In Sweden it is springtime for the potted plants with small, cute flowers, the ones that for years were hopelessly out of fashion and derogatorily called “missus flowers.”

The primula (primula), the African violet (saintpaulia), the begonia (begonia) and perhaps the greatest “missus flower” of them all—the geranium (pelargon)—are all coming back and with revenge. For Swedes the geranium is a flower often associated with Elsa Beskow’s story “Sagan om den lilla, lilla gumman” (The tale of the Little Little Old Woman). Beskow used the geranium in her circular Art Nouveau illustrations for that book.

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After years of being thought of as hopelessly out, the geranium had a comeback some years ago, and today you’ll find them in most homes in Sweden. But Hanna Ericson at Melanders blommor at Nybroplan in Stockholm says that begonias and African violets are also hitting center stage: “Many people have gotten tired of everything light and fresh and correct with white lilies in a vase. The ‘missus flowers’ are often very floral and lush.”
She believes the reason they’re popular again also has to do with the new colors the flowers come in. But what exactly makes a potted plant a “missus flower”? It seems it’s because you have to pinch off flowers as they fade, which takes a bit of work. Says Maj Westin at Mariatorgets Blommor: “A typical ‘missus flower’ is cute. The wood sorrel (oxalis), for instance, has lots of very cute flowers and it is popular right now.” And Lena Nilsson at Vildrosor och Tistlar concurs: “The begonia was out for a long, long time, but when we brought out an old orange begonia variety last fall, it sold very well. We liked that a lot. Also the African violet has become very popular lately. It’s a classic ‘missus flower’ that has now found a younger audience.”

Another flower associated with older ladies, is the rose geranium (which in Sweden has many names: Rosengeranium, doftgeranium, doctor Westerlunds hälsoblomma, fattigmansparfym and kärringgott are just some). In the old days it was said the flower was good for your heart. If you touch its petals, it gives off a pleasant scent. The rose geranium is easy to care for, and you can actually use its leaves to flavor baked goods, like pound cake.