Pelargonium tomentosum Jacq.
Common names: peppermint-scented pelargonium
With its velvety mint-scented foliage and dainty white flowers, Pelargonium tomentosum is an attractive garden plant.
Pelargonium tomentosum is an aromatic, low-growing, sprawling subshrub with branches spreading in all directions. The presence of soft hairs and numerous glandular hairs lends a velvety touch to the leaves and stems. The peppermint-scented simple leaves are showy, especially when covered with morning dew.
The tiny white flowers with purple markings on the petals are borne in a much-branched inflorescence, from spring to summer (October to January).
Distribution and habitat
Pelargonium tomentosum is confined to mountains where it occurs naturally in semi-shaded, moist habitats, on the margins of ravine forests near streams. It grows in sandy soil derived from sandstone. This plant is common and occurs on the Hottentots Holland Mountains near Somerset West, on the Riviersonderend Mountains near Greyton, and on the Langeberg Range from Swellendam to Riversdale in the southern Cape.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The species name tomentosum refers to the leaves, which are thickly and evenly covered with short curved matted hairs.
The genus Pelargonium belongs to the family Geraniaceae which consists of four more genera: Geranium, Erodium, Monsonia and Sarcocaulon. The genus Pelargonium consists of ± 220 species, most of which occur naturally in southern Africa.
The peppermint-scented leaves can be used as a culinary herb. Barbara Hey (1994) suggests lining the tin with them before baking a chocolate cake.
Growing Pelargonium tomentosum
Pelargonium tomentosum is an attractive garden plant. It can be used as a ground cover in semi-shady, moist areas, providing that the soil drains well. It can also be used on embankments in semi-shaded areas or grown in pots, provided they drain well.
When planting in the garden, choose a semi-shaded position for this plant and keep the soil reasonably damp, but not water-logged. The plant responds very well to applications of organic, seaweed-based fertilizer in spring (September to November ) and summer (December to February). Remove old or damaged leaves to keep it looking at its best and site it where you will enjoy the silvery beauty of its velvety, dew-spangled leaves.
Pelargonium tomentosum grows easily from cuttings. Stem cuttings of ± 10 cm in length are taken in autumn (March to May ) and spring (September to November ) The cuttings are then dipped into a suitable rooting hormone powder, and placed in trays containing coarse river sand which has been watered with a fungicide. These trays are then placed into cold frames or a shady spot.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens
Plant Type: Perennial
SA Distribution: Western Cape
Soil type: Sandy, Loam
Flowering season: Spring, Early Summer
PH: Acid, Neutral
Flower colour: White
Aspect: Shade, Morning Sun (Semi Shade), Afternoon Sun (Semi Shade)
Gardening skill: Easy