These ‘chocolate’ plants aren’t decadent; just sweet smelling

  • Wed Feb 19th, 2014 11:34am
  • Life

By Lee Reich Associated Press

Wish you could grow chocolate?

A number of plants — Chocolate Ruffles coral bells, Chocolate Cake gladiola and Sweet Chocolate pepper, for example — have chocolatey looking leaves or fruits. Let’s shy away from them, though, because their chocolate is only skin deep.

Plants with chocolatey aromas offer instant gratification more akin to Hershey’s Kisses. For an affair on shaky ground and needing a quick horticultural chocolate fix, I suggest a peppermint geranium plant. Peppermint geranium makes a nice houseplant for a sunny windowsill and, in spring, feathery white blossoms add to the sensual pleasure.

OK, it’s not chocolate, but there is that common association of peppermint and chocolate.

The Chocolate Mint variety of peppermint is another plant that shares its aroma as soon as it is in hand. Close your eyes and this one’s a stand-in for a Peppermint Patty. I’m not sure there’s really any chocolate in that pepperminty aroma; perhaps it’s the chocolatey hue of the leaves and the power of suggestion.

Chocolate Mint, like other mints, is easy to grow and multiply. Mints do become scraggly indoors, so plan on eventually planting chocolate mint outdoors in a sunny garden bed.

Wax plant (Hoya carnosa) is an easy-to-grow houseplant with a sweet, chocolatey aroma, though it might require some patience. The aroma comes from the flowers, which are not borne continuously. The pure chocolate aroma is worth waiting for.

Despite its name, summer snowflake offers up its fragrance — slight and, to some noses, just sweet rather than chocolatey — in spring. The “snowflake” part of the name is apt, however, for this bulb’s blooms are indeed snowflake white, much like those of another bulb, snowdrops, except larger.

Summer brings chocolatey scents from two annual flowers: chocolate cosmos and birds’ eyes. This cosmos has dark, almost black blossoms. Chocolate cosmos grows from a fat tuber, which you lift in the fall and replant each spring, just as you do dahlias.

Birds’ eyes (Gilia tricolor) was once a popular half-hardy annual, loved for its profusion of creamy white flowers, which have dark brown throats and petals edged in purple blush. The chocolate scent is there, but slight.

Chocolate daisy (Berlandiera lyrata) is a perennial flower that is strong in scent and tough in disposition. And the plant’s also pretty, displaying characteristic daisy heads of yellow petals around green eyes for weeks and weeks through summer. Cut some blossoms, plunk them into water, and I guarantee your lover will be looking for hidden chocolate bars or “Kisses.”