Grow the Most Fragrant Houseplants

Houseplants get a lot of lip service for their air-cleaning properties, but let's face it, sometimes our environment needs something more than just a gentle purifying. Pet odors, musty books, and funky socks fade into the background when you cultivate houseplants that emit bright floral or citrus scents. Popular fragrant houseplants grow in the same conditions that unscented plants do, so switch out your artificial air fresheners for the soul-satisfying natural fragrance of these top picks. 

  • 01 of 08

    Gardenia

    Gardenia Flowers

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    The strong fragrance of the gardenia tends to elicit equally strong opinions about the unique perfume of this flower. If you fall into the gardenia fragrance "love it" category, find a site in your home that gets at least four hours of bright sunlight each day, in a South or East-facing window. Keeping humidity levels high around your gardenia will help the glossy dark green foliage stay healthy, which is key to blossom production. Gardenias also prefer cool nighttime temps, between 50 and 60 degrees F: finding this temperature sweet spot can prevent the common problem of bud drop. 

  • 02 of 08

    Citrus

    Calamondin Orange

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    A sweet little citrus tree is just what the doctor ordered to chase away winter blues with its sublime fragrant flowers, followed (hopefully) by a small crop of vitamin C-rich fruit. Choose a dwarf variety like the calamondin orange, that is hardly a windowsill plant when it matures but is still manageable at six feet. One thing all citrus plants demand is strong light, so a supplemental light source may be necessary to add to winter's wan sunshine. 

  • 03 of 08

    Jasmine

    Jasmine Plant

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    Whether trained on a ring or as a topiary, trailing from a basket, or scrambling up a small trellis, you will delight in the perfume the jasmine vine offers as a houseplant in the dead of winter. Water your jasmine moderately, but provide as much light as you can. A supplemental light source may be necessary if you don't have a spot with six hours of sun. To trigger blooms in subsequent seasons, cool evening temperatures and dark nights are essential. When you see dozens of pink buds form in the autumn, you'll know sweeter days are ahead. 

  • 04 of 08

    Orchid

    Brassavola Orchid

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    Some orchids have more to offer than exotic beauty and long-lasting blooms. A few orchid species are highly fragrant, and the 'Sharry Baby' Oncidium orchid is even said to emit a chocolate fragrance. Several other Oncidiums are sweetly fragrant, including 'Twinkle' and 'Hawaiian Sunset.' Another easy-to-grow orchid that has a strong perfume is the Brassavola nodosa, which is especially sweet-smelling in the evening. Other orchids have little or no fragrance, so it's best to purchase your orchid in bloom to give it the sniff test. Most people agree that orchid scents are most noticeable in humid conditions, which complements their growing requirements.

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  • 05 of 08

    Scented Geranium

    Apricot Scented Geranium

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    Although the foliage of the scented geranium does not emit a detectable fragrance unless the leaves are bruised or crushed, the resulting aroma is so sublime that you will find excuses to touch this plant often. What's more, the fuzzy scalloped leaves of the scented geranium are edible, adding their volatile oils to flavored sugars, breads, and pastries. You can choose from scents like rose, apricot, pineapple, ginger, nutmeg and mint chocolate. Keep a few scented geraniums in the kitchen in bright light, and give yourself an aromatherapy treat each day. 

  • 06 of 08

    Paperwhites

    Narcissus

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    The daffodil that grows indoors could not be easier to cultivate, even for beginners. In fact, you don't even need soil to grow a paperwhite bulb: position the bulb in the neck of a growing vase, held above water, and blooms will appear about six weeks after planting; no cold treatment required. After the blooms fade, paperwhites seldom bloom again, so don't feel guilty about adding them to the compost bin. 

  • 07 of 08

    Stephanotis

    Stephanotis Flowers

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    Also known as bridal wreath, it's easiest to enjoy the blooms of the stephanotis as a houseplant rather than as a cut flower due to the small and delicate blossoms. Besides, the plant is super easy to grow, needing only bright light and moderate water. Stephanotis has a vining habit, so give it some support to bring those fragrant flowers close to nose height. 

  • 08 of 08

    Lavender

    French Lavender

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    All herbs have their unique scents that contribute to their culinary and medicinal value, but lavender is in a class by itself when it comes to fragrance. The spicy, clean fragrance of lavender infuses our favorite scented products from soaps to perfumes to candles. Best of all, the fragrance is just as strong in the foliage as in the flowers, so sparse flowering won't deprive you of the wonderful perfume. Some of the most fragrant lavender varieties aren't winter hardy, and therefore make excellent houseplant candidates: grow French lavender as a houseplant, which flowers continuously in bright light and makes dreamy sachets for your dresser. All lavender plants prefer sandy soil and moderate irrigation.