The best garden is one that engages all your five basic senses – sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell.
When setting up a garden, most of us consider adding plants that offer a variety of colors and textures and attract birds and butterflies.
But, we often tend to overlook the smell.
Fragrance not only enhances the appeal of your garden by adding another layer of richness to it but also makes your outdoor time a lot more pleasant.
To help you set up a garden that continues to fill the air in your home with
Pro Tip: Plant several of these fragrant annuals to have your garden full of aromatic blooms throughout the year.
For Spring Fragrance
Spring flowering is the only thing that keeps gardeners motivated to continue caring for their plants during the cold, dark, and gloomy winter days.
The pleasure of seeing your plants coming to life again, followed by the emergence of beautiful fragrant flowers, is simply priceless.
Here are the best fragrant annuals to add a burst of spring color and fragrance to your garden:
Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus)
A member of the Caryophyllaceae or carnation family, Dianthus Barbatus (Sweet William), is a small herbaceous plant widely grown for ornamental purposes due to its flowers.
The flowers are small but grow in dense terminal clusters in various striking colors.
They come in shades of pink, red, white, or even bicolor.
The flowering season begins in late spring or early summer and generally continues until the beginning of the frost season.
The showy flowers of Sweet William also attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
Stock (Matthiola spp.)
A member of the cabbage family, the stock plants produce small, colorful flowers with a rich, spicy fragrance, which is somewhat clove-like and gets intense in the evening.
The flower color can range from purple or lavender to pink and red.
Stock plants grow best in a sunny spot.
While they can tolerate some shade, it affects their flowering – plants grown in shaded locations produce fewer flowers.
Petunias (especially white)
These South American native plants are inarguably among the most popular garden annuals for late spring and summer flowers.
In addition to producing strikingly beautiful flowers in a wide range of colors, petunias are heat tolerant and low-maintenance plants.
Most petunia varieties bloom from spring to fall.
The flowers also attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees, acting as their primary pollinators.
Since there are hundreds of varieties of petunia plants, you will find petunia flowers in almost every color and a range of sizes.
Based on their flowering pattern, size, and growth habits, petunias are divided into the following broad categories:
- Grandiflora – These petunia varieties produce the largest flowers and are most suitable for planting in containers because they are highly susceptible to rain damage.
- Multiflora – The flower size of these petunias is smaller, but they are produced in much more quantity, making them ideal for beds and borders.
- These petunia varieties also have a higher tolerance for wet conditions.
- Milliflora – These petunia plants not only produce tiny flowers, but the overall plant size also remains small.
- Spreading – Petunias falling into this category make ideal groundcovers due to their spreading growth habit and their fast growth.
Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima)
Although sweet alyssum produces tiny blooms, they grow in abundance and form dense rounded clusters.
When grown as a groundcover, it looks like a carpet of flowers during the flowering season.
The small white flowers of Lobularia Maritima give off a unique fragrance – it has a honey-like sweetness and a hint of typical floral scent.
The flowering season generally lasts for as long as the growing season.
However, it can continue year-round in frost-free areas.
Pinks (Dianthus spp.)
Dianthus plants are called pinks because their pink flowers are variegated with a darker shade of pink at the center.
In addition to the striking color, the flowers also have a unique spicy scent, which makes them stand out from other widely grown garden plants.
You need to be very careful while working with Dianthus plants during the blooming period because their flowers are paper-thin and can easily get damaged.
Dianthus species and hybrids can easily be grown in USDA zones 3 to 9.
Sweet pea (Lathyrus Odoratus)
Known for their strong sweet-spicy scent, the small colorful cut flowers of sweet pea appear in clusters on winged stems.
They usually appear in pastel shades of pink, purple, and blue, but sometimes white or even bi-colored.
While the flowering season is typically short, it is extended a bit with regular deadheading.
For best results, grow the plant in rich, humusy, well-drained soil with moderate watering and full sun.
Although the plant appreciates full sun, it cannot tolerate very hot and humid summer climates.
Since the sweet pea plant has a climbing growth habit, it makes a beautiful display in pergolas, patios, and terraces.
Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens)
Featuring clusters of purple, cherry vanilla-scented blooms, the heliotrope plant not only makes a beautiful display during the blooming period but also fills the air with a unique scent, which will remind you of cherry pie.
This is why the plant is commonly referred to as the ‘cherry pie plant.’
The flowers are small and star-shaped and emerge in small, tightly-packed, rounded clusters.
While the flowers are generally purple, they can sometimes be lavender, blue, or even white. They are also attractive to butterflies.
Be careful about watering when growing the common Heliotrope.
Water regularly, but only enough to keep the soil evenly and consistently moist.
Letting the soil completely dry out will lead to the shedding of lower leaves.
For best results, grow the plant in full sun and pinch back the faded flower clusters to encourage the production of more blooms.
For Summer Fragrance
Here are our top picks for summer blooming plants:
Flowering tobacco (Nicotiana alata)
This summer bloomer produces mildly-scented flowers in shades of pink, light green, or white from summer to fall.
The flowers are slightly sticky and generally open at noon.
However, they sometimes only open on cloudy days or at night.
This North and South American native plant smell somewhat like lily.
Four-o’clock (Mirabilis Jalapa)
Also known as Marvel of Peru and Beauty of the Night, Mirabilis Jalapa is the most widely grown Mirabilis species.
Mirabilis is the Latin word for wonderful, referring to the beautiful flowers the plants of this genus produce.
Easily grown in USDA zones 7 to 11, M. Jalapa is a small and tender bushy plant known for its large, colorful blooms with sweet citrusy scent.
Unlike most plants, the flowers of this Mirabilis species open in the late afternoon – hence, the common name is four o’clock.
The flowers are large and can appear in various colors, ranging from red, pink, and magenta to yellow to white.
Many times, a single plant produces flowers in multiple colors, which further enhances the plant’s appeal.
While the flowers of Mirabilis Jalapa are beautiful, they are short-lived.
They open in late afternoon, or sometimes at dusk, and only last till the next morning.
However, the long blooming period makes up for short-lived flowers – the plant continues to bloom from early or mid-summer to the fall.
The colorful flowers are also attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds.
Moonflower (Ipomoea Alba)
As the name suggests, moonflower is a night bloomer.
This means the stunning white flowers of this plant open when the moon comes out, i.e., at night.
While this is a distinguishing feature, what sets the Ipomoea Alba plant apart from most other garden plants is the unique scent of its flowers.
The fragrance of moonflowers is a combination of rose and cinnamon.
While moonflower plants take a while to start blooming, the gorgeous white flowers and the unique scent they fill your air with, at night, make it worth waiting for.
A flowering plant species from the nightshade family, Nicotiana sylvestris, is native to the Andres Region in Bolivia and Argentina and is primarily grown for ornamental purposes.
The plant grows up to 5’ feet and features simple, but slightly sticky leaves and white, tubular racemes on multi-branched stems.
The flowers are highly fragrant and continue to bloom from June until the beginning of the frost season.
Deadheading the faded, damaged, or dead flowers promote further blooming.
For best results, grow the plant in organically-rich, consistently moist, and well-drained soil in full sun to part shade.
Heat Tolerant Petunias
While petunias are easy-to-grow and low-maintenance plants, most of them cannot stand very hot temperatures making them inappropriate for areas with hot weather.
However, this doesn’t mean people living in hot regions cannot grow petunias.
There are some heat-tolerant varieties and hybrids of petunias available as well.
Petchoa, a cross between petunia and calibrachoa, is one of the best choices for areas with hot summer climates.
It performs the best during hot summers.