Gardening Answers

Do You Consider Fragrance in the Garden?

mdwyer | Posted in Midwest Gardening on

Wondering if you specifically select and incorporate fragrant plants into your gardens?  Is your focus on those that emit a fragrance or perhaps those you rub and smell? What are your favorites?  At the healing garden I manage, we’ve utilized quite a few of the chocolate cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus) which actually smell like dark chocolate when you get close!  They are positioned along waist-height raised beds for easy access and enjoyment!


  1. User avater Moderator
    marti_n_midwest_moderator | | #1

    Fragrance is an important consideration when I am designing gardens for my clients and myself. I love to incorporate scented foliage, herbs and fragrant flowers. Fragrant viburnums are one of favorite species of plant.

    1. User avater Moderator
      mdwyer | | #2

      I love fragrant viburnums too Marti! Another cool spring blooming woody with amazing scent (and excellent fall color by the way!) is the fragrant abelia (Abelia mosanensis) z (4)5. It has an arching, informal look which should be taken into account but the flower power and sweet scent emitted over a wide radius is amazing!

  2. User avater Moderator
    DrPulte_Moderator | | #3

    We love osmanthus in The Southeast!

    1. User avater Moderator
      mdwyer | | #4

      Not fair to tease us with Osmanthus in the Midwest Doc! :)

  3. joe_green_thumb | | #5

    I have several fragrant plants in my garden: Daphne odora, Jim’s Pride Daphne, Sarcococca, Chinese Witchhazel, Japanese snowbell, stargazer lilies, pretty woman orienpet lily, Choysia ternata (Sundance and straight species), roses, lavender, thyme, rosemary, sage, agastache, Miss Kim Korean lilac, Korean Spice viburnum, Dawn viburnum Chinese Paperbush (Edgeworthia Chrysantha), Azara microphylla, and currently blooming in three separate spots in my yard: Clethra alnifolia ‘Sixteen Candles’ (Sweet Pepperbush which is very perfumy)

    1. User avater Moderator
      mdwyer | | #11

      That's an amazing assortment of fragrant plants! I try to include many that "emit" fragrance to perfume the air but also enjoy that "tactile engagement" with those plants that need to be rubbed a bit....I've been mystified by a scented geranium (Pelargonium) called 'Old Spice' that is spot on!

  4. JMoore | | #6

    Yes, fragrance is an important consideration in my Mid-Atlantic garden. Lemon balm (crush the leaves to enjoy) is a favorite. Dill and Fennel are also pleasant for some of us. Clethra, in bloom now, emits a warm spicy fragrance. And Mint, if you can control it, is a wonderful addition.

    1. User avater Moderator
      mdwyer | | #12

      Love both dill and fennel (great ornamentals too!). Lemon verbena has a nice clear lemon scent too. I've found Clethra a bit challenging to grow due to its preference for moist soils and acidic pH but have a nice 'Ruby Spice' that is amazing as I type!

  5. user-7027539 | | #7

    I am enjoying the fragrance of Prairie Dropseed here in Madison, WI in my garden.

    1. User avater Moderator
      mdwyer | | #13

      Have you visited Olbrich Botanical Gardens (OBG) in Madison this time of year as well? Their use of prairie dropseed throughout the gravel gardens there is a textural masterpiece and I also love that scent! Photo is from one of the gravel gardens at OBG

  6. ritam | | #8

    I work with mostly WA native plants. Our native mock orange, Philadelphus lewisii, has the most wonderful smell and beautiful flowers. It is very underutilized.

    1. User avater Moderator
      mdwyer | | #14

      Beautiful! The smell of mock orange is amazing. I'm a huge fan of this 'E. A. Bowles' variegated mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius) as it also has some neat variegation!

  7. gardendevas | | #9

    Absolutely! Fragrance is provided in my garden by bulbs, shrubs, perennials and trees; hyacinths, blueberries, apple, lilacs, roses, phlox, asiatic lilies, perovskia, and annuals such as heliotrope, moonflower (ipomea), salvias and more. I also companion plant strategically “smelly” plants such as artemisias, catmint, cleomes, daturas next to roses and other delectable to discourage deer, beetles and other marauders.

    1. User avater Moderator
      mdwyer | | #15

      Sounds like you have fragrance covered! I love your comment about "strategic placement" to deter unwanted interlopers. I also believe in strategic placement of fragrant plants for home enjoyment and absolutely love growing the annual night phlox (Zaluzianskya capensis) in containers on the back porch that we enjoy in the evening when they open and perfume the air!

      1. User avater Moderator
        Chloe_Moderator | | #17

        I love night phlox! Such a unique scent. I plant containers specifically with night fragrance in mind and often use this one. Night blooming jasmine (cestrum nocturnum) is another intense night fragrance I like. It perfumes the whole house through just one open window!

  8. 110947 | | #10

    My favorite shrub for an amazing ruby spice clethra. Also Thai Jade Phlox is a close second.

    1. User avater Moderator
      mdwyer | | #16

      Two great plants! Ironically, I just mentioned Clethra 'Ruby Spice' above in a previous reply as a favorite as well! It's looking good right now as you know! It sure receives lots of pollinator interest as well. I spaced 50 'Satisfaction' Orienpet lilies (Lilium) around the garden a couple years ago and their collective fragrance in summer is enchanting!

  9. gardendevas | | #18

    Thanks for more great ideas to try!

  10. 5bee_gardener | | #19

    those cosmos are beautiful, i grow others, but wasn't aware of a chocolate smelling variety :) will have to add to my collection.

    to answer your question, i grow a lot of roses, so i definitely do take that into consideration. i also have some lilacs, monarda, rosemary, and a few other scented plants that i grow.

    1. User avater Moderator
      mdwyer | | #20

      Sounds like you have some amazing fragrances in the garden! Another great annual for a "chocolate" fragrance is the chocolate daisy (Berlandiera lyrata)!

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