Blooms are great for adding visual interest to a landscape and attracting those all-important pollinators. Part of the allure of a flower garden also is its wonderful fragrance! Here are 15 of our favorite fragrant garden plants for adding beauty and lovely scents to your outdoor spaces.
English lavender—This aromatic herb looks beautiful planted in a large swath in the garden. It also grows well in containers. The dark, lavender-blue flower spikes are very attractive to butterflies as well. Lavender thrives in growing conditions similar to its native habitat along the Mediterranean coast. They prefer moist, cool winters and hot, dry summers. Well-drained soil and a full day’s sun are also essential for robust plants and plentiful blooms.
Learn more about growing lavender.
Peonies—Prized for their form, stunning range of colors, and exceptional hardiness, few other plants once established bloom so reliably year after year with such little care. Their large, glorious flowers add bright splashes of color to beds and borders and their intoxicating fragrance make them a wonderful cut flower. And, as if there wasn’t enough to love already about peonies, they’re also deer resistant.
Don’t miss Flower‘s collection of peony arrangements!
Lemon Balm—Part of the mint family, this herb has a lemon flavor and smells of lemon with a hint of mint. It is great in teas, salads, and even cut to use in bouquets. Lemon balm can quickly take over in your garden if you’re not careful. Unlike mint, the roots are not the problem here. It’s the seeds. The best course of action to prevent lemon balm from taking over the garden is to remove its flowers as soon as you notice them.
Catmint—At the peak of spring, the 30-inch tall plants are lush with gray-green, scented foliage and literally covered in spires of soft purple blooms. If you struggle with growing the herb lavender, I suggest you try nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ as an alternative. Catmint does best in full sun, planted in soil that is moist, but well-drained.
Lilac—This plant produces fragrant lavender blooms. Lilacs bloom best when planted in full sun and well-drained, alkaline soil. Plants should be fertilized with a general fertilizer in early spring and then again after the bloom cycle. To encourage blooms, substitute the general fertilizer with super phosphate, or a fertilizer high in phosphorus, for your early spring feeding.
More on growing lilac bushes.
Champneys’ Pink Cluster Rose—You will find these throughout the rose garden at Moss Mountain Farm. Champneys’ Pink Cluster is a Noisette rose, the first class of American roses. The clusters of pale pink blossoms have an intoxicating fragrance. Champneys’ Pink Cluster can be trained to climb with the right support. Pruning will allow you to grow it as a shrub as well.
Learn about more of our favorite fragrant roses.
Oriental lilies—These fragrant flowers are late summer bloomers. They need to be planted in well-drained soil in full sun. Water moderately once they start to bloom. These lilies are so easy to care for, but a word of warning: deer will love your lilies as much as you do!
Mock orange—Adding mock orange to your garden is one of my favorite ways to get that wonderful citrus fragrance without having to care for fruit trees, which can be a real hassle. While the name suggests something deceiving—especially with the absence of color on the petals—the scent is all real and really lovely. For the best results, plant mock orange in full sun or partial shade and make sure the soil is moist and place in a well-drained area of your garden or yard.
Hyacinths—With a little love and patience, you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous fragrant hyacinth blooms in the spring. Many people grow them indoors by forcing the bulbs. To grow outdoors, plant the bulbs in early fall in rich, moist, well-drained soil. Growing hyacinths in containers is another option, and it gives you more control over the soil conditions.
Gardenia—Very few plants can top the sweet smell of gardenias! And those gorgeous white blooms pop against the glossy, deep green foliage. Grow gardenias in a protected area that gets full sun to part shade. The plant thrives in consistently moist, well-drained soil. Feed the plant in the spring before new growth starts using an all-purpose fertilizer.
Wisteria—Oh, sweet wisteria! Those gorgeous violet-blue blooms and their sweet smell that takes over the garden just scream “spring!” Wisteria is really easy to grow but has be controlled with regular pruning. Plant wisteria in rich, moist soil in a sunny spot if you want it to bloom. Once established, wisteria is drought tolerant and requires very little care aside from pruning.
Tuberose—With good drainage and ample mulching, these Mexican exotics are quite rewarding. They are prized for their tall sprays of pearly white, tubular, very fragrant flowers. Plant them near a patio, walk, deck, or other living space to enjoy the spicy-sweet fragrance. Grow tuberoses in organically rich, well-draining soil. Plant the rhizomes 2 inches deep and 6 inches apart in spring after the threat of frost is past. Provide consistent moisture throughout the growing season.
Pineapple Sage—A magnet for hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees, pineapple sage is named for the pineapple scent of its foliage. The bold red blooms make an appearance in late summer/early fall. Grow pineapple sage in a sunny spot that has a bit of afternoon shade. Soil should be well drained, but the plant needs moisture to support it as it grows quickly. Once established, pineapple sage is drought tolerant.
Honeysuckle—You can’t go wrong with honeysuckle! It will thrive in most conditions and is a perfect choice for attracting wildlife to the garden. Honeysuckle grows best in full sun but can take a bit of shade. Plant in well-drained soil amended with organic matter for best results.
Trumpet vine/ Angel’s trumpet—Another plant that attracts hummingbirds, trumpet vine grows well in sun or partial shade and can handle most soil conditions. Trumpet vine is a rapid grower and, like wisteria, can quickly become out of control without regular pruning. You should consider a support structure when choosing where to plant trumpet vine. A fence or trellis works well. Avoid using trees as support.
By P. Allen Smith
P. Allen Smith is one of America’s most recognized garden and design experts. His Moss Mountain Farm serves as a place of inspiration, education, and conservation. Book tours at pallensmith.com/tours.
More of Allen’s Favorite Garden Flowers
- Zinnia Flowers Save the Day
- Adventures in Roses
- Salvia Varieties for Your Garden
- Hydrangea Varieties for Every Garden
- Sunflower Varieties