Scented Pelargoniums..when to Pot On....

(December 15, 2009)

We receive lots of emails asking for advice on how to grow Scented Pelargoniums and the questions we receive are extremely diverse.  Please do Contact Us if there’s anything that we might be able to help you with.  If we cannot answer a question we’ll often ask you to send photos which do help us to help you.


A recurring problem for our Customers this past year has been the issue of POTTING ON.  We had one Customer who hadn’t potted on from the Starter Size after almost 4 months and they couldn’t understand why the plants looked so poorly.  Scented Pelargoniums do need ‘leg room’, water, feeding, good quality gritty compost, good light, air and ventilation.


There isn’t a common rule of when it is necessary to pot on into bigger plant pots as individual Scented Geraniums do not share a generic standard size, unlike some other plants.  It’s a case of observation and learning as a plant grows of what its needs are.   One thing is a definite, though, they do require potting on as they grow!!


Starter size:  At the ‘baby’ stage the plant would require a smallish pot, 11cm is usually used by Growers.  The idea is to encourage the plant to obtain a good healthy set of roots, which is the foundation for a good specimen later in its life.  It’s a good idea to disbud at this point as we really want the plant’s energy to go downwards as opposed to upwards.  Feeding should also start at this stage.  Observation of water levels is essential as pests love neglected and dried out plants. ‘Baby’ isn’t as strong as its Mummy or Daddy and often won’t have enough energy to fight the pests off. 

‘BABY’ is becoming a toddler and needs more leg room and can’t wait to grow lots of bushy leaves and pretty flowers…….it’s time to POT ON.  As a guide – from the Starter stage you would pot on within 2 months.


Medium size:  Size will vary according to type.  I would tend to pot on from the ‘baby’ stage into a 1 or 2 ltr pot depending on the type and the expected rate of growth.  The latter comes with experience and trial and error.  Scenteds do put on growth quite readily and again it is a matter of observation when it is time to move on to a larger pot.  There are some scenteds that will be OK in a 2ltr or 3ltr pot at maturity but I would always pot even the smaller types on into a 5 ltr pot.  I find the plants are much happier and healthier. The compost doesn’t deplete of nutriments as rapidly and watering is less often.  Of course space may be a problem and this might be a reason for keeping the Scenteds in smaller plant pots.  I would recommend growing less in quantity and going for the bigger pots.


Mature size:  As I’ve mentioned previously there isn’t a standard sized Scented Pelargonium, which is one of the reasons that we do not show photos of Starter, Medium, Mature plants on our website.  A Mature Scented Geranium might be just 6 inches height/spread or might be trained as a Standard reaching several feet in height.  The question of how big is a Scented Pelargonium does crop up quite frequently and I’ll say again – SCENTED PELARGONIUMS DO NOT COME IN A STANDARD SIZE, they vary enormously.  Smelly Pellies are like rebels...they do not conform. 


It is possible to restrain the growth of Scented Pelargoniums by keeping them in smaller pots than would be ideal.  Roots would need to be trimmed back occasionally and the compost changed more often as it would become depleted of nutriments.  Without nutriments, feeding, plants do not perform and will be more prone to attack from pests, look sickly and may die.  Plant pot size, therefore, is extremely important.


For example, a mature Fragrans plant will be happy in a 3 ltr pot, although a 5 ltr pot would encourage the roots to spread out and the top growth would become healthier and bushier.  Graveolens is one of the larger Scenteds and at maturity ideally needs a very large pot, 10 to 15 ltrs or even bigger, as it may reach up to 3 feet in height and spread.  Clorinda is another ‘biggy’, whilst Deerwood Lavender Lad has a sprawling but more compact habit and would be more suitable for the home.


Finally, this year I did plant some of each of our Scenteds in raised beds and the display has been spectacular.  I read that it was beneficial to give the Scented Geraniums a break from a plant pot in one of Jim Woods books.  No better advice have I read anywhere!!  Our Parent plants look amazing and lusciously healthy and the size that they have made is incredible.  During October we shall be lifting all of our outdoor Scenteds and overwintering them in the polytunnel or greenhouse. 


We hope that you found this article useful and interesting and you are always welcome to Contact us with any questions.


Annie & Guy

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