The Best Smelling Flowers You Can Plant in Your Garden
Find the best smelling flowers for your garden from this fragrant mix of annuals and perennials.
There’s nothing like the beautiful scent of garden flowers drifting through the window on a warm breeze. Here are some of the best smelling flowers, both annual and perennial, to include in your backyard garden.
These blooms also go by the name of “night-scented stock,” and with good reason. They’re most potent in the evening, releasing an alluring fragrance of spice and vanilla. Stock is a cool-weather annual, which means plants grow better in spring and fall, and in zones with cooler summers. Add stock to garden beds and containers near patios and decks where you can enjoy their scent as the sun goes down.
Any list of best smelling flowers has to include roses! There are a dizzying number of rose varieties, which means you can find the perfect color, growing habit and scent for your garden. English roses are particularly prized for their aroma and disease resistance.
Since rose petals are edible, use them in your baking and to add flavor to sugar or make rose petal honey.
The clean, calming scent of lavender has been cherished for millennia, both fresh and dried . It’s used in cleaning products, soaps and even medicinally. English lavender is hardy to zone 5 and easy to grow. You can harvest and dry buds to add a unique floral flavor to tea, whipped cream, cakes and even lavender cookies.
Grown as an annual in most of the country, this fragrant flower is another evening bloomer. (Hence the name!) Growers describe moonflower scent as sweet, citrusy, even beachy. Luminous white flowers grow up to six inches across, and much like morning glories, will twine up supports. Soften the seeds in water to speed up germination, and then sow them directly in your garden beds or by your patio. Learn more about how to grow moonflower vine.
Dianthus flowers got the name “pinks” not for the color, but from the feathery edges—as though snipped with pinking shears. They also go by the names carnations and Sweet William, and have been a favorite bloom for hundreds of years. The pretty, cottage garden flowers are beloved for their beauty and their heady scent of spicy cloves. Most varieties of pinks are hardy to zone 3 and bloom through the summer.
This perennial ground cover is one of the first to poke through the ground in spring, with slender, dark-green leaves. Lily of the valley flowers hang from green stems like a row of little white bells. Though tiny, they’re one of the best smelling flowers you’ll encounter. I love to place small vases of lily of the valley stems in the house after a good spring cleaning. The plants return and spread each year, growing in zones 2-9.
The scent of bee balm, or monarda, has been compared to mint, oregano and even orange, one reason why bee balm is sometimes referred to as “wild bergamot.” (Though true bergamot is derived from citrus oil.) No matter how you describe the spicy scent, it’s a beautiful flower to have in your garden and hardy in zones 4-9. The tubular flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
Add this plant to your edible landscape, and harvest the flowers and leaves for tea or to flavor salads and meats.
Frilly and pretty, sweet peas are beloved for their beauty in the garden and their honey-sweet scent. These annual or perennial plants are garden vines, so train them up trellises and supports to add vertical dimension to your yard.
Some find sweet peas fussy to grow. To ensure success, start seeds early, plant in rich soil and give them lots of sun with shaded roots.
If you like the aroma of cherry pie, almond or vanilla, then highly fragrant heliotropes belong in your garden! They’re an old-fashioned favorite with abundant blooms, and do well in traditional gardens or container gardens. The name means “turn to the sun,” which is what the flower heads of heliotrope do throughout the day. Grown as annuals in most of the country, heliotropes grow up to three feet tall and bloom all summer.
The powerful and rather seductive aroma of Oriental lilies will drift through your windows the moment they bloom in mid-summer. They’re stunning with rich color, broad, showy petals and long stamen. One of the most popular varieties of Oriental lily is the Stargazer, with petals that are deep reddish-pink edged in white. Planting lily bulbs is one of the most rewarding fall garden chores.
If you’re looking for a plant to sweeten the evening air, this is a great choice. Also known as flowering tobacco, nicotiana is grown in most zones as an annual. It has slender, tubular white flowers growing above large green leaves, and the jasmine-like scent is strongest after dark. Look for the heirloom variety Nicotiana alata, or Jasmine Tobacco, which is more fragrant than modern cultivars.
Clouds of sweet alyssum in shades of white, purple and pink are so pretty in garden borders and containers, and they have a wonderful, honey-like scent to boot. Grow alyssum from starts or from seeds planted directly in the ground. It grows as an annual in colder zones, and will readily self-sow in the following years. Growing alyssum in containers is a great way to have easy access to the sweetly scented flowers. Find more tips for container gardening.
One of the best smelling flowers! The fragrance of phlox paniculata (the tall variety that blooms mid to late summer) will not only draw you in, but will also attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Phlox grow to heights of two to four feet, and are perfect to place behind shorter perennials. The perfumed blooms appear in mid-summer, and you can find varieties of phlox in white, pink, orange and purple.