Fragrant flowers make the garden something memorable. If you’ve ever strolled outside at sunset and been surrounded by the tantalizing, citrus-y essence of orange or lemon blooms, you know what I mean.
These are my top picks for fragrant flowers and shrubs you’ll want to plant around a patio or bring in bunches for a vase on your table. Consider planting several of these varieties by a window you enjoy opening and revel in the most heavenly of perfumes.
If you are picky about smells, it might be a good idea to smell the real thing before going to the time, trouble, and expense to plant it.
Top Fragrant Flowers and Shrubs
1). Crab apple trees
I have included a tree here because it brings fragrance right up to nose level!
Crab trees are famous for their colorful, fragrant springtime blooms. But be choosy about the crab you pick…some are nasty and others divine! Best Crabapples for Your Yard
A local nurseryman may be able to direct you to a specific variety that is good in your part of the world.
2). Roses seem to be the quintessential fragrant flower.
I cannot think of another shrub that gives us flowers for as long as they do. Look for a rose that is a repeat bloomer, so that once they start in spring you can usually expect flowers through fall depending on your zone. Many David Austin roses are bred for scent as is ‘Abraham Darby’ (seen below). Its lusciously double, pink petals are heavy with fragrance.
They tend to smell strongest in the early evening and make very good cut flowers, too, bringing their scent indoors.
Photo: Marie Viljoen
On the topic of fragrant daylilies (most are NOT fragrant) a Boston blog states, “Oftentimes well-meaning hybridizers neglect fragrance, instead favoring a particular color or over-sized blooms.
Hemerocallis dumortieri is a species daylily meaning it is exactly as you would find it growing in fields of wildflowers in Manchuria, eastern Russia, Korea, and Japan (no hybridization). The golden yellow-orange flowers have a scent to match their color; the fragrance is a heavenly combination of orange blossoms and honeysuckle.”
4). Old-fashioned lilacs are one of the best examples of fragrant flowering shrubs.
Their delectable floral notes are one of my fondest as a girl, as we played within a huge circular clump of shrubs. It was cool and shady and made a wonderful castle!
Blooming from early to late spring, this lovely shrub’s flowers will last about two weeks, and then it will be over. I think they are worth the wait. We take for granted something we have all the time. They can get quite large, so plant where they have room to spread out.
My only lilac (above) was a gift from a friend. Growing to be large shrubs, lilacs spread by sending out lateral suckers; she thoughtfully dug a small start from the edge of her shrub.
5). Specialty Lilies are one of the most fragrant flowers
Super easy to grow, “Orienpet” lilies combine the sublime beauty of Oriental lilies with the garden persistence, heat tolerance and color of Trumpet and Aurelian hybrids. Orienpets do not need any staking; they should be planted in a sunny but sheltered area.
‘Luminaries’ is a 4-6′ fragrant lily.
‘Silk Road’ won the Popularity Poll four years in a row, and is now part of the Lilium Hall of Fame. This 4-6′ and taller lily is highly fragrant.
If you LOVE flowers, you will love browsing The Lily Garden!
6). Fragrant peonies often last for generations in the garden.
An old-fashioned heirloom from the early 1900s, many think ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ is still one of the loveliest peonies there is.
‘Big Ben’ is a gorgeous, easy-growing heirloom selection from 1943 offers very large, rose-red blooms. The fragrance is outstanding and the plant has wonderful vigor, performing well in the garden each year.
Here are Top Picks: 23 Perfect Peonies, many of which are fragrant.
7.) Viburnums, hardy shrubs with fragrant flowers
In our yard, spice bush viburnums shrubs have one of the strongest, most pleasant of the fragrant flowers of late spring.
If full sun is a challenge, Mohawk or Korean Spice viburnums (Viburnum carlesii) are delightful early to mid-spring shrubs for gardens with dappled shade, afternoon or morning-only sun. They do not bloom in full shade. Appearing on the stems before the leaves, the flower clusters are richly-scented white snowballs with a touch of clove.
Mohawk’s buds are red and open to a creamy white. Cold-tolerant viburnums require minimal fuss as long as they have good drainage.
8.) Hyacinth (aka Grape Hyacinth or Muscari)
Cluster of spring flowers in colors of red, white, blue and more, hyacinths are appealing for eyes and their fragrance resembles a combination of strawberry and honeysuckle soothing for nostrils. They come from a bulb, set in the soil, and are hardy repeating their bloom perennially! There are many different cultivars, so have fun choosing your favorites! They prefer cold climate and tough to grow in tropics.
You can make bouquets of them and they smelled heavenly.
9.) Nicotiana sylvestris for more Southern gardens
Nicotiana is a statuesque member of the tobacco family that is a spectacular filler for points in your garden where some low maintenance drama is needed. And then there is the scent, which is divine. Plant these fragrant flowers near your patio or bedroom window as the scent is most pronounced at night. Nicotiana has enjoyed mixed reviews. It can self-seed aggressively, and make itself unpopular. To avoid this unruly behavior, deadhead the flowers before they set seed.
10.) The Butterfly Bush, extremely fragrant flowers
These long-blooming beauties have very fragrant flowers, and I adore having a few of these woody shrubs by walkways we frequent. This one is from our yard, and it is almost continually covered with butterflies and pollinators.
Our winner, almost 30% gardeners voted for Gardenia. There are three reasons for it:
- It grows everywhere, in cold or in tropics.
- Its big milky white flowers like flap of petals in roses looks so beautiful and their magical odor, which is not as overpowering as jasmine.
- Its fragrance that blends in its surroundings like a part of it.
*Gardenia becomes most powerful during the rain, when wet wind blows through its creamy flowers and comes out with a lustful scent.
There are literally thousands more to be seen in God’s vast creation. One can only barely touch the surface of this dimension of His creative works.
And don’t forget that many herbs are highly fragrant! An herb garden can be a great place for pondering the mysteries of the universe, or just a good place to get some outrageous flavors to add to the morning’s eggs.
“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” ~2 Corinthians 2: 14
Here are some past gardening posts you might find helpful as you plan to garden:
- Back To Eden~ How To Start A Sustainable Garden
- Sturdy Newspaper Seedling Pots ~ DIY
- What To Plant With Tomatoes ~ Companion Planting
- Ramblings About Rain-Barrels
- Better Nutritionally Than Blueberries ~Growing Aronias, Elderberries, and Currants
- 10 Garden Elements With Big Impact
- Straw Bale Urban Gardening~Ideas and Getting Started
…and there are many more in the archives…