Best Fragrant Flowers to Grow in Your Garden

Purple Phlox Flowers
Sasha Bell / Getty Images

Scented flowers add a layer of sensory pleasure to the garden, bringing fragrance that can evoke memories and herald the coming spring or summer season. When planting flowers for their scent, keep in mind that some flowers are lightly scented and must be appreciated up close, while others can engulf the entire yard in their perfume—think of lilacs in spring or a hillside full of lily of the valley.

Many modern plants are no longer fragrant, though, due to the genetic manipulation that has gone into their creation. They have been bred to be full and bushy, or disease-resistant, or perpetually blooming—and these virtues often come at the sacrifice of scent. Heirloom flowers are often your best bet for having a scented garden, and to grow them you may need to start them from seed.

If you'd like to include some fragrance in your garden, follow some basic tips for getting the most from your scented flowers:

  • Plant them where you will be able to enjoy their fragrance most frequently—for example, alongside a path, patio, open window, or in a container you can move around easily.
  • Plant in large clumps for the strongest impact. The scent of flowers will dissipate if they are planted in a wide-open, windy area.
  • Spread fragrant plants throughout the yard so that different scents don't compete with one another.
  • Some plants are most fragrant in the evening. Plant them near your dining or entertaining areas.
  • Look for fragrant ground covers and lawn alternatives that can be walked on. Plants with fragrant leaves are even more potent when the leaves are crushed underfoot.
  • The fragrance of flowers will change subtly throughout the day and with variations in the weather and growing conditions. You'll need to experiment with fragrant plants to see which grow well for you and which combinations appeal to you. Not everyone appreciates the same scents.
  • Many insects are also attracted to scented plants. The butterflies will be welcome, but keep scented flowers away from children's play areas and away from people who are extremely sensitive to bee stings.

If you're ready to add some fragrance to your garden, there are many great options to get you started. Keep in mind that bloom times may vary based on the local climate as well as microclimates on your property.

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    Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia spp.)

    Angel's Trumpet Flowers (Brugmansia spp.)

    Nancy Honey / Getty Images

    Brugmansia is a large, tree-like plant with 8- to 9-inch blooms that dangle upside down and give off a citrus-floral scent that is most pronounced in the evening. ​Bring indoors to over-winter in cooler climates.

    Summer Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 9 to 11

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    Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)

    Hyssop Flowers (Agastache)
    Rachel Husband / Getty Images

    Both the leaves and the small, spiky purple-blue flowers of hyssop have a strong scent of anise. It is a member of the mint family and both the leaves and flowers are edible.

    Summer Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 9

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    Butterfly Ginger (Hedychium coronarium)

    White Garland Lily, White Ginger Lily Hedychium Coronarium in Bloom with Green Leaves
    Angelina Cecchetto / Getty Images

    You may see this plant listed as white ginger lily. Its clear white flowers need the longest days of summer to open and release their honeysuckle-like fragrance.

    Late Summer/Fall Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 7 to 11

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    Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus)

    Pink carnations

    Paul Debois / Getty Images

    The spicy scent of carnations is one of the most familiar flower fragrances. Make sure you purchase a variety that specifically says it is fragrant, since many hybrids have been bred for larger flowers and longer blooms but have no scent. Note: Not all carnations are perennials.

    Summer Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 6 to 9

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    Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)

    Field of chamomile flowers

    Joshua McCullough / Getty Images

    Chamomile has a very pleasant herbal, grassy scent that is very similar to the fragrance that wafts up from hot chamomile tea. It is often used in aromatherapy because it has a calming effect when inhaled.

    Summer Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 9

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    Corsican Mint (Mentha requienii)

    Corsican mint (Mentha requienii)

    Francois De Heel / Getty Images

    There's a definite minty scent from both the leaves and flowers of Corsican mint. It is used as a groundcover, emitting its fragrance as it is crushed underfoot. It is also the flavoring used in crème de menthe liqueur.

    Summer Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 6 to 9

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    Daphne (Daphne cneorum)

    Pink Daphne flowers

    Martin Siepmann / Getty Images

    Daphne is a beautiful small shrub with glossy green leaves and flowers that emit a true perfume quality scent that is a mix of sweet florals and earthy undertones.

    Spring Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 5/6 to 8

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    Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa)

    Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa)

    Steven Wooster / Getty Images

    Some people find the scent of flowering quince fruity and sweet, while others find it offensive. Buy yours in bloom, to ensure you like it. Bees and hummingbirds love the flowers.

    Spring Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 8

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    Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana)

    Nicotiana sylvestris

    David Q. Cavagnaro / Getty Images

    Nicotiana is sometimes referred to as jasmine tobacco, because of its intense, sweet scent. Go for the tall Nicotiana sylvestris for a fragrance that will permeate the evening air. Many of the shorter, modern Nicotiana alata have only a faint scent. Nicotiana is usually grown as an annual.

