Most plants have a scent---some so faint as not to be noticeable, and some even unpleasant. Fortunately, the majority of garden and landscape plants have very pleasant, and many superb, fragrances. There are many to choose from. Some grow better in particular regions. To make sure that your garden has great horticultural aroma, check with a local university cooperative extension for a list of good-smelling plants that grow well in your area.
The obvious first choice for both visual and aromatic beauty are flowers. The five "best-smellers" in this category include Rosa (rose), with many used for base and finishing scents in perfume manufacturing. Roses may be small plants or climb to 50 feet or more. Lillium (lily) species are notoriously fragrant and there are varieties for most growing zones. They bloom in many colours during the spring and fall. Phlox and Valeriana (heliotrope) are both sturdy perennials (year-round). They come in many varieties and colours and are often pleasingly fragrant. Purdue University rounds off the fragrant flower list with geraniums, hyacinth, narcissus, Artemisia, lavender, peony and some varieties of iris.
The evergreen shrub Osmanthus (tea olive) is noted to be the sweetest smelling southern garden plant, often compared to orange- or peach-blossom fragrances. Tea olives have holly-like leaves and bunches of small white, yellow or orange flowers. Jasminum (such as common white jasmine) also is favoured for its strong exotic perfume. Jasmine shrubs tend to be viny, grow up to 15 feet and are good for trellises. Syringa (lilac) have been in America since 1750 and are prized for their deep, rich, sweet scent. Lilacs bloom in white, pink and shades of purple, and can grow up to 30 feet tall. Rhododendron (rhododendrons and azaleas) are sweetly fragrant in a woodsy way. They bloom in almost every flower colour imaginable and have lively fall foliage.
Many Wisterias (frutesens/American, sinensis/Chinese, and floribunda/Japanese) have beautiful scents. Wisteria has cascading blooms in white, pink, blue, violet and purple. Lonicera (honeysuckle) is also known for its sweet smell. A favourite of hummingbirds and butterflies, honeysuckle vines bloom white, yellow, pink and red in the early spring. Some clematis, a few of which are evergreens, also have light sweet aromas. There is a clematis suitable for any and every climate. Stephanotis has fragrant white blooms on hardy twining vines. They are annuals and grow well on trellises.
Most of the 80 species of Magnolia have a lovely scent and are known for large waxy flowers that bloom before the foliage has greened out. They come in dwarf to 80-foot varieties. Some varieties of Crataegus (hawthorn) have fragrant white blossoms. Prunus padus (mayday tree) has lovely cascading chains of fragrant white flowers. Pinus (pine) is also fragrant, especially on warm days--a ponderosa pine's bark smells like vanilla. Clemson University indicates that these fragrant trees also attract songbird communities.
- Purdue University Cooperative Extension: Roses
- University of Maryland Cooperative Extension: Production of Hybrid Lilies as Cut Flowers
- Purdue University Cooperative Extension: Planning a Fragrance Garden
- Clemson University Cooperative Extension: Tea Olive
- Clemson University Cooperative Extension: Jasmine