Rose Geranium is a low maintenance and easy growing perennial shrub with aromatic leaves that have a multitude of culinary uses in the kitchen and the bar.
Rose Geranium & Scented Geraniums
Scented geraniums are perennial and evergreen shrubs grown not only for their flowers but for the various scents their leaves impart when crushed. Although they’re called geraniums, they belong to the Pelargonium family and are usually hybrids and not true geraniums. You can find many varieties such as rose, chocolate, lemon and peppermint scented geraniums.
Rose geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) is a perennial evergreen shrub with furry leaves that give off a highly aromatic rose scent. Like all scented geraniums, their leaf hairs have tiny glands responsible for the scent and oil it releases when the leaves are crushed.
The plant grows to a shrub about 1m tall (though I have seen it much taller) and produces small, pink flowers in spring. This hardy plant is frost and drought tolerant, and is very easy to propagate from cuttings. In my edible garden, I’m growing it for the purpose of making drinking shrubs and using them in cocktails as you’ll see below.
How to Grow Rose Geranium from Cuttings
Rose geranium favours a sunny position with well-draining soil though it can handle partial shade. Being a hybrid plant, it is grown by cuttings which can then be planted in a container or in ground.
It is very easy to propagate from cuttings which are best taken in spring and early summer. Use sharp secateurs to take a stem cutting at an angle about 10cm long. Root it in water or plant it in soil while keeping it moist to allow the plant to grow roots. I found the latter to be the quicker method. The cuttings consequently grew healthy roots and were ready for transplant. I have propagated cuttings growing in containers and planted in ground and both are doing equally well.
Rose Geranium Plant Care
Being a low maintenance plant that is drought-tolerant, all you need to do is to keep it moist but not overly wet while it’s getting established. It’s not a heavy feeder so an occasional application of liquid fertiliser in summer is sufficient.
Pinch back the tips and it can grow into a bushier and more compact shape. The plant flowers in late spring and summer and if you pinch out the drying flowers, it encourages more buds.
If you’re planting it in a small container, you may need to upgrade to a larger size after one year or at the start of the next growing season.
The leaves can be picked at any time once the plant has reached a reasonable size, around 25 cm in height.
Although the leaves are not edible, they can be used to impart a rose flavour to a variety of foods. The leaves can be used to flavour ice cream, sorbets, jams, cakes, biscuits, desserts and other baked goods. Always pick the best leaves, rinse and pat dry on a kitchen towel before use. Once you’ve used the leaves to flavour food, remove them before serving.
Rose geranium leaves have a multitude of uses in drinks. They can be used in an herbal tea infusion, either on their own or with other garden herbs and flowers such as lemon balm and chamomile. They can be added in ice cubes to flavour water and soft drinks. They can be infused into a syrup, turned into a tincture or an aromatic spray to add to cocktails.
My favourite way of using them is to make a rose geranium and strawberry shrub for cocktails or simply added to soda water for a refreshing non-alcoholic drink. The full recipe and step by step instructions on how to make rose geranium and strawberry shrub is posted on Cocktails & Bars. This will be followed by shrub cocktail recipe, just in time for Valentine’s Day.
If you make either the shrub or the cocktail, don’t forget to tag @the.gourmanticgarden on instagram so we can see your post.
Want to Know More?
You’ll find more information on how to grow rose geranium, which varieties to try, how to pair it with food and spirits, and how to use rose geranium in cocktails including a full recipe in my 260+ page digital book GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN available now.