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What Is Rose Geranium?

By C. Mitchell
Updated May 16, 2024
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A rose geranium is a plant in the geranium family, the blossoms of which carry a decidedly rose-scented fragrance. Rose geraniums are not “true” geraniums, but they are a part of the geranium family of plants. They grow well in most climates, and are well-loved for their colorful, sweet-smelling addition to gardens and terraces the world over. The plants are also prized for their fragrant essential oils, which are used in perfumes, lotions, and a variety of other cosmetic products.

Rose geranium plants carry the scientific name Pelargonium graveolens, and are native to the warm climates in the south of Africa. They can be cultivated with general success in nearly all parts of the world, however. Rose geranium plants tend to be rather inexpensive, at least in comparison to other comparable flowering perennials and herbs. They grow well both indoors and out.

The name “rose geranium” comes not from any relation to the rose family, but rather from the intensely rose-scented fragrance of most of the plant’s flowers. Different plants have slightly different smells, but the resemblance to a variety of rose plants in unmistakable. So-called “old-fashioned rose geranium” plants, for instance, carry the fragrance most closely identified with old-fashioned roses. Others blend smells of citrus and mint along with rose.

Blooms on a rose geranium range in color, but are usually white, pink, purple, or a combination thereof. Petals generally appear in early spring, and remain in bloom through late summer or early fall. The plant is a perennial, which means that flowers will reappear each year under the right conditions.

Rose geraniums are popular with gardeners in Europe, the Americas, Australia, and parts of Asia for their heartiness, their deer resistance, and their ease of growing, not to mention their long-lasting blooms and sweet smell. The plants are also grown commercially, in most cases for fragrance and essential oil extraction. Rose geranium farms are often operated in conjunction with cosmetic companies that process and distill oil from the petals and blooms.

Oil from rose geranium blossoms is frequently added to perfumes, as well as used in aromatherapy. It is often blended with the more expensive pure rose extract as a means of cutting costs. Rose geraniums are also easier to grow and less expensive to harvest and process than roses.

Extracts from the petals are known for their soothing qualities, and, for this reason, are often added to lotions, body creams, and bath products such as soaps and shampoos. The flowers are also edible, and can be added with some success to salads and many baking projects. They can also be crystallized and used as a topping for cakes, ice creams, and other desserts.

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