Apple geranium (Pelargonium odoratissimum) is a low-growing evergreen perennial that belongs to the geranium family (Geraniaceae). It is native to South Africa and has a distinct apple scent that comes from its rounded, light green leaves. It produces small, star-shaped white flowers with red veins in spring and summer. Apple geranium is also known as nutmeg geranium, sweet-scented pelargonium, peppermint pelargonium, apple-scented geranium, or apple-rose-scented geranium .
Apple geranium is not only a beautiful and aromatic plant, but also a useful one. It has been used for its astringent, tonic, and antiseptic properties in traditional medicine. It can be taken internally for debility, gastroenteritis, and hemorrhage, or applied externally for skin complaints, injuries, neuralgia, and throat infections. The essential oil extracted from the leaves is used in aromatherapy and has a relaxing and balancing effect on the hormonal system, menstrual flow, and detoxification. Apple geranium can also be used as a culinary herb to flavor cakes, pastries, syrups, and preserves. In Cyprus, it is sometimes made into a spoon sweet (glyko) that is eaten as a dessert or a snack.
Apple geranium is easy to grow and care for. It prefers full sun or partial shade and well-drained soil that is neutral to alkaline. It can tolerate drought once established, but needs moderate watering during the growing season. It can be propagated by seeds or cuttings. Apple geranium can be grown in containers or hanging baskets, or as a ground cover or edging plant in beds and borders. It is suitable for city gardens, coastal gardens, cottage gardens, or Mediterranean gardens. It can also be grown indoors as a houseplant if provided with good ventilation and light.
Apple geranium is a charming and versatile plant that deserves a place in any garden or home. It offers beauty, fragrance, health benefits, and culinary uses. It is also a recipient of the prestigious Award of Garden Merit of the Royal Horticultural Society, which means it has been tested and proven to be reliable and suitable for general cultivation.
How to Care for Apple Geranium
Apple geranium is not a fussy plant and can thrive with minimal care. However, there are some tips and tricks that can help you keep your apple geranium healthy and happy. Here are some of them:
Apple geranium likes to be placed in full sun, but will appreciate some shade during the hottest part of the day in warmer climates . Avoid placing it in a dark or drafty spot, as it may affect its growth and flowering.
Apple geranium needs well-drained soil that is neutral to alkaline . If you are growing it in a container, use a potting mix with added perlite or sand to improve drainage. Avoid overwatering or letting the soil get soggy, as it may cause root rot or fungal diseases.
Apple geranium does not need much fertilizer, but you can apply a balanced liquid fertilizer once a month during the growing season to boost its growth and flowering. Do not fertilize during the winter, as it may encourage leggy growth and reduce dormancy.
Apple geranium can be pruned lightly to maintain its shape and remove dead or damaged stems and leaves. You can also deadhead the spent flowers to encourage more blooming. Pruning is best done in late winter or early spring, before new growth starts.
Apple geranium can be propagated by seeds or cuttings . Seeds can be sown in late winter and grown in a protected environment such as a heated greenhouse. Cuttings can be taken from spring to autumn and rooted in moist soil or water. Cuttings are easier and faster than seeds, and also ensure that the new plants will have the same characteristics as the parent plant.
Potential Problems with Apple Geranium
Apple geranium is generally pest and disease resistant, but it may occasionally suffer from some problems. Here are some of the common ones and how to deal with them:
Vine weevil larvae: These are white grubs that feed on the roots of apple geranium and other plants. They can cause wilting, yellowing, and stunted growth. To prevent them, avoid overwatering and use pots with drainage holes. To control them, apply nematodes or insecticides to the soil.
Leafhopper: These are small insects that suck the sap from the leaves of apple geranium and other plants. They can cause yellowing, curling, and distortion of the leaves. To prevent them, use insecticidal soap or neem oil spray on the foliage. To control them, remove and destroy infested leaves and use sticky traps or insecticides.
Root mealybugs: These are white fluffy insects that feed on the roots of apple geranium and other plants. They can cause wilting, stunted growth, and root rot. To prevent them, avoid overwatering and use sterile potting mix. To control them, repot the plant in fresh soil and wash off any mealybugs from the roots. You can also use systemic insecticides or alcohol spray on the roots.
Whitefly: These are tiny white insects that fly around the leaves of apple geranium and other plants. They suck the sap from the leaves and excrete honeydew that attracts ants and sooty mold. They can cause yellowing, wilting, and reduced flowering. To prevent them, use yellow sticky traps or reflective mulch around the plant. To control them, use insecticidal soap or neem oil spray on the foliage.
Gray molds: These are fungal diseases that cause grayish-brown patches on the leaves, stems, and flowers of apple geranium and other plants. They thrive in humid and wet conditions. To prevent them, avoid overhead watering and provide good air circulation around the plant. To control them, remove and destroy infected parts and use fungicides.
Pelargonium rust: This is a fungal disease that causes orange-brown pustules on the undersides of the leaves of apple geranium and other pelargoniums. It can