Pelargonium graveolens (Geraniaceae) was characterized with respect to its chemical composition, antioxidant potential and antimicrobial activities. This is the first investigation focusing on the comparison of both essential oil and polar extracts from this species. The chemical composition of the essential oil of the aerial parts of P. graveolens was analyzed by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. The main constituents of the oil were found to be β-citronellol (21.9%), citronellyl formate (13.2%), geraniol (11.1%), 10-epi-γ-eudesmol (7.9%), geranyl formate (6.2%) and (l)-linalool (5.6%). Nine flavonoids were identified by high-performance liquid chromatography–MS in leaf and flower extracts. Kaempferol 3-O-rhamnoside-glucoside, isorhamnetin aglycone, quercetin 3-O-glucoside, kaempferol 3,7-di-O-glucoside, quercetin 3-O-pentose and kaempferol 3-O-glucoside, quercetin 3-O-rhamnoside-glucoside, quercetin 3-O-pentoside-glucoside, myrisetin 3-O-glucoside-rhamnoside flavonoids were detected in methanolic and aqueous extracts, respectively. The total flavonoids ranged between 29.9 and 78.2 mg QE/g in flower water and methanol extracts, respectively, and 22.5 and 71.2 mg QE/g dry weight in leaf water and methanol extracts, respectively. The highest antioxidant activities using two methods of free radical scavenging capacities were obtained with the essential oil (9.16 mM of Trolox and 2.68 µg/ml). All P. graveolens essential oil and polar extracts were active against at least one bacterium. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.