Fragrant plants: delight the senses with these scented favorites

No garden is complete without fragrant plants, so create the ultimate sensory experience with our pick of the most deliciously scented blooms

Beautiful bright fragrant plants flower beds in a front yar
(Image credit: Mira / Alamy Stock Photo)

Fragrant plants are one of the important sensory elements that makes a garden special. Just as a border can feel lacking without the mellow hum of bees, so something seems missing without fragrance. 

In late spring, it might come from lilac or lily of the valley, and in summer, it could be roses or lavender. Often the smell hits you when passing something in bloom or by getting close to aromatic foliage while working in the borders; but on warm, still days, the stronger perfumes hang in the air, and all you need do to enjoy them is sit back on the patio and inhale. 

There are aromatic plants to enjoy in every season: including viburnum and witch hazel in winter; but the vast majority bloom in summer, and spring is a great time to start adding them to your flower bed ideas. A few months later, the garden will be filled with reviving scent. 

Fill your garden with gorgeous scent with the best fragrant plants

At Keyneston Mill (opens in new tab) Scented Gardens in Dorset, home to Parterre Fragrances (opens in new tab), the bulk of the borders are composed of fragrant plants, many of which are used to produce the company’s perfumes. 

'My favourite scents are the citrusy scented-leaf pelargoniums,' says Head Gardener Rebecca Williams, 'in particular P. graveolens and 'Prince of Orange'. I’m also besotted with the smell of the chamomiles: Chamaemelum nobile and Matricaria recutita. None of these plants are difficult to grow and working amongst them brings great pleasure.'

Keyneston is a great example of a scented garden because it is designed to shield the plants from the wind, which would otherwise carry their aroma away. 'We have a lot of hornbeam hedging, which creates a walled-garden effect that helps to capture the scent, and one part of the garden is sunken, with high slopes, again to contain the fragrance,' says Rebecca. 

If you want to recreate a similar scented paradise, here are our top suggestions to plant. 

1. Philadelphus ‘Belle Étoile’

White flowers on a mock orange shrub, Philadelphus Belle Etoile

(Image credit: AngieC / Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 5-8 (UK H6)
  • Height: 4-6ft (1.2-1.8m)
  • Spread: 4-6ft (1.2-1.8m)

You will get a cloud of richly scented single white blooms in early summer with this beautiful shrub. Unlike some mock orange, the smell is not oppressive, but it is strong enough to float on the air. 

This shrub is best in well-drained soil in sun. It copes with poor soil, pollution, and coastal sites. Mulch (for example, with compost) in spring, pruning shrubs back immediately after flowering. 

Weigela florida 'Foliis Purpureis' will make the perfect planting partner for the mock orange.

2. Euphorbia mellifera

Euphorbia mellifera, Honey Spurge in flower

(Image credit: Anne Gilbert / Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 9-11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 6ft (1.8m)
  • Spread: 6ft (1.8m)

The Canary spurge (or honey spurge) is a fantastic dome-shaped tender evergreen shrub. You'll see honey-scented bronze flowers start to appear on this low maintenance shrub in late spring. 

You can grow euphorbia in well-drained soil in sun. But it's also a shade loving plant which will work well in low light areas of the garden. In cold areas, grow against a sheltered south or west-facing wall. Wear gloves to prune as the sap is a skin and eye irritant. 

Plant in a border with Buddleja lindleyana for beautiful, contrasting shaped blooms.

3. Cistus ladanifer

Cistus Ladanifer Rock Rose

(Image credit: Stocktaker/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 6-9 (UK H4)
  • Height: 5ft (1.5m)
  • Spread: 5ft (1.5m)

On hot days, when the evergreen leaves of this shrub release their balsam scent, you realise why perfumers use it (they call it labdanum). It also has white flowers in summer. 

Plant this rock rose in very well-drained, sun-baked soil in a sheltered position. It copes with poor soil and there's no need to protect it from slugs, who give it a wide berth. 

A great companion for the rock rose will be a Phlomis italica. 

4. Rosa ‘Madame Boll’

Rose Comte de Chambord

(Image credit: Chris Bosworth/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 5-9 (UK H7)
  • Height: 3ft (90cm)
  • Spread: 2ft (60cm)

Rosa ‘Madame Boll’ (also known as ‘Comte de Chambord’) has buxom lilac-pink blooms. It's a healthy repeat-flowering Portland rose, which dates back to 1863, and it will fill the summer air with beautiful scent. 

These types of roses like fertile humus-rich well-drained, retentive soil in sun. Dig in organic matter (such as well-rotted manure) before planting. Prune and mulch in late winter or early spring. 

Digitalis purpurea ‘Sutton’s Apricot’ is another sun lover which will complement this repeat-flowering rose.

5. Rosa 'Munstead Wood'

dark red Rosa Munstead Wood

(Image credit: David Austin)
  • Hardiness: USDA 5-9 (UK H6)
  • Height: 3.5ft (1.1m)
  • Spread: 3.5ft (1.1m)

This is one of the best fragrant plants for scent and intense color. The velvety port-wine flowers, which smell strongly of blackberry and damson, are produced by this repeat-flowering David Austin shrub rose throughout summer. 

