11 Best-Smelling Flowers for a Fragrant Aroma in Your Garden

Published January 24, 2022
home flower garden

One of the best things about growing flowers is walking into the garden and being surrounded by the scent of those glorious blooms. Of course, some flowers are more deeply scented than others, and the best-smelling flowers are usually those that inspire fragrances in perfumes, lotions, candles, and other items. Luckily, it's fairly easy to grow many of the best smelling flowers in your own garden.

The Best Smelling Flowers to Grow in Your Garden

If you love fragrance, it's worth adding some of the most fragrant flowers to your garden. It only adds to the wonderful, sensory experience as you're surrounded by the color and beauty of your garden, as well as the wonderful scents.

Dianthus

Fringed Pink Dianthus flower

Dianthus, also known as pinks, is an early summer-blooming flower that has a sweet, slightly spicy scent reminiscent of cloves. You can find dianthus in many colors, including pink, white, red, and lavender tones. Dianthus is hardy in Zones 3 through 9, and is available in a variety of sizes, from diminutive varieties that only grow to about 2 inches tall, to larger ones that form clumps 18 inches tall and 24 inches wide.

Dianthus needs a spot with full sun to light shade and well-drained soil. This is a wonderful plant to place at the edges of borders or along pathways where the scent will surround you as you move through the garden.

Gardenia

gardenia flower bush

There is a reason there are so many gardenia-inspired perfumes. The heady, exotic scent of gardenias is definitely a joy in the garden. These beautiful flowers bloom in white and yellow, and it's hardy in Zones 7 through 11. Those in colder climates will have to grow smaller varieties of gardenia that are suited to containers and then bring them indoors during the winter.

Gardenias need full sun and acidic soil to grow well.

Oriental Lily

Stargazer Oriental Lily in garden

Oriental lilies, such as the beloved "Stargazer' lily, are incredibly fragrant; they perfume the air in the summer garden with their strong, sweet scent. Oriental lilies come in white, red, pink, or bicolor blooms and often have enormous, highly-fragranced flowers.

Oriental lilies grow from bulbs that you plant in fall. They come up the following year and bloom in summer, and will come back year after year. They're hardy in Zones 4 through 9 and need full sun and well-drained soil.

Rose

rose bush

Roses are a must for a fragrant garden. Their classic, slightly spicy fragrance is one of the best-known scents, and with good reason. Roses are perennial shrubs, and there are several types available, from miniature roses to huge ramblers and climbing roses. The type of rose you're able to grow will depend largely on your hardiness zone, though in general roses are hardy in Zones 3 through 10, depending on the type and cultivar. They're available in nearly any color you can imagine, and of course make amazing cut flowers as well.

Roses need full sun and fertile, well-drained soil. They can be susceptible to certain pests and fungal issues, but choosing the right rose for your climate and conditions and giving them a spot with good air circulation will go a long way toward keeping them healthy.

Sweet Pea

sweet peas in garden

The delicate, soft scent of sweet peas is an old-fashioned fragrance that many gardeners adore. Sweet peas are usually grown as annuals, but many of them are reliable self-sowers, which means that, if they're planted in a spot where they grow well, you can expect new ones to germinate and grow every year.

Sweet peas are available in a variety of shades including white, pinks, purples, magenta, and bluish tones. They grow well in full sun to partial shade and grow best in cool temperatures; hot weather tends to spell the end of their bloom season.

Lily of the Valley

lily of the valley flower

For such tiny flowers, lily of the valley packs a heavy punch in terms of scent. The tiny, bell-shaped white flowers are borne on stems that grow to about 8 inches tall, over dark green foliage. They make a lovely groundcover and grow best in parietal to full shade. Lily of the valley blooms in early summer and is best when planted in masses or clumps.

Lily of the valley is hardy in Zones 3 through 9.

One thing to keep in mind is that lily of the valley is toxic to people and pets, so it's a good idea to plant it in a spot where it won't be nibbled on by pets or children.

