Houseplants are often grown to add some greenery and an occasional cheery blossom to the indoor environment. But plants can also fill the air with heady perfume, fresh clean scent or the sweet smell of spring. The aroma of exotic flowers lends an adventurous atmosphere to the room, while astringent, lemony-scented herb leaves relieve closed-up stuffiness, and the smell of spring bulbs lets everyone know that winter's spell will soon be broken.
Exotic Flower: Gardenia
Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides) is a member of the coffee family but has its own pervasive, decidedly non-coffee-like exotic perfume smell that will permeate your entire house or office. Grow gardenia in acidic soil, in a sunny window or under lights. Keep the plant warm; it prefers daytime temperatures of 68-to-74 degrees Fahrenheit, with nights just a few degrees cooler. High humidity is essential to gardenia blooms, but misting the leaves can result in a variety of leaf-spot disorders. Support high humidity by setting the gardenia container on a tray of pebbles filled with water. Floating a single gardenia blossom in water in a small glass fishbowl makes a stunning scented centerpiece.
Aromatic Leaves: Scented Geranium
Scented leaves are more subtle than flowers, pervading the room with a light, fresh-air sensation unless their leaves are rubbed. This may be ideal in households containing residents who are not fond of excessive olfactory stimulation.
Scented geraniums (Pelargonium spp.) are ideal potted houseplants, with leaf-scents available in every fragrance from chocolate to lavender. Rose-scented geranium oil is often used by perfumers in lieu of expensive pure rose oil, and rose-scented geranium plants will fill your home with the scent of rose blossoms all year without the difficulty of getting roses to bloom indoors. Plant scented geraniums in light, well-drained soil (a mix of potting soil and perlite is ideal), and keep them cool, 55 to 68 degrees. Let the soil dry between waterings, and feed them only occasionally, with a dilute solution of liquid fish emulsion. Pinch new growth back frequently to encourage a full, bushy habit with lots of scented leaves.
Scent of Spring: Muscari
Spring-flowering bulbs herald the end of winter darkness. The Muscari, or grape hyacinth, is usually grown outdoors for its carpet of intense royal blue, early spring flowers. Less showy than the hyacinth, Muscari has the prettier, less overpowering but more pervasive scent, and will grow and bloom indoors in a shallow soil-filled pot. Plant Muscari bulbs in November, 3-to-4 inches deep and 1-to-2 inches apart. Set the pot in a cold (35-to-56-degree) area for 10-to-12 weeks. Bring the pot indoors and water daily. Establishing several pots in succession will lengthen the time you can enjoy its sweet blue blooms.
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