Issue 45 Fragrant Plants

These lists of sweet-smelling plants can help you create your own sweet memories.

Fragrant Plants

I’ve categorized these plants by scent, but as you know, it’s hard to describe odors, so some are merely filed under “sweet.” In actuality, most fragrances are quite complex. Also, cultivars of roses, lilies, irises and a few others span several scent groups.

Be aware that fragrance affects each of us personally — and not just because of our past experiences. For example, some people swoon over sweet alyssum’s perfume while others hold their noses. So while I say a flower smells great, you might not agree. Also, breeding has removed the scent from many species. You may need to sniff around to find the right cultivar to perfume your garden.

Spicy – Season the air with spicy-scented, cool-weather plants. These annuals and biennials will scent the spring air until warm weather arrives in summer.

Wallflower Erysimum cheiri  
Stocks Matthiola incana or M. longipetala  
Carnation Dianthus caryophyllus  
Spring-blooming daphne Daphne x burkwoodii zone 4
Koreanspice viburnum Viburnum carlesii zone 4
Summersweet Clethra alnifolia zone 3
Jasmine Jasminum officinale zone 7
Gardenia Gardenia augusta zone 8
English lavender Lavandula angustifolia zone 5
Southern magnolia trees Magnolia grandiflora zone 7

Citrus – These plants bring dreams of oranges and lemon-meringue pie.

German flag Iris germanica zone
Orris root Iris pallida zone 4
Sweetbay magnolia Magnolia virginiana zone 5
Oyama magnolia Magnolia sieboldii zone 6
Angels trumpet Datura innoxia  

Fruity – Several species offer scents reminiscent of apple, raspberry, pineapple or cherry pie.

Four o’clocks Mirabilis jalapa  
Heliotrope Heliotropium arborescens  
Moroccan broom Argyrocytisus battandieri zone 7 
Oleander Nerium oleander zone 8

Sweet – What I call sweet fragrances range from the pungency of lilacs to the delicate bouquet of violets.

Flowering tobacco Nicotiana sylvestris  
Perennial and Biennial
Dames rocket Hesperis matronalis zone 3
Lily Lilium spp. zone 4
Japanese skimmia Skimmia japonica zone 7
Virginia sweetspire Itea virginica zone 5
Dwarf fothergilla Fothergilla gardenii zone 5
Mockorange Philadelphus coronarius zone 4
Goldflame honeysuckle Lonicera x heckrottii zone 5
Tea olive Osmanthus fragrans zone 7
Lilac Syringa vulgaris zone 3
Wisteria Wisteria floribunda zone 4