mint geranium, is intensely aromatic. You wouldn’t be the first person to sniff it and find yourself convinced that you’ve stepped on a mint plant somewhere.
It has a low growing habit at about 18 inches tall and three feet wide, so it works well as a ground cover, and the large leaves make a pretty garden accent.
The white and raspberry colored flowers are fairly petite, but each plant has a lot of them.
Plants are available in gallon-sized containers via Amazon if you’d like to bring one home.
‘Islington Peppermint’ and ‘Chocolate Peppermint’ are two cultivars worth searching out, though they can be hard to find.
14. Prince Rupert
Variegated ‘Prince Rupert’ is a cultivar of lemon geranium (P. crispum). It has variegated leaves that are bright medium green with a pale cream outline, and a strong lemon scent.
The pale pink blossoms are perfect tossed in salads, or candied to add to desserts for a sweet hint of lemon.
This guy does best in partial shade in Zones 10 and 11. The plant stays compact, growing to about 18 inches tall and wide.
15. Strawberry Hybrid
Good old ‘Countess of Scarborough,’ or ‘Lady Scarborough,’ as this hybrid P. x scarboroviae is also known, has a sweet, fruity scent that reminds me of a Strawberry Shortcake doll I had when I was a kid.
It has been around for at least 200 years and was first introduced in England prior to 1820.
The flowers are medium in size and pale pink, with a dark pink splash of color on half of the petals. The plant reaches about two feet tall and a foot wide.
It’s hardy in Zones 9 to 12 and has a somewhat trailing habit, making it ideal for rock gardens or planting along walls.
There’s a Virtually Endless Variety of Pelargoniums
As you can tell, pretty much whatever your favorite scent is, there’s going to be a pelargonium that will fit the bill. When you’re not giving your nose a treat, these plants are a feast for the eyes, as well.
With species that have deeply-lobed or colorful foliage, or those that have blossoms to rival a garden geranium, these flowers have so much to offer.
If you want to know more about growing these beauts, read our scented geranium guide.
And of course, we want to know which scented geranium you end up bringing home. Be sure to come back and tell us in the comments section below!
Then, if you want to round out your garden with a few more floral options, check out these guides next:
About Kristine Lofgren
Kristine Lofgren is a writer, photographer, reader, and gardening lover from outside Portland, Oregon. She was raised in the Utah desert, and made her way to the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two dogs in 2018. Her passion is focused these days on growing ornamental edibles, and foraging for food in the urban and suburban landscape.