15 Plants With Scented Leaves

Yarrow achillea plant with bright pink flattened flower clusters on tall stems

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Growing plants with scented leaves to complement the sweet-smelling flowers of your garden maximizes the satisfaction you derive from your yard. Occasionally, the same plant provides both: scented leaves and blossoms. Additionally, plants with strong smells tend to repel deer, thereby cutting down on your need for pest control. Here are 15 great plants withfragrant leaves.

  • 01 of 15

    Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica)

    Bayberry bush has green leaves in summer and develops gray berries in autumn.
    David Beaulieu

    Bayberry is a deciduous bush, 5 to 10 feet tall and wide, native to North America. It's dioecious: only male or female flowers appear on each plant. While the flowers are insignificant on both sexes, here's why you may want to try to have some of both: If a male is present for pollination, then a nearby female will produce berries. Bayberry is best known for the berries, which are used to make candles. But it's worth growing in a fragrance garden even without berries, because of its scented leaves.

    Bayberry isn't a fussy plant to grow as long as you give it full sun and well-drained soil. It's drought-tolerant and doesn't need much fertilizer because it's a nitrogen fixer.

    But the shrubs do spread by root suckering, so remove these if you don't want them invading nearby garden areas.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 7
    • Flower Color Varieties: Yellowish, insignificant
    • Light: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Dry to moist, well-drained
    • Mature Size: 5 to 10 feet tall, similar spread
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 02 of 15

    Bee Balm (Monarda spp.)

    Red bee balm flower.

    vermontalm / Getty Images

    Most people grow bee balm as a perennial, for its attractive flowers, but it also releases a citrusy fragrance when leaves are crushed. The "balm" in the name provides a clue for why some people categorize it as an herb.

    There are different species, and they don't all have the same requirements. Monarda didyma is moisture-loving and needs damp soil. Consequently, depending on your climate, plan on providing it with 1 inch of water weekly; never let its soil dry out entirely. By contrast, Monarda fistula is more tolerant of dry conditions.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 9
    • Flower Color Varieties: Red, purple, pink, white, lavender
    • Light: Full to partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist
    • Mature Size: 10 to 48 inches tall, 10 to 36 inches wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 03 of 15

    Bluebeard (Caryopteris × clandonensis)

    Caryopteris shrub in bloom.

    Jim, the Photographer / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Bluebeard grows 2 to 3 feet tall, with a similar width. While some cultivars bear pink or purple flowers, it's best known for producing blue flowers. Bloom time is late summer through early fall, when most other shrubs have finished blooming; so bluebeard is useful in extending the season for garden color. The exact shade of its blue flowers varies from cultivar to cultivar, but what remains constant is the minty smell of its scented leaves.

    Don't worry if the stems die back to ground level over winter if you're growing it in the northern part of its hardiness range. Bluebeard is often classified as a sub-shrub for precisely this reason. If your bluebeard doesn't suffer from winter die-back, it will flower best if you cut it back by half in early spring. Otherwise, this drought-tolerant plant isn't fussy to grow, as long as you give it full sun and good drainage.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Flower Color Varieties: Dark blue, light blue
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained
    • Mature Size: 2 to 3 feet tall and wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 04 of 15

    Catmint (Nepeta spp.)

    Nepeta x faassenii (catmint) in bloom.
    Some types of Nepeta x faassenii can get rather large.

    Neil Holmes / Photolibrary / Getty Images

    Plants with "mint" in their names have some of the most strongly scented leaves, and catmint is a long-time favorite because its fragrant foliage is supplemented by attractive flowers. There are different species and cultivars, and their height varies. Consequently, how they're used differs. Nepeta x faassenii 'Six Hills Giant' is relatively tall (25 to 35 inches) and works well as a small hedge. Nepeta racemosa 'Little Titch' is smaller (8 to 10 inches) and works better as a ground cover.

    Catmint isn't fussy to grow. Just give this drought-tolerant perennial good drainage and sufficient sun. Most of its maintenance comes in the form of cutting. In spring, prune off dead branches left over from last season. Then shear back the bigger varieties after the initial bloom to promote re-blooming. Thereafter, deadhead the flowers whenever they fade. Such a regimen will give you blooms into the fall.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8
    • Flower Color Varieties: Blue
    • Light: Full sun to partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Dry to moist, well-drained
    • Mature Size: Varies by cultivar
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
    Continue to 5 of 15 below.
  • 05 of 15

    Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

    Closeup of catnip plant growing outdoors.

    Nathan Blaney / Photodisc / Getty Images

    Catnip is a type of catmint, but the two are not interchangeable. In fact, they're quite different except that they both belong to the same genus, have similar growing requirements, and have scented leaves.

