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Tips for Growing a Fragrant Garden

By: Garden Gate staff
Nothing beats the sweet scent of lilacs floating through your window on a spring breeze. Find out where to plant your favorite fragrant flowers for the most impact.

Why grow a fragrant garden?

Who can resist leaning into a big peony (Paeonia hybrids) or rose (Rosa spp. and hybrids) bloom to enjoy the sweet smell? Fragrance makes wandering through the garden a richer experience and even has the ability to take us back to moments and people in our past. Imagine running your hands through lavender (Lavandula spp. and hybrids) foliage to help unwind after a stressfull day or taking in the grapey scent of tall bearded irises (Iris hybrids), such as those above, to be transported by fond memories back to grandma’s back porch. Fragrance is an element of your garden’s design you don’t want to miss out on. Check out these tips and you’ll find the best ways to use fragrant plants in your garden.

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Star jasmine plant next to a patio chair: Placing fragrant plants like this star of jasmine next to a chair is a great way to enjoy its heavenly scent up close and personal.

Add fragrance to a seating area

Fragrant flowers belong where they can perfume your everyday activities. Do you have a favorite place to sit? That’s a great place for a container like the pot of star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) above. Star jasmine is only cold-hardy in USDA zones 8 to 10. Grow it as an annual or save plants in fall and overwinter them indoors. Be sure to use a lightweight container so that if the scent isn’t to your visitor’s taste it’s easy to temporarily reposition this tender vine.

Consider placement

Look for a place that’s warm and still to allow the fragrance to build in a getaway. A fence or hedge can prevent the wind from dissipating your favorite scent or sending it over to the neighbor’s patio.

Lavender plants along a pathway: Adding fragrant plants like lavender along pathways begs visitors to reach out and touch, activating the scent.

Add fragrance to paths

With some plants, the foliage is where the action is, a touch is required to get results. Line a path with lavender (Lavandula spp. and hybrids) like the purple and white cultivars above and you can enjoy a relaxing walk as you brush your hands through its fragrant foliage. This perennial is well suited to all the reflected heat from stone or concrete. In fact, lavender thrives in warm sunny areas where the soil has excellent drainage. Annual pruning will keep plants healthy and long lived.

You may notice that fragrance is a little more intense when plants are somewhat drought-stressed. The lack of water makes the oils in the plant more concentrated.

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Creeping thyme growing between patio pavers: Try adding fragrant ground covers like creeping thyme will add scent in an unexpected place.

Try fragrant ground covers

Can’t squeeze in one more plant? Grow ground covers with fragrant foliage where you wouldn’t expect plants to thrive — between the steppers on your patio! This creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum) has spread to form an aromatic mat that you don’t have to worry about walking on — in fact, doing so releases the herb’s fragrance. Get more plants for your patio by cutting off 2-inch long stems from the main plant. Remove the foliage from the lower end and anchor it down with a small stone so it stays in contact with the soil. Keep it watered until you see new growth.

Published: March 6, 2018
Updated: March 3, 2021

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