What Is Pelargonium Graveolens?

B. Turner

Pelargonium graveolens is a flowering plant that shares many characteristics with the common geranium. This perennial species is native to the mountainous regions of South America, and can also be found throughout sections of Europe and Asia. While many people grow pelargonium graveonlens to enjoy its soft pink flowers, it is perhaps best known for its scent, which is often compared to that of the rose. The fragrant oil of this plant is used to make perfumes and cosmetics, and can also be found in teas and food products.

The oil of the pelargonium graveolens may be used to make perfume.
The oil of the pelargonium graveolens may be used to make perfume.

This species features a relatively short, shrub-like appearance, and can grow as tall as 4.3 feet (1.3 m) and as wide as 3.3 feet (1 meter). It is equipped with thick, hairy stems that are very firm and wood-like. The leaves are lined with fine hairs, giving them a soft texture. Unlike many other plants, the leaves of the pelargonium graveolens are very wavy and ruffled, giving them the look of lettuce leaves.

A pelargonium graveolens plant will grow largest in a tropical climate.
A pelargonium graveolens plant will grow largest in a tropical climate.

The leaves of the pelargonium graveolens features a potent floral scent. They can be collected and dried for use in potpourri or linen satchels. The leaves are also used to make tea, or added to baked goods and other food products. A rose-scented oil can be extracted from the stem of this plant and added to fragrances, lotions, and other products. Pelargonium graveolens oil is also used as an essential oil, and many alternative wellness practitioners believe it has certain healing or health properties.

Oil from this plant can vary in aroma, depending on where the plant was grown. It may have a rose-like scent, or one that's more spicy. Some common scents that can be detected in this oil include lemon, nutmeg, and ginger. Perfume makers may mix oils from different areas to create the perfect fragrance.

The pelargonium graveolens is also grown in homes and gardens by growers who appreciate its fragrance and beauty. Flowers produced by this plant come in shades of pink, purple and white. They grow largest in tropical or humid climates, but can thrive in most climate zones with proper care. The name graveolens comes from a Latin term that means "strong smell," reflecting the scent of the flowers, leaves, and oil of this plant.

Pelargonium graveolens requires a great deal of moisture, and grows well in areas with plenty of rain. It can survive in partial shade, but does better in the sun. Gardeners can plant seeds in any season other than winter, or plant cuttings in the fall to maximize the health and growth of the plant. This species also grows well indoors, and is often used in hanging baskets or decorative planters.

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