    But they're used in different ways in landscaping. Whereas catmint is ornamental, catnip is weedy. But this weedy nature makes it even easier to grow than catmint. Catnip takes more shade than catmint.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8
    • Flower Color Varieties: White
    • Light: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Dry to moist, well-drained
    • Mature Size: 2 to 3 feet tall and wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 06 of 15

    Creeping Thyme (Thymus spp.)

    Pink-flowering creeping thyme growing in a field.

    Laszlo Podor / Moment / Getty Images

    The thyme with which you're most familiar (Thymus vulgaris) is appropriately called "garden thyme" since it's a culinary herb.. It has scented leaves, but so do the ornamental thymes. Whereas the former has an upright form, the latter are creepers.

    Creeping thyme is an ideal perennial ground cover in fragrance gardens. When you step on it, aroma is released into the air. It also has attractive flowers.

    Creeping thyme is easy to grow and thrives in poor soils. Just give it full sun and good drainage; it's susceptible to root rot in soggy soil. It becomes woody as it ages and when woody stems begin to predominate, growth will decline. Either remove and replace the plants or prune them back to rejuvenate them. 

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 2 to 9
    • Flower Color Varieties: White, pink, lavender
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, sandy
    • Mature Size: 2 to 6 inches tall, 6 to 18 inches wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 07 of 15

    Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)

    Hemlock tree branch with cones.

    lauraag / Getty Images

    Hemlock is a tall (70 feet) evergreen tree native to North America with scented leaves. Shrub-form cultivars can be bought that are useful in hedges. If you want to grow a hedge that not only serves as a privacy screen but also smells great, give hemlock a try.

    Hemlock is best grown in cool, moist, well-drained ground. Because it has shallow roots, protect it from strong winds. Plant hemlock trees 30 to 40 feet apart.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 7
    • Flower Color Varieties: Not grown for flowers
    • Light: Full to partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained
    • Mature Size: 70 feet tall, 25 to 35 feet wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 08 of 15

    Lantana (Lantana camara)

    Lantana (Lantana camara) Professor Raoux
    malcolm park / Getty Images

    Although salt-tolerant lantana undeniably has scented leaves, not everyone enjoys the citrusy scent. Some find it refreshing; others find it too pungent. There is wider agreement on the beauty of its flowers, which come in an assortment of colors.

    Lantana grows as a shrub in warm climates, where it's perennial. Northerners treat it as an annual, often growing it in hanging pots during the summer. Its needs vary according to whether you're growing it in the ground in the South or in a pot in the North. Lantana growing in the ground doesn't need much fertilizing (once in early spring). But pot-grown lantana should get 20-20-20 fertilizer monthly.

    Lantana needs one inch of water weekly; never let it dry out completely. The sandier the soil, the more you'll need to water it in hot weather. While lantana can survive a light frost, it dies when temperatures go below 28 degrees Fahrenheit.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 7a to 11a
    • Flower Color Varieties: Red, orange, yellow, blue, white, pink, mixed
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained
    • Mature Size: 6 feet tall and wide in warm climates
    • Deer Resistant: Yes

    Warning

    Lantana is toxic to animals.

    Continue to 9 of 15 below.
  • 09 of 15

    English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

    English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) blooming and massed together.

    Shelly Chapman / Moment / Getty Images

    Lavender is widely used in potpourris. This is a plant that has both scented flowers and scented leaves. There are many types; here, we deal specifically with English lavender.

    Despite its common name, "English" lavender is a Mediterranean herb, so install it in sandy soil that drains very sharply. A damp soil filled with humus frequently leads to root rot; it likes soil that's poor and dry.

    Water new plants every other day for their first week to get them established. Thereafter, they're drought-tolerant; excess watering only inhibits their ability to bloom. Water mature plants only before the ground totally dries out, until flower buds form. Then water every few days to ensure a good harvest.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 8
    • Flower Color Varieties: Purple, lavender, violet-blue, white, pink
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, infertile
    • Mature Size: 2 to 3 feet tall, 2 to 4 feet wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 10 of 15

    Russian Sage (Salvia yangii)

    Blue spire Russian sage
    Image Source / Getty Images

    Russian sage is a sub-shrub grown as a perennial. Grow it not only for its panicles of lavender flowers that bloom from summer to fall but also for its stems and foliage. The plant's silvery stems are graceful, and its feathery, silvery leaves are scented. It reaches 4 to 5 feet high, making quite a statement. Its long bloom period means gardeners will enjoy a pop of color in their yard all throughout the growing season.

