Lee Reich / The Associated Press

Chocolate Mint peppermint is a living alternative to giving your valentine a box of chocolates.

The delicious fragrance these plants deliver is the next best thing to chocolate

Published: Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014 - 12:00 am

With Valentine’s Day coming up, thoughts naturally turn to chocolate. How nice it would be for gardeners to give their beloved a living, growing, chocolate expression of affection?

Alas, chocolate, native to steamy equatorial lowlands, is not usually productive as a houseplant.

But there are some chocolate-y alternatives:

Almost chocolate

A number of plants – Chocolate Ruffles coral bells, Chocolate Cake gladiola and Sweet Chocolate pepper, for example – have chocolate-y looking leaves or fruits.

Let’s shy away from them, though, because their chocolate is only skin deep.

Plants with chocolate-y aromas offer instant gratification more akin to Hershey’s Kisses.

Peppermint geranium makes a nice houseplant for a sunny windowsill, and, in spring, feathery white blossoms add to the sensual pleasure.

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.

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 genuine, sweet, chocolate-y aroma, though it might require some patience.

The aroma comes from the flowers, which are not borne continuously. Still, if you and that special person can it, just hold hands and admire the way the fleshy leaves twist around in their waxy smoothness. The pure chocolate aroma is worth the wait.

Annual, perennial delights

Despite its name, summer snowflake offers up its fragrance in spring.

The “snowflake” part of the name is apt, however, for this bulb’s nodding blooms are indeed snowflake white, much like those of another bulb, snowdrops, except larger.

Summer brings chocolate-y scents from two annual flowers: chocolate cosmos and birds’ eyes.

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.

Chocolate also wafts from a perennial vine. Crossvine (Akebia quinata), also known as five-leaf akebia, is native south of Virginia but root-hardy much further north. Grown in full sun, this vine covers itself with brown or reddish-brown trumpet-shaped blooms that blare out a mocha scent for a few weeks each spring.

Caution: In some regions, akebia is listed as an invasive plant. Contact your local department of environmental conservation or cooperative extension office to find out.

Read more articles by Lee Reich



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