by Matt Gibson
Everyone loves a nice aroma, and flowers are some of the best producers of pleasant fragrances in the world. So, what are the most fragrant flowers available to grow in your garden? To answer the question, we’ve put together a list of the top 27 flowering plants that emit the loveliest fragrances.
These sweet-smelling flowers will make you stop and breathe deeply in order to fully appreciate their enchanting aromas. A well-planned garden should entice all of the senses, and what better way to make your garden shine than to add in a handful or two of the 27 most fragrant flowers available to spruce up the smell of your garden getaway?
A low-growing perennial with a spicy vanilla aroma, dianthus flowers are often called “pinks” due to the fringed look of their petals, which appear to have been cut with pinking shears. Though dianthus is available in many different shades of pink, there are many varieties available, offering gardeners a wide color selection to choose from. Use dianthus for the edges of garden beds, or plant them in containers in a location that receives full sun exposure.
Pollinators will come from miles around to treat themselves to the nectar of this delicate annual. The tiny blooms produce a strong, sweet scent that is one-of-a-kind. Plant sweet alyssum in containers, hanging baskets, or window boxes. Its small root system adapts well to rock gardens, and it performs as a durable, flowering ground cover. Select a home for your alyssum that provides full to partial sunlight.
Everyone loves the smell of a rosebush in full bloom. Perhaps the most popular scented flower in modern gardens, the rose is available in endless types and colors. Be sure to check that you are selecting a rose that’s specifically advertised as scented before you purchase, as some varieties have been bred with a focus on the flower’s form, which can eliminate the potency of rose’s famous scent.
Cascading over a fence line or spilling elegantly over a trellis, the honeysuckle vine is a showy, vigorous perennial that brings lots of pollinators into your garden when it blooms. Be sure to select native varieties or newer cultivars that are not as invasive as the original Japanese honeysuckle breed. Plant in full sunlight in a location that has a support for the vine to grow on, such as a fence, or a garden trellis.
The colorful blooms of the scented primrose flower are said to herald the arrival of spring, and these flowers produce a mildly fruity scent that is surprisingly pleasant. Scented primrose is available in a wide range of blossom hues, all of which are paired with rich, dense, textured dark green foliage. Perfect for container gardens, scented primrose requires very little care or maintenance once it’s established.
Closely related to oleander, plumeria (also called frangipani, yasmin, and champa) is a subtropical or tropical flower that releases a subtle scent during the day. The flower’s smell becomes more pronounced during the evening and nighttime hours.
Lilac (Butterfly Bush)
Blooming throughout the spring and summer months, the lilac flower creates a lovely scent that is all its own. Grow lilac shrubs directly in your garden beds, or try your hand at some of the newly bred (and much smaller) hybrid versions made to thrive in containers.
Phlox flowers come in pink, salmon, white, red, purple, and bi-color varieties that are at their best when planted in large swaths or added to mixed borders. Most types are self-seeders, so you won’t have to worry about planting phlox every year. Phlox flowers require lots of air circulation to prevent powdery mildew, which they are susceptible to. Phlox generally enjoy full sunlight, but these flowers may require partial shade in hotter climate areas.
Sweet Autumn Clematis
Producing perfumed clusters of silvery white flowers from late summer to autumn, the sweet autumn clematis emits an otherworldly aroma that is adored by gardeners around the world. Classified as a deciduous flowering vine, the sweet autumn clematis requires a trellis or other form of support to grow upon. Be sure to plant in a location with strong, deep borders, or clematis may take over your garden in no time.
Brugmansia is also commonly called angel’s trumpet because of its vibrant, trumpet-shaped orange flowers that create a strong but sweet aroma. Often mixed in the garden with datura, the brugmansia flower is hardy to zones nine through 12. Though brugmansia typically needs a dry, hot climate area, with a little bit of extra knowledge and care, gardeners could see them succeed in colder climates.
The peony is a perennial flowering shrub that produces giant, lush blooms, which often require staking to support their massive size. The enormous blooms produce a subtle, elegant aroma as they unfold atop the peony’s dense, glossy dark green foliage. Don’t plant your peony seeds too deep into the soil, as they won’t sprout if you do. Plant them in a location that receives full sunlight exposure.
The only flowering tree to make our list, the flowering crabapple makes the cut because the blooms it produces each spring emit a smell that is both inviting and long-lasting. Plant flowering crabapple in full sun, then enjoy its delicate beauty and invigorating aroma for seasons to come. Newer varieties of crabapple are more resistant to illness, and some produce vibrantly colored foliage that is nearly as attractive as the tree’s springtime blooms.
