ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN
The variegated foliage of Plectranthus coleoides makes it an attractive tabletop plant.
You do not have to grow blooming plants with fragrant flowers to add perfume to your indoor garden. There are many plants that have aromatic foliage, but they do not normally give off their scent into the air continually as flowers do.
Cuban oregano has fleshy aromatic leaves. (Albert Parsons/For the Sun) (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)
‘Apple Sun’ has smooth velvety leaves and a wonderful apple scent. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)
‘Attar of Roses’ sports attractive lavender flowers and finely serrated foliage with purple veining.
(ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)
Instead, the plant leaves usually have to be crushed or at least touched or rubbed in order for their fragrance to be released enough to be noticed.
In the indoor winter garden, this characteristic is a good one as we tend to handle our plants frequently as we groom them and tend to their needs.
In my sunroom, I am constantly leaning over plants to reach other plants, brushing against plants as I tidy and groom or move things around. As I brush past the aromatic foliage of these plants, the scent wafts up and I enjoy the wonderful fragrances of these plants.
Scented geraniums are wonderful plants and certainly fit into this category of plants. Scented geraniums have wonderful names to illustrate their scents, names like "Fingerbowl Lemon", "Prince of Orange", and "Attar of Roses".
The foliage on these pelargoniums is often finely cut or serrated and usually has great texture. Some, like "Apple Sun", have soft, velvety foliage while others have rough-textured leaves or foliage that is composed of tiny, crisped leaves.
The flowers of scented pelargoniums are attractive, albeit much smaller than the bedding plant geraniums we use in our outdoor gardens. Their daintiness, however, adds to their charm.
The blooms are usually white or some shade of pink or lavender. The plants themselves, while having tough woody stems, often assume a trailing growth habit as they reach maturity.
They are easily slipped to make new plants and pinching helps to create plants that are bushy and attractive. Easy-care plants, scented geraniums like bright light — they will take full sun — and rich soil as well as consistent moisture.
Another family of plants that are great for producing aromatic foliage is the plectranthus family. These plants are all relatives of the commonly grown Swedish ivy, which itself does not have particularly aromatic foliage.
I have a Cuban oregano plant and a plant commonly called the Vicks Plant, which has similar foliage but its growth habit is quite different. While the Cuban oregano is a bushy plant, the Vicks plant produces long (up to a metre in length) stems that arch outward from the pot.
Rubbing or crushing the smooth, furry leaves of these plants produces a strong scent, which some people would describe as medicinal. I personally like the scent but some folks are not fond of the aroma of plectranthus.
I also have a couple of wonderful variegated forms of plectranthus: Plectranthus forsteri ‘Marginatus’; and Plectranthus coleoides. The first is a large, bold plant with large dark green sculpted leaves with wide white margins; the second is a smaller version with smaller leaves having a narrower white leaf margins.
I use the larger of the two in my outdoor garden in the summer as dazzlers in my containers as they are big, bold and beautiful. P. coleoides is less tolerant of rain on its foliage so I use it as an indoor plant.
Plectranthus are easy-care plants. They are extremely drought-tolerant and require little fertilizer. They do like bright light.
I rotate them in and out of the house during the winter to provide interest as display plants, but I don’t leave them in the low-light environment of the house for more than a week at a time as they prefer stronger light than that.
On a dreary winter day, I can go into the sunroom and brush past one of my plectranthus or scented geranium plants and the smell that emanates from the plant rejuvenates me and seems to lift my spirits.
I would not be without some plants that have aromatic foliage. Give yourself a spring tonic and include such plants in your indoor garden.
Albert Parsons is a consultant for garden design and landscaping who lives in Minnedosa.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 27, 2014