BOULDER COUNTY – Traveling to the Midwest in winter always reminds me that Coloradoans are lucky. With more sunshine than clouds, we have plenty of days where we can toss open a window to catch a light breeze to clear the house of unwanted odors. If it’s windy enough, we might even get the bonus of moving some dust off of the furniture and back to Kansas where it belongs.
So when the cold settles in and we can’t open the house without risking frostbite, our houses start to acquire a collection of smells that could feature on an air freshener commercial. No one has to blindfold us for us to pick out the lingering scent of fish we cooked two days ago, oil from a session with tempura, onions that sit on a counter, or the musty reminder that we have a humidifier running.
Until the cold loosens its grip, turn to an old remedy for freshening the air in your home. With the right flowering plants, you can mask those unpleasant smells with fragrance. Jasmine and citrus are excellent choices for perfuming your home naturally.
Jasmine (Jasminum spp.) is a beloved vine that has won hearts with its enchanting perfume. Stronger scented at night, it was often ordered to be planted around the residences of kings and coveted by traders throughout Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.
Place Jasmine in bright light and make sure it gets four hours of direct sun daily from spring through fall. Fertilize every two weeks during this time, and in winter, fertilize monthly. There are two watering programs to remember with Jasmine; from summer through fall, keep lightly moist, watering when the soil surface (to one-half- inch depth) dries. In winter and spring, Jasmine needs a resting period, and should be kept slightly drier.
If grown indoors, move outside in fall while temperatures hover between 40 ºF and 60 ºF for two weeks. Jasmine uses this cool period to set buds, which open to the fragrant, white or yellow star-shaped blossoms in February. After flowering, prune plant back and let rest.
Different jasmines are good for different purposes. J. officinale is fragrant as a plant, J. grandiflorum is used for perfume, and J. sambac is used in tea.
Citrus is also an excellent choice for those who want to perfume their house and have room to grow a tree. Meyer Lemon, limes, and calamondin oranges – kumquat and orange hybrids – all stay somewhat small in pots. They need a sunny, south facing window for best growth.
In spring and summer, fertilize every two weeks, and once monthly in fall and winter. Keep the soil evenly moist, except in winter, when you wait until top inch dries before watering again. Citrus is prone to aphids and scale insects, so monitor plants closely for signs of the pests.
Humidity is crucial to getting blossoms, so place a tray with pebbles underneath the plant and keep water in the stones. Make sure the pot itself isn’t sitting in the water. Repot plants every two to three years to give roots room to grow.
When temperatures warm again and you open your house to clear the air, protect any of your plants from drafts coming in through open windows.
Colorado State University Extension, together with Boulder County Parks and Open Space, provides unbiased, research-based information about consumer and family issues, horticulture, natural resources, agriculture and 4-H youth development. For more information contact Extension at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Rd., Box B, Longmont, 303.678.6238.
By Carol O’Meara, CSU Extension