Packing and unpacking
1. Upon arrival, take the plants out of the shipping box and remove the packing material.
2. Check the soil for moisture. Water the plants if the soil is dry by setting them in a pan of water for a half hour and then allowing to drain.
3. Acclimate the plants to their new location. On the first day, place them outside in a partly sunny location away from damaging winds for just a few hours. Check the plants throughout the day for water as the so they don't completely dry out. Avoid overwatering. Bring them indoors in the afternoon or evening.
4. For the next few days, set your plants in the sun, extending their time outside a little more each day. Remember to bring them back indoors in the afternoon or evening, especially if the nighttime temperatures are relatively cold (below 40 degrees F). By the fourth or fifth day, they will be ready for planting.
Scented geraniums are a great addition to any area of your garden. We've used them in beds with brightly colored annuals like marigolds and zinnias, combined with standard geraniums, and in beds dedicated solely to scented geraniums. With few exceptions they need 5-6 hours of direct sun per day. Peppermint (and a couple of other "fuzzy" varieties) can get sunburned, and love light shade. At least a dozen varieties make attractive hanging baskets, and we use several varieties for creating topiaries.
Growing scented geraniums indoors
Scented geraniums are not picky about temperature, but prefer to be cooler than standard geraniums. A range of 55 to 90 ° F is ideal. If you have them in a south window, sheer undercurtains are the perfect screen to prevent sunburn in summer.
Planting your scented geraniums
Any pot that provides good drainage will do, but we think unglazed clay (terra cotta) is a natural complement to these plants. Start with a 3" or 4" pot, and use a light commercial potting mix, or make your own using lots of perlite and/or sand. These plants are indigenous to a cool, semi-desert area and do not like wet feet, so water them well, and then let them dry out before watering again. In warmer areas (Zones 7-10), you may plant them outdoors after a period of acclimatization.
Scented geranium care tips
Give your geranium at least four hours of direct sunlight a day. Night temperatures should be 50° to 75°; day temperatures are ideally 55° to 95°. I have had unprotected plants live at 34 degrees. They should be brought in at about 40 to avoid any damage to them.
Allow the soil to dry out thouroughly between waterings. Overwatering at any stage of this plants life cycle can cause a root fungus that is almost impossible to stop. Plants that appear to be wilting but have wet soil may have this fungus. If you catch it quickly enough you can possibly stop it with a mild mix of fungicide applied about once every 10 days.
Pinch the tips of plants that are not branching on their own in order to avoid tall, leggy plants.
Take care to not overfeed scented geraniums; overfeeding will diminish their fragrance and they actually don't need a lot of fertilizer. Any well balanced commercial plant food will do; natural fish emulsions and seaweed fertilizers are great for outside use. Use all of them at about 1/2 the strength recommended for houseplants. As with most plants, fertilize more often during periods of active growth, and not at all during the winter months. Fertilize about every 6-8 weeks from March through October.
To prune or not to prune? Prune! Some plants may arrive looking as if they have just had a haircut, which is probably true, particularly late in the spring shipping season. These plants are not damaged - in fact, pruning encourages dense, lush growth. To truly appreciate these plants, you need to prune them on a regular basis.
Starting new plants to add to your collection or to share with friends or neighbors is very simple. Use the plant material which you prune off your plants! Put the cut ends in damp sand or very fine soil and you will soon have new rooted plants. Plant into containers or into your garden when they're well rooted.
Keep them indoors when it's cold outside! As they are easy to grow inside, scented geraniums make great fall and winter houseplants. They need only a sunny windowsill or a flourescent light and seem somehow to thrive on neglect. If you use a light, keep it turned on 12 hours per day during the winter. Some scented geraniums are large and bushy and will need regular pruning to keep under control.
A couple of weeks before it is time to move them outdoors in the spring, prune them back to a nice shape, repot if rootbound, and fertilize. Because of their lack of fussiness and tolerance of hot, dry conditions, scented geraniums are naturals for American summers. Plant them where and when you would plant standard geraniums - after danger of frost is past. Dig and re-pot about 3 weeks before the first fall frost, and gradually acclimatize them to the house before moving them inside for the winter.