    Summer Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 10 to 11

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    Four O'Clocks (Mirabilis jalapa and M. longiflora)

    Four o'clocks (Mirabilis jalapa and M. longiflora)

    Anna Yu / Getty Images

    Mirabilis is Latin for wonderful. The flowers open in the late afternoon, in response to cooling temperatures. They may stay open all day on overcast days, but their sweet, lemony fragrance is most intense in the evening. They will self-sow and can be grown as annuals.

    Summer Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 7 to 11

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    Fragrant Columbine (Aquilegia fragrans)

    Aquilegia in flower

    Josie Elias / Getty Images

    Aquilegia fragrans is slightly different from the more common garden columbines, although they are almost as easy to grow. They have creamy white flowers that give off a lovely honeysuckle-like scent.

    Spring Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 8

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    Freesia spp.

    Blossoms of red freesias

    Westend61 / Getty Images

    Freesia is a popular wedding flower, but it is tropical, so you don't often see it in gardens. However, it can be grown as a houseplant. The tubular flowers have a fresh, fruity, floral scent.

    Spring/Summer Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 9 to 11

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    Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata)

    Phlox paniculata flowers

    Mark Winwood / Getty Images

    The floral scent of garden phlox can be almost heady on a warm summer day. The heat intensifies the fragrance. Watch out for modern hybrids that were bred for show, with no scent.

    Summer Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 9

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    Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides)

    Gardenia flowers

    Harley Seaway / Getty Images

    Gardenias are one of the most fragrant flowers; some people find them too strong to be near. Although these plants are very tender, they can be grown indoors, where they can be moved and enjoyed from room to room.

    Summer Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 7/8 to 10

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    Grape Hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum)

    Grape Hyacinth (Muscari)

    Ursula Alter / Getty Images

    Muscari gets its common name from its enticing grape fragrance. If you have a large clump, you can smell them throughout the yard. These tiny flowers also make nice cut flowers, bringing their bright scent indoors for you to enjoy.

    Spring Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 5

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    Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens)

    Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens)

    Mark Turner / Getty Images

    Heliotrope has a delightful cherry vanilla scent that gives it its colloquial name of "the cherry pie flower." You'll need a good size clump of plants to really get the full effect, but it's worth it. Heliotrope is often grown as an annual in colder climates.

    Summer Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 10 to 11

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    Hosta Plantaginea (Plantain Lily)

    Hosta plantaginea flowers

    Paul Seheult / Getty Images

    Unlike so many hosta varieties that are grown simply for their foliage, Hosta plantaginea (and many of its hybrids) has lovely white flowers with a charming floral scent.

    Summer Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 9

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    Jasmine (Jasminum officinale)

    Jasmine (Jasmine officinale) flowers

    DEA / Getty Images

    One jasmine plant can perfume your entire yard. The beautiful evergreen foliage and star-shaped flowers are simply a bonus of its spicy, sweet scent.

    Repeat Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 7 to 10

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    Jonquils (Narcissus jonquilla)

    Jonquils Bright Yellow and Orange
    ralphgillen / Getty Images

    Many daffodils have a subtle scent, but for a bigger bang, try a patch of jonquils. They have a strong, astringent scent that sneaks up on you, although, like paperwhites (Narcissus papyraceus), not everyone finds it pleasant.

    Spring Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 8

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    Lavender (Lavandula spp.)

    Field of lavender

    Tim Graham / Getty Images

    Lavender has one of the most beloved scents of any flower. Its musky floral fragrance even permeates your palate when you use lavender in cooking.

    Summer Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 9

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    Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)

    Lilacs growing over fence

    OGphoto / Getty Images

    The sweet, floral fragrance of lilacs announces spring. You can get a hint of it as the buds start to swell. Once the flowers open, lilacs can perfume the neighborhood.

    Spring Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 9

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    Lilies (Lilium spp.)

    Close-up of a pink lily

    Peerawut Kesorncharoen / Getty Images

    Lilies have a strong spicy-sweet scent. A bouquet of lilies will perfume the house. Both the cut flowers and the blooms on the plant are long-lasting, and the flowers come in many colors.

    Summer Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 9

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    Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)

    Lily of the valley plant

    Michael Boys/Corbis/VCG/Getty Images

    Lily of the valley flowers are popular additions to perfume, with their rich, sweet fragrance. This is a quick-spreading plant, so plant it where you won't mind it traveling, then enjoy the scent throughout your yard.

    Spring Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 7

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    Magnolia spp.

    Magnolia tree in bloom

    Ellen Rooney/Getty Images

    Magnolias have a sweet, strong, honeysuckle scent that can quickly evoke memories of the first time you were captivated by it. This is a tender tree, very much associated with the South. In northern climates, look for cultivars especially bred for the local environment.

    Spring Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 9

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    Mock Orange (Philadelphus spp.)

    Mock Orange (Philadelphus spp.)

    Jerry Pavia/Getty Images

    If you are unfamiliar with mock orange, you might think you are in a citrus grove when it blooms. The scent of the small white flowers truly mimics the scent of oranges.

    Spring Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 8

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    Moonflower (Ipomoea alba)

    Moonflower (Ipomoea alba)

    lowellgordon/Getty Images

    This night bloomer has a surprising scent that is a combination of cinnamon and rose. They take a while to begin flowering, so keep a watch toward the evening at the end of summer. In cooler climates, moonflower is often grown as an annual.