Ylang-Ylang (Cananga Odorata)
Ylang-ylang is native to the rainforests of Asia and Australia and hardy to zones 10 and 11. This plant is also called the perfume tree because its blooms produce a smell that can be enjoyed from miles away. If you live in a tropical climate, ylang-ylang is a great selection to add lasting fragrance to your garden’s perks.
Also known as the tobacco flower, nicotiana blooms appear from summer to fall. Nicotiana flowerheads burst open at noon with seemingly no aroma to speak of at first, but they ooze a potent dose of pleasant perfume from late in the evening until dusk. This plant’s tubular flowerheads look similar to petunias, and nicotiana is available in white, pink, red, and pale green. Nicotiana prefers full sun to partial shade.
Lily of the Valley
The lily of the valley flower is hardy to USDA zones two through nine producing dainty bell-shaped white or pale pink flowers that spread their fragrance out to cover vast areas. This spring bloomer prefers consistently moist soil and partial shade. Its low-growing tendencies make it a great pick for a ground cover.
Viburnum is adored by gardeners both for its glorious foliage and because of its sweetly scented blooms. The Korean spice variety has a particularly pleasant aromatic profile as well as pretty clusters of puffy white flowers during the spring.
Lilies are known for being aromatic, but the hybrid variety known as the stargazer lily is the most fragrant lily you can grow. Its scent has been called sensual and inviting, with spicy undertones. Plant this exotic-looking lily in partial shade.
Called rajnigandha in its native India, the tuberose flower thrives in hot, tropical locations. Its tube-like blooms appear in spring and summer producing an enticing, warm odor that leaves a lasting impression. Tuberose can be grown as an annual in colder climates.
Stock flowers are commonly used in bouquets, as the plant’s spicy-sweet pink, purple, or white blooms are easy on the eyes as well as the nose. Plant stock as soon as the weather starts to break in early spring, as this flower does better in cooler temperatures. Stock enjoys full sun to partial shade.
Daphne is a winter plant that prefers cool weather, only blooming for a short period during February and March. A favorite of the perfume industry, daphne flowers are rarely grown ornamentally because of the care they require. However, the daphne’s bloom produces an alluring fragrance that might be worth all the extra care and effort.
Freesia flowers have a charming, fruity scent and are a favorite of European gardeners. For the most fragrant flowerheads, choose a white or yellow variety of freesia. Freesia is also one of the most popular flowers to use for bouquets, as this plant has long-lasting, colorful, and highly fragrant blooms with a very long vase life.
Hyacinth is a popular flower in modern gardens for both its ornamental and aromatic qualities. Available in a wide array of vibrant colors, the hyacinth produces large clusters of small, rounded blooms that result in an aroma reminiscent of strawberries and honeysuckle. Tough to grow in tropical areas, the hyacinth flower is suited to colder climates.
Jasmine flowers are considered to be the most fragrant blossoms in the world. The blooms produce a scent so heady that some people don’t like the concentrated smell. Jasmine flowers can be detected from great distances, and up close the aroma can be overpowering. The jasmine flower’s oils are used in perfume and aromatherapy recipes. Night-blooming jasmine has an especially pleasing fragrance.
When it rains, the gardenia flower creates a very powerful perfume that seems to blend in to the environment around it. The gardenia’s milky white flowers are a sight for sore eyes, and their smell, though similar to jasmine, is not nearly as overwhelming. Gardenia is a favorite of gardeners because it needs very little care and attention and can grow in practically any environment.
The flowers and foliage of this aromatic herb permeate the countryside of southern France in midsummer. If a lavender hedge is planted next to a walkway, you and other garden guests will catch a nice whiff of its perfumed presence every time you pass by. A favorite of hummingbirds, lavender’s calming scent and bright purple, upward-thrusting blooms catch the eye while drawing in pollinators.
The evening primrose plant grows to a height of five feet, and it produces blooms that only open at night. When the blossoms finally open, they also emit an intoxicatingly pleasant smell until the sun begins to rise. Available with white, pink, and yellow flowers, the evening primrose is a great addition to borders and container gardens alike.
The mock orange plant is a flowering shrub that produces white, four-petaled flowers that smell like oranges and create a cloud of perfume that spreads out into the air around them. The shrub can grow up to 10 feet high, producing blooms from late spring until early summer.
As different flowering plants have different needs when it comes to climate and care, there is no way that any gardener could successfully grow all of the flowers listed here in their garden at home. However, any gardener could use a handful of these fragrant flowers to help ensure that their garden display entices each of the five senses. Pick out three or four of your favorite flowers on the list that flourish in your area, then place them in different areas of your garden to create a natural scentscape to enjoy for years to come.