Lilac flowers

A Guide To Fragrant Flowers

Fill your yard with pleasant scents.

July 31, 2015

Many flowers are scented, but only some are strong enough to perfume your outdoor living spaces. We invited 15 ornamental plant experts from nurseries across North America to nominate their strongly fragrant favorites. 


Evening Stock (M. longipetala) Small lilac colored blossoms with powerful lily-like perfume; excellent for window boxes and pots; 12 by 9 inches. 
Flowering Tobaccos (Nicotiana alata, N. sylvestris, N. suaveolens) Plants with tubular white flowers, fragrant mostly at night; 2-6 by 3 feet. (Most hybrid bedding plant varieties have little scent.) 
Four-O'Clock (Mirabilis jalapa and M. longiflora) Multicolored trumpet flowers cover bushy 2-foot-high plants. M. longiflora has white flowers with orange-blossom scent; 2 by 3 feet. 
Fragrant Amaryllis (Clidanthus fragrans) Sweet-scented yellow crocus-like flowers in mid-summer; 8 by 8 inches; perennial bulb in Zones 9-11. 
Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens) Large violet or white flowerheads with a vanilla/cherry pie scent; 12 by 12 inches. 
Mignonette (Reseda odorata) Powerful vanilla/raspberry fragrance from small yellowish flowers; attracts beneficial insects; direct sow in early spring;12 by 9 inches. 
Night Phlox (Zaluzianskya ovata) Unusual snowflake flowers are strongly fragrant at night; 1 by 2 feet. 
Peruvian Daffodil (Hymenocallis species) Especially Sulfur Queen; white or yellow spidery summer-blooming bulb; 18 inches high; perennial in zones 8-10. 
Petunia (Petunia) Many modern varieties have little fragrance, but old-fashioned white or purple vining types release a strong lily-like fragrance at dusk; 1 by 1-3 feet. 
Stock (Matthiola incana) Spicy clove-scented flower spikes; excellent cut flowers; thrives in cool weather; 2 by 1 feet. 
Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima) Low-growing groundcover with honey-scented white flowers; highly attractive to beneficial insects; 6 by 8 inches. 
Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa) Extremely fragrant white flower spikes; late-summer bloom; 3 by 1 feet; perennial bulb hardy in Zones 8-10, grown as an annual in cooler climates. 
Virginian Stock (Malcolmia maritima) Small red or purple flowers with powerful scent; prefers cool weather; 16 by 6 inches. 
Wallflowers (Erysimum asperum [biennial] and E. perofskianum) Short spikes of yellow or copper- colored flowers; 12 by 10 inches.


Sizes are given as height, followed by width; zone numbers in parentheses mean the plant is not reliably cold-hardy, but might survive in sheltered areas. 
Autumn Snakeroot (Cimicifuga simplex) Foot-long spikes of white flowers in autumn; partial shade; 3 by 2 feet; Zones 4-8. 
Bouncing Bet (Saponaria officinalis) Clusters of pink, red, or white 3 inch flowers in summer and autumn, 24 by 20 inches; Zones 3-9. 
Chocolate Daisy, aka green-eyes (Berlandiera lyrata) Chocolate-scented yellow daisy flowers through summer and fall;12 by 12 inches; Zones 7-9. 
Creeping Phlox (Phlox stolonifera) 'Bruce's White'; shade tolerant; spring blooms; 1 by 1 foot; Zones 2-8. 
Cut Leaf Violet (Viola dissecta) 1 inch white or rose flowers and very attractive divided leaves; 6 inches tall; Zones 6-9. 
Daffodils (Narcissus) Many varieties in the poeticus, triandrus, jonquilla and tazetta groups are highly fragrant, especially Buffawn, Canarybird, Cragford, Geranium, Trevithian, and Tripartite. 
Kathy Rood is by far the most fragrant daylily I have ever grown. It has a persistent, wonderful scent, fully double flowers, and it blooms for a long time." —Mary Baker, Regional Vice President, American Hemerocallis Society


The rose is renowned for its beauty. Many varieties also fill the air with intoxicating perfume. Liz Druitt, author of The Organic Rose Garden (1996, Taylor Publishing Company) recommends these highly fragrant, long-blooming and easy-to-grow roses. She points out that many factors, including soil, climate and variations in human noses, will affect how we each detect fragrances. 