Roses like fertile humus-rich well-drained, retentive soil in sun. Dig in organic matter (such as well-rotted manure) before planting. Prune and mulch in late winter or early spring.

Grow salvias like the S. nemorosa ‘Caradonna Pink Inspiration’ with this rose. It's a hardworking plant which will make a great planting partner.

6. Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’

Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’

(Image credit: Sally Anderson/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 4-7 (UK H7)
  • Height: 3ft (90cm)
  • Spread: 2ft (60cm)

This excellent border plant is a hazy mass of lilac-blue flowers that hums with happy bees for weeks in summer. It is a relaible grower making it one of the best plants for beginners to grow. The grey-green foliage fills the air with a caramel scent. 

This perennial likes well-drained soil in sun or semi-shade. Provide support for it to grow through, otherwise it flops. Cut back after the first flush of flowers to stimulate more blooms. 

Knautia macedonica is a flowering perennial which will create a meadow effect alongside Nepeta.

7. Lavandula x intermedia ‘Sussex’

Lavandula x intermedia 'Sussex' in flower

(Image credit: Anne Gilbert / Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 5-8 (UK H5)
  • Height: 2.5ft (75cm)
  • Spread: 3ft (90cm)

A great choice to use for planting a lavender hedge for legs to brush past, releasing the scent of the silver-green foliage. Bees adore the tall pale-purple flowers. 

Lavender likes very well-drained neutral to alkaline soil in full sun and tolerates poor soil. Prune lavender after flowering (never cutting beyond green growth) and give a light trim in spring. 

8. Dianthus ‘Devon Wizard’

Dianthus ‘Devon Wizard’

(Image credit: Botanic World/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 4-8 (UK H6)
  • Height: 10in (25cm)
  • Spread: 20in (50cm)

Bold magenta-pink double flowers that exude a delicious, spicy clove scent are produced above blue-green foliage, from mid summer to early fall. 

Pinks like very well-drained neutral to alkaline soil in sun. For best results, fork in organic matter before planting. Deadheading flowers will prolong flowering, and you can make new plants via cuttings every few years. 

For a stunning effect, learn how to grow ornamental grasses like Festuca glauca ‘Blaufuchs’ alongside Dianthus.

9. Helichrysum italicum 

Helichrysum italicum, the Curry plant or Immortelle, from the family Asteraceae

(Image credit: Franz Neidl / Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 7-10 (UK H4)
  • Height: 2ft (60cm)
  • Spread: 3ft (90cm)

The spicy Mediterranean scent of this sub-shrub’s ever-grey foliage carries on the air on hot, sunny days. The foliage is paired with yellow flowers from midsummer to early fall. 

The curry plant likes very well-drained, light neutral to alkaline soil in sheltered sun, but it will also tolerates poor soil. Mulch (for example, with straw) in winter in cold areas and give it a trim in spring. 

To offset the yellow flowers of Helichrysum italicum, plant Origanum ‘Rosenkuppel’ alongside it. It's a non edible herb from the oregano family with stunning purple hues that will create an effective contrast. 

10. Lilium ‘Casa Blanca’

Oriental lily (Lilium Casa Blanca)

(Image credit: Heinz Hauser/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 4-9 (UK H6)
  • Height: 3.2ft (1m)
  • Spread: 8in (20cm)

Giant elegant white trumpet flowers atop tall stems, release a strong, heady vanilla scent, especially at dusk and at night. 

You can grow lilies in big, well-drained garden planters, in a mix of compost and grit, allowing 2in (5cm) between bulbs, and planting 8in (20cm) deep. Give tomato food fortnightly in summer. 

Do bear in mind, that lilies are one of the plants that are poisonous to cats

11. Pelargonium ‘Royal Oak’

Scented geranium 'Royal Oak' flower

(Image credit: C J Wheeler/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 10-11 (UK H1C)
  • Height: 15in (40cm)
  • Spread: 15in (40cm)

The oak-leaf scented pelargonium has small mauve summer flowers, and in sun, its leaves release a wonderful balsam smell reminiscent of a Moroccan souk. 

In cold climates, scented pelargoniums are fantastic in well-drained pots on a sunny patio during summer, and overwintered in a frost-free greenhouse. Deadhead regularly to keep the flowers coming. 

Pair this Pelargonium variety with Pelargonium ‘Lord Bute’.

12. Rosa ‘De Resht’ (syn. ‘Rose de Rescht’)

Rosa 'De Resht' AGM syn Rosa 'De Rescht'

(Image credit: Martin Hughes-Jones / Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 4-9 (UK H7)
  • Height: 3ft (90cm)
  • Spread: 3ft (90cm)

The small double fuchsia-pink pom-pom flowers of this delightful repeat-flowering Portland rose have a lovely perfume and will brighten up any patio gardening ideas

Plant in a generous, well-drained pot of John Innes No 3 compost, with a dash of well-rotted manure or regular compost added. Place in full sun, and do not let the compost dry out. 