Hyacinth

hyacinth in containers

The perfume of hyacinths is unlike any other spring-flowering bulb. On warm days, their scent drifts through the garden, and it's a delight to work around them. Even weeding is more enjoyable if there are hyacinths blooming nearby.

Hyacinths are available in many colors, including white, various shades of pink, purple, and even red or yellow. They grow wonderfully in garden beds or in containers. Like other spring-blooming bulbs, they're planted in fall in areas that have cold winters. If you live in a warmer zone, you'll have to refrigerate the bulbs for a few weeks before planting in order to make them bloom.

Hyacinths grow best in full sun to light shade. After a few years, they will bloom less vigorously, so you should plan on planting a few fresh bulbs every year or two to ensure you have plenty of blooms in the spring.

Lilac

lilac bush in garden

Growing on shrubs that can become fairly large over time, lilacs come in a variety of colors. Most commonly, they're found in shades of white, purple, and pink, though you can sometimes find deeper, bolder colors as well. The scent of lilacs is soft, clean, and a little sweet.

Lilacs bloom in early summer, and if you plan well, you can find varieties that bloom at different times so you'll have continuous bloom throughout early summer.

Lilacs are generally hardy in Zones 3 through 7. They grow best in full sun to partial shade and aren't picky about soil as long as it's well drained.

Heliotrope

Heliotrope flower bush

The blooms of heliotrope are a dark purple color, and they're absolute magnets for pollinators, including butterflies. Their scent is a light floral, with hints of vanilla and anise. Heliotrope is grown as an annual in most areas, hardy only in Zone 10 - 11.

Heliotrope grows one to four feet tall and blooms all summer, right up until frost. It can be started from seed, which is often the most reliable way to get them, since they aren't always available in nurseries and big box home centers. They need full sun and fertile-well-drained soil. They can withstand hot, dry conditions pretty well and are generally easy to grow once they're established in the garden. Heliotrope also makes wonderful cut or dried flowers.

Lavender

lavender in garden

Lavender is a classic, and with good reason. Its comforting scent, pretty flowers, and tendency to grow with little care from the gardener when it's planted in a spot it likes makes this a must-have for many gardeners.

Lavender is available in the classic light purple color often associated with this flower, but you can find it in various shades of purple, pink, and white. Some lavenders don't handle frigid winters well, while others are hardy to Zone 3; you'll want to be sure to plant a variety that will grow well in your zone.

Lavender needs full sun and well-drained soil. It grows well in sandy soil or loam. If you have clay soil, you'll have to amend it, since lavender doesn't grow well at all in heavy, wet soil, and will rot.

You can grow some varieties of lavender from seed, but the most reliable way to grow it is by purchasing transplants, which you can usually find easily at your local nursery or garden center.

Mock Orange

mock orange plant

Mock orange is a shrub that's hardy in Zones 4 through 8. It blooms in late spring, and its white flowers have a fragrant citrusy scent reminiscent of oranges. The only drawback to this plant is that it only blooms for about two weeks. When not in bloom, mock orange is still worth growing, since its shiny, dark green leaves make an attractive backdrop for other garden plants.

Mock oranges grow to about four to eight feet tall, depending on the variety, and they grow best in full sun to partial shade and moist, well-drained soil.

These are fairly carefree plants, as long as they're planted in the right spot. They benefit from a bit of yearly pruning after they've finished blooming to keep their shape.

Fragrant Flowers From Your Very Own Garden

The wonderful thing about growing these superstar flowers is that many of them also make great cut flowers, so you can enjoy them in your garden, but also in flower arrangements and bouquets. Some, such as lavender, roses, and heliotrope, also make great dried flowers to use in everlasting arrangements and potpourris, so you can enjoy the best-smelling flowers all year long.

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11 Best-Smelling Flowers for a Fragrant Aroma in Your Garden