Angel Face (3 feet tall lavender floribunda) 
Archduke Charles (4 feet tall red China) 
Buff Beauty (12 feet tall apricot hybrid musk) 
Hansa (5 feet tall crimson hybrid rugosa) 
Heritage (6 feet tall pale pink shrub) 
Louis Philippe (4 feet tall red China) 
La France (4 feet tall pink hybrid tea) 
Maggie (6 feet tall crimson Bourbon) 
Nur Mahal (4 feet tall crimson hybrid musk) 
Pierrine (2 feet tall coral pink miniature) 
Souvenir de St. Anne's (4 feet tall pale pink Bourbon) 
Yellow Blaze (12 feet tall yellow floribunda) 


Because they are so much larger than most perennials, flowering shrubs are great choices for maximizing fragrance. They are generally low maintenance, and provide winter structure and early spring greenery. 

Azaleas Many native deciduous azaleas have highly fragrant flowers in pastel pinks, yellows and white, including the coast azalea (Rhododendron atlanticum); Zones 5-9, the sweet azalea (R. arborescens,); Zones 5-9, the pinxterbloom azalea (R. periclymenoides); Zones 4-9), the roseshell azalea (R. prinophyllum); Zones 4-9, and the swamp azalea (R. viscosum); Zones 4-9. 
Banana Shrub (Michelia figo) Powerful fruity fragrance and lustrous evergreen foliage; blooms spring through summer, part shade to shade; 10 by10 feet; Zones 7 to 10. 
Box-Leaf Azara (Azara microphylla) Small but richly fragrant flowers smell of white chocolate in late winter and spring; sun to part shade; 30 by 12 feet ; Zones (6) 7-9. 
Buffalo Currant (Ribes odoratum) Powerful clove-scented yellow flowers in spring; 6 by 6 feet ; Zones 5-8. 
Carolina Allspice or Sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus) Dark red 2 inch flowers in summer; sun or part shade; 8 by 10 feet; Zones 5-9. 
Daphnes Daphne x burkwoodii Carol Mackie and Somerset Legendary powerful fragrance from small white or purplish flowers in late spring; 3 by 3-5 feet; Zones 4-6(7). Many other daphne species are also highly fragrant, including Garland flower (D. cneorum), Alpine daphne (D. alpina), Caucasian daphne. (D. caucasica), Winter daphne (D. odora), February daphne (D. mezereum), D. bholua and D. tangutica
Fragrant Tea Olive (Osmanthus fragrans) Strongly fragrant, very long-blooming (from autumn to spring) evergreen shrub; excellent container plant; sun to part shade; 20 by 20 feet; Zones (7) 8 to 10. 
Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides) Long-blooming evergreen shrub producing white flowers in summer with extraordinary creamy fragrance; light shade; 4 by 4 feet; Zones (7b) 8-10. 
Japanese Pittosporum (Pittosporum tobira) Wonderfully fragrant flowers in early summer and evergreen foliage; 2 to 8 feet high; Zones (7) 8-9. 
Lilacs (Syringa) Of the hundreds of varieties of this popular 8 to 10 foot high shrub, the most highly fragrant and disease-resistant choices for Zones 3 to 7 are: Henri Robert, Excel, Vauban, Rhum von Horstenstein and Miss Kim. Gardeners in Zones 8 and 9 need to choose heat-tolerant lilac varieties such as Angel White, Big Blue, Blue Skies and Lavender Lady. 
Mexican Orange Blossom (Choisya ternata) Superb rounded evergreen shrub with1 inch white star shaped flowers in late spring, again in fall; shade or part shade; 6 by 6 feet; Zones 7-10. 
Mock Orange (Philadelphus coronarius) Most species and varieties of this old-fashioned favorite have strongly-scented showy white flowers in early summer; 10 by 8 feet; some hardy to Zone 3. Paper bush (Edgeworthia gardenii) Yellow flowers in late winter; 5 by 5 feet; Zones 7-10. 
Sweet Box (Sarcoccoca hookeriana [3 by 3 feet] and S. confusa [6 by 6 feet]) Small white flowers with heady fragrance in late winter; evergreen; part shade to shade; Zones (7) 8-9. S. hookeriana var. humilis is hardy in Zones (5) 6-8. 
Sweet Pepperbush or Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) Showy 6 inch clusters of white flowers in late summer; shade to partial shade; 6 by 8 feet; Zones 3-9. Also, C, barbinervis. 
Viburnums Koreanspice viburnum (V. carlesii) has powerfully fragrant small white flower clusters in spring; sun/partial shade; 6 by 6 feet; Zones 5-8. Many other viburnums are also highly fragrant, including V. x bodnantense Pink Dawn, V. x burkwoodii , V. x carlcephalum, V. x judii, V. odoratissimum, V. farreri, and V. bitchiuense. Size and hardiness varies. 
White Forsythia (Abeliophyllum distichum) Showy 1/2 inch flowers in late winter; 5 by 5 feet; Zones (4) 5-9. 
Winter Hazel (Corylopsis glabrescens) 1 inch yellow flowers in early spring; partial to full shade; 15 by 15 feet; Zones 6-9. 
Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) 1 inch yellow flowers in late winter; 12 by 12 feet; Zones (6) 7-9. Witch hazels (Hamamelis mollis, H. vernalis and hybrids) Long-lasting spidery yellow, orange, or red flowers open in winter; part shade or sun; 15 by 15 feet; Zones (4) 5-8. 


