Pelargonium Profile - All Those Lemons

by Wayne L. Handlos PhD

People are always impressed when they first smell the leaves of lemon-scented pelargoniums.

The fragrance is so fresh and sharp, one must be impressed. For a long time, I thought there

was only one lemon-scented geranium, the well known Pelargonium crispum. It's the plant with

small crinkled leaves. It's also ideal for small pots and small spaces. In the Midwest in our

greenhouse, I never saw these plants bloom.


Now living in California, I've learned about those other lemon-scented geraniums. The most

impressive plant so far has been 'Mabel Grey' or P. citronella. The leaves are very sharply lobed

and toothed, quite different from P. crispum. When vigorously growing, 'Mabel Grey' can produce

fairly large leaves.


Since then I've also learned about 'Abundance', 'Frensham', 'Citronella' and 'Orange Fizz', all

of which are lemon-scented to some degree. 'French Lace' is a variegated leaf form of P.

crispum but it has no scent.

Here on the Central Coast, flowers are borne abundantly in the spring and summer, and maybe

a few throughout the year. As a group, these species have fairly large flowers. Basically they

have lavender colored petals, with a purple blotch on each of the two upper petals.

'Frensham' and 'Mabel Grey' have both produced seeds and seedlings in my garden. Root buds

are also common in the lemon-scented geraniums and can be potted up for new plants. Cuttings

can be made of all these cultivars but they may be a little slow to root.


In addition, some cultivars of Angels have lemon-scented leaves presumably because of P. crispum

in their ancestry. The following have a hint of lemon to my nose: 'Gabriel', 'Madame Layal',

'Moon Maiden', 'Ruth Wiltse', 'Sancho Panza', 'Simple Sister'.

All of these varieties can be used when cooking or baking something with a lemon flavor. (See

IGS Journal, Geraniums Around the World, Spring 2006, for recipe for lemon cake served at our August meeting.)

2019, Central Coast Geranium Society (CCGS )