Plant with hardy geranium pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’.

13. Clematis x triternata ‘Rubromarginata’

Clematis x triternata rubromarginata flowers in an English garden

(Image credit: Tim Gainey / Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 5-8 (UK H4)
  • Height: 15ft (4.5m)
  • Spread: 6ft (1.8m)

No list of fragrant plants would be complete without a clematis, and this vigorous clematis produces a mass of starry white and red-purple flowers that fill the air with a wonderful almond scent, throughout the summer months. 

The best way to grow clematis is to let it weave along a garden fence or up trellis in well-drained, retentive neutral to alkaline soil in sun or semi-shade. Cut back hard to 6in (15cm) in late winter or early spring. 

Rosa Altissimo is our pick for planting alongside.

14. Trachelospermum jasminoides

Trachelospermum jasminoides

(Image credit: Martin Hughes-Jones/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 8-10 (UK H4)
  • Height: 30ft (9m)
  • Spread: 20ft (6m)

The star jasmine has jasmine-like ivory summer flowers that release a tea perfume onto the air and glossy green leaves that often take on red winter tints. 

In cold areas, grow this evergreen climbing plant up a sheltered, sunny south or west-facing wall, in well-drained, fertile soil. Prune in spring, only if necessary. 

Grow jasmine with Rosa ‘Ghislaine de Féligonde’ for a beautiful planting combination. 

15. Rosa ‘Climbing Lady Hillingdon’

Rosa ‘Climbing Lady Hillingdon’

(Image credit: Alan Gregg/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 5-9 (UK H4)
  • Height: 15ft (4.5m)
  • Spread: 8ft (2.4m)

If you're a fan of climbing roses, this is a lovely, old repeat-flowering Hybrid Tea with beautifully scented apricot-gold double flowers, healthy wine stems, and dark-green leaves. 

Send it up a south or west-facing garden wall or facade, in well-drained, fertile, retentive soil. Tie shoots in fall to prevent wind damage. Prune in winter and mulch in late winter or early spring. 

16. Clematis ‘Mayleen’

clematis, virgins-bower (Clematis 'Mayleen', Clematis Mayleen)

(Image credit: blickwinkel / Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 4-9 (UK H4)
  • Height: 20ft (6m)
  • Spread: 20ft (6m)

The mountain clematis is a top choice for perfume and a must-have cottage garden plant. Bronze foliage and charming pink blooms fill the air with vanilla-clove scent in spring. They will look beautiful alongside Fagus sylvatica or entwined with one of the best climbing roses

Let this vigorous deciduous climber romp over a shed or along a fence, in well-drained soil in sun (with the base of the plant in the shade of shrubs). Prune after flowering. 

How do you make the most of fragrant plants?

  • Shelter: Wind carries scent away, so it’s important to give fragrant plants containment via shrubs, trees, hedging, or trellis that divides the garden into ‘rooms’.
  • Sun: Many plants release their perfume at best in the warmth of sunshine, so place them in full sun or on south or west-facing walls.
  • Site: Grow fragrant plants in places you regularly pass (such as the front door) or sit (such as a patio). They can also be grown near to windows, allowing the fragrance to float into the house on summer days.

A scented summer garden filled with fragrant plants

(Image credit: Rex May / Alamy Stock Photo)

What are the best roses for scent?

Of the older roses, the Damasks (such as ‘Jacques Cartier’) and Gallicas (such as ‘Charles de Mills’) usually have delicious perfumes. Modern breeders often focus on health at the expense of scent, so it’s important to research (or even better, sniff) the perfume power of roses before buying. Some of David Austin’s English roses (including Gertrude Jekyll) have beautiful fragrance. 

Rose tree 'Jacques Cartier' in bloom in a garden

(Image credit: BIOSPHOTO / Alamy Stock Photo)

Which fragrant plant has the strongest scent?

Some of the headiest scents in the garden are released at night by Jasmine, lilies, tuberose, honeysuckle, and other white flowers that are best planted near outdoor seating areas used on summer evenings.

White, yellow and pink trumpet flowers of the summer blooming regal lily,

(Image credit: John Richmond / Alamy Stock Photo)

How can I make my garden smell nice?

The best fragrances can be boosted by planting them en masse: for instance, a border of scented roses (mixed with perennials to ensure health) or an informal low hedge of lavender. In sufficient numbers, the gorgeous scents of these fragrant plants will hang on the air throughout summer. 

Hazel Sillver
Hazel Sillver

Hazel grew up watching and helping her green-fingered parents cultivate their town garden in North Yorkshire in the 1980s. She was especially spellbound by her mother’s long rose bed of Hybrid Teas, which spawned her own obsession with roses. After experience in the fashion industry, Hazel became a health and beauty journalist, and worked for The Ecologist as Green Living Editor. During a period of injury, she studied horticulture and went on to work as a gardener and write about gardening for newspapers, such as The Guardian. Today, she enjoys contributing to brands, including Easy Gardens and Gardeningetc. Currently in rented property, she dreams of soon having her own garden again, to fill with favourite plants: perennials, trees, and – of course – lots of roses.