    Late Summer/Fall Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 10 to 11

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    Naked Lady (Amaryllis Belladonna)

    Naked Lady (Amaryllis Belladonna)

    Peter Chadwick/Getty Images

    The rather rude common name of Naked Lady was given because the flowers bloom before the leaves appear. The beautiful tubular flowers give off an extremely sweet scent that is often likened to bubble gum.

    Fall Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 7 to 10

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    Night-Blooming Jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum)

    Cestrum nocturnum or Hasna hena of Southeast Asia
    Amawasri / Getty Images

    The scent of night-blooming jasmine wafts in and out of the air, usually catching you when the air is still. Unlike Jasminum officinale, which can be very sweet, night-blooming jasmine is often described as a sultry scent.

    Winter Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 9 to 11

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    Pennyroyal (Mentha pelegium)

    Pennyroyal (Mentha pelegium)

    Valter Jacinto/Getty Images

    Pennyroyal is one of the strongest smelling members of the mint family. It is an attractive, creeping plant that makes a great ground cover in areas where you will be walking and releasing its fragrance.

    Summer Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 6 to 9

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    Peony (Paeonia spp.)

    Pink and white peony flowers

    Garden Photo World/Georgianna Lane/Getty Images

    Peonies would be beautiful enough to grow just for their flowers, but the lush blooms also have a clear, clean scent that is very similar to roses. They are very long-lasting as cut flowers.

    Spring Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 8

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    Pinks (Dianthus plumarius)

    Pinks (Dianthus plumarius)

    Chris Burrows/Getty Images

    Although not as strongly-scented as carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus), pinks also have a spicy scent, and they are much more widely adaptable.

    Repeat Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 8

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    Old Roses

    Daniel Sambraus/EyeEm/Getty Images

    Although not all roses are fragrant, they may be the first flower most people think of when it comes to fragrance. There is actually a lot of variety in rose scents, from candy-sweet to exotic and spicy.

    Summer Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 11

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    Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)

    Star Jasmine (Jasminum multiflorum)

    Veena Nair/Getty Images

    This evergreen, twinning tangle of a vine is not a true jasmine. It smells so much like one that it earned its common name. A well-established plant will be covered with the fragrant blooms.

    Late Spring Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 8 to 10

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    Stock (Matthiola incana)

    Stock (Matthiola incana)

    Masahiro Nakano/a.collectionRF/Getty Images

    It's hard to believe that stock is a member of the cabbage family. Also known as gillyflower, stock flowers pack an intense clove-like scent in their small flowers.

    Spring Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 7 to 10

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    Summersweet (Clethra spp.)

    Summersweet (Clethra)

    MASAHIRO NAKANO/Getty Images

    The spicy scent of Clethra is why some people refer to it as pepper bush. The white panicles of flowers are beautifully offset by glossy, bright green foliage. The late summer scent comes as a pleasant surprise.

    Summer Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 9

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    Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)

    Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)

    Aimin Tang/Getty Images

    The diminutive plant is so covered with flowers, it looks like a carpet. The fragrance is very unique; a honey-like quality with a floral finish. These are cool-season flowers, for the beginning and end of the summer.

    Repeat Bloomer: Grown as an annual

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    Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis dioscoreifolia)

    Sweet Autumn Clematis flower
    ANCHASA MITCHELL / Getty Images

    Sweet autumn clematis is covered with a cloud of small white flowers in the fall. Besides their beauty, the flowers give off a gentle vanilla scent, which really hits you if you can walk below the vine. This plant is invasive in some areas.

    Fall Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 9

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    Sweet Pea (Lathyrus spp.)

    Sweet Pea (Lathyrus spp.)

    Michael Boys/Corbis/VCG /Getty Images

    Sweet peas offer an abundance of cut flowers. Unfortunately, breeders have been focusing on more blooms and less fragrance. Look for old-fashioned varieties that have the spicy scent that sweet peas became known for.

    Spring Bloomer: Grown as an annual

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    Sweet Woodruff (Asperula odorata)

    Sweet Woodruff (Asperula odorata)

    Michael Davis/Getty Images

    Sweet woodruff has a grassy vanilla scent, which is much nicer than it sounds. It is often compared to the scent of newly mown hay. Be warned: The plant will spread.

    Spring Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zone 5 to 9

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    Thyme (Thymus serpyllum, T. herba-barona, T. caespititius)

    Thyme plants in flower

    Federica Grassi/Getty Images

    You may only think of thyme as a seasoning, but it is also a very ornamental plant and a bee magnet. Thyme is in the mint family, but its scent is more herbal and grassy.

    Summer Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 9

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    Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa)

    Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa)

    danishkhan/Getty Images

    These flowers have an unusual sweet scent that has been likened to everything from candy to Dr. Pepper soda. The stalks holding the large, white flowers can reach five feet tall. In cooler zones, the bulbs can be lifted and stored for winter.

    Summer Bloomer: USDA Hardiness Zones 8 to 10