9 of the Best-Smelling Flowers That Belong in Your Garden
This fragrant mix of annuals and perennials will help you find the best smelling flowers for your garden.
There’s nothing like catching the scent of flowers drifting through the window on a warm summer breeze. Here are some of my favorites, both annual and perennial, to include in your flower garden.
This list of best smelling flowers has to start with 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. The scent description for the orange ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’ rose reads like a wine label: “Fruity, with hints of pear, grape and citrus.”
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, dried and 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.
Lily of the Valley
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 the flowers are tiny, they have one of the most potent and lovely floral perfumes you’ll ever smell. I love to place small vases of lily of the valley stems throughout the house after a good spring cleaning. The plants return and spread each year, growing in zones 2-9.
The scent of bee balm flowers has been described as having hints of mint, oregano or thyme. There is also an orangey scent to the flowers and leaves, 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 is hardy in zones 4-9. The tubular flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
Frilly and pretty, sweet peas are beloved for their beauty in the garden, in cut bouquets and for their honey-sweet scent. These annual or perennial plants are garden vines, so train them over 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.
The powerful and rather seductive aroma of Oriental lilies will drift through your windows the moment they bloom in mid-summer. They are also visually stunning with rich color, broad, showy petals and long stamen. One of the most popular varieties of Oriental lily is ‘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.
This is another garden favorite whose fragrance 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.