Variegated Kiwi Vine (Actinidia kolomikta) White flowers in early summer; 15 feet tall; Zones 5-8. 
Cinnamon Vine (Dioscorea batatas) Long-lasting flowers with strong, fresh cinnamon fragrance; roots are edible if cooked; 10 feet tall; Zones 5-10. 
Clematis Most of the large, showy hybrid clematis are not scented, but the following species are all richly scented (also all vigorous climbers, to 15 feet or more): Clematis armandii (2-inch white flowers in early spring; Zones 7-9); C. flammula (star-shaped white flowers from midsummer on; Zones 7-9); C. montana (various cultivars; Zones 6-9); sweet autumn clematis (C. ternifolia, aka paniculata; masses of star-shaped white flowers in late summer through autumn; Zones 4-9 
Honeysuckle (Lonicera) Several vining species are wonderfully fragrant, including, Etruscan honeysuckle (L. etrusca), Goldflame honeysuckle (L. x heckrottii), Common honeysuckle (L. periclymenum) and Italian honeysuckle (L. caprifolium); 10 to 20 feet tall; most are hardy to Zone 5. 
Jasmines Several species are legendary for their perfumes, including Poet's jasmine (Jasminun officinale), Winter jasmine (J. polyanthum), Arabian jasmine (J. sambac), and Pink summer jasmine (J. x stephanese); size and bloom times vary; most are hardy in Zones 8-10. 
Moonflower is "one of the richest sources of perfume known—but only when the flowers open at night." Renee Beaulieu, White Flower Farm nursery


Amur Maple (Acer tartaricum ssp ginnala) Clusters of white flowers in spring; 18 by18 feet; Zones 3-7. 
Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) White flower clusters in late spring; attracts beneficial insects; 80 by 50 feet; Zones 5-9. 
Citrus (Citrus species) The spring to summer small white flowers of orange, lemon and other citrus trees are richly scented. Most citrus species are cold hardy only in southern Florida and California, but they make excellent and fragrant container plants in other regions. 
Japanese Apricots (Prunus mume) Showy red, pink or white flowers in late winter; 20 by 20 feet; Zones (6) 7-9. 
Lindens (Tilia cordata and other species) Excellent shade trees with sweetly scented flowers in spring and early in summer; sun/partial shade; 30 by 60 feet; Zones (3) 4-7. 
Mt. Etna Broom (Genista aetnensis) Clouds of 1/2 inch yellow flowers in summer, deciduous; 25 by 25 feet; Zones 9-10. 
Yellowwood (Cladrastis lutea) pendant panicles of 1 1/2 inch white flowers in early spring, deciduous; 40 by 30 feet; Zones 4-9. 

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