    Drought-tolerant, it's useful in xeriscaping. It's a minimal-fuss plant; just give it full sun and good drainage.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3a to 9b
    • Flower Color Varieties: Lavender
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained
    • Mature Size: 4 to 5 feet tall, 3 feet wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 11 of 15

    Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)

    Sweet woodruff plants in bloom.

    Michael Davis / Photolibrary / Getty Images

    Sweet woodruff serves as a fragrant ground cover with whorled leaves and star-shaped flowers. Its scented leaves and ability to spread are its leading attributes. The aromatic foliage smells stronger once dried, making it a natural for potpourris.

    Sweet woodruff is easy to grow, readily adapting to different soil and moisture conditions. One of its few drawbacks is that it's too easy to grow: It spreads so easily that it can be thuggish, so you may have to pull up volunteers occasionally to keep it under control. Alternatively, if you water it sparingly, it won't spread as quickly.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9
    • Flower Color Varieties: White
    • Light: Partial sun to shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained
    • Mature Size: 6 to 12 inches tall, 9 to 18 inches wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 12 of 15

    Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)

    Closeup of flowers of tansy plant.

     sola deo gloria / Getty Images

    Tansy has feathery, scented leaves and clusters of button-shaped, yellow flowers. At 2 to 5 feet tall, it's big enough to serve as a tall-to-medium-sized plant in a border. It was traditionally harvested and dried for use as a strewing herb, mainly for ant control: Ants dislike its smell.

    Harder to control than sweet woodruff, don't plant tansy in areas where it's considered invasive.

    Warning

    Tansy is considered an invasive plant in North America.

    Even in places where it's not technically invasive, tansy can quickly take over an area, so most of your work will come in the form of restricting tansy's spread.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8
    • Flower Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Light: Full to partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained
    • Mature Size: 2 to 5 feet tall, 12 to 18 inches wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes

    Warning

    Tansy's foliage is toxic to humans, cows, and horses.

    Continue to 13 of 15 below.
  • 13 of 15

    Tricolor Sage (Salvia officinalis 'Tricolor')

    Tricolor sage (image) is an ornamental. It likes fast-draining soil.
    Tricolor sage is used primarily for ornamental purposes David Beaulieu

    You know the culinary herb, sage and its scented leaves. Salvia officinalis 'Tricolor' is basically an ornamental cultivar of the same plant. Its scented leaves boast three colors (white, green, purple). Standing 1 to 1 1/2 feet tall, it makes a good short border plant.

    Grow Tricolor in full sun and well-drained soil. Mix compost into the ground annually to fertilize. The purple in the variegated foliage depends on full sun. Give it well-drained soil, otherwise it may rot. Drought-tolerant once established, don't let the soil dry out when the plant is young.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 6 to 9
    • Flower Color Varieties: Not grown for its flowers
    • Light: Full to partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained
    • Mature Size: 1 to 1 1/2 feet, with a similar spread
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 14 of 15

    Wormwood (Artemisia spp.)

    Silver leaves of Artemisia Powis Castle plant.

     John E. Kelly/Getty Images

    Ornamental wormwoods grown for their scented leaves include Artemisia ludoviciana 'Silver King', a tall, wispy plant. Its stems and leaves are harvested and dried to make wreaths. By contrast, the even more popular Artemisia schmidtiana 'Silver Mound' is short and compact, making it a great edging plant.

    Silver Mound is easy to grow. Just give it full sun and good drainage. It tolerates drought, road salt, and poor soil.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 8
    • Flower Color Varieties: Yellow (but wormwood is not grown for its flowers)
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained
    • Mature Size: 6 to 12 inches tall, 12 to 18 inches wide (Silver Mound)
    • Deer Resistant: Yes

    Warning

    Artemisia ludoviciana is toxic to people and pets.

  • 15 of 15

    Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

    Paprika (image) is a red type of yarrow. The plant is also known as Achillea.
    David Beaulieu

    Yarrow's aromatic foliage bears a fern-like appearance. The fine texture of the leaves is useful for creating visual contrast with other leafy green plants. But this perennial's grown more for its blooms. The flowers come in flat-topped clusters in many colors, giving gardeners seeking particular color combinations lots of choices.

    Yarrow is easy to grow and spreads when grown in full sun. Before planting yarrow, consider whether its spreading is acceptable. It must be staked in some cases to avoid having its stems flop over in high winds.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 9
    • Flower Color Varieties: Purple, white, yellow, pink, orange, red, bi-colored
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained
    • Mature Size: 2 to 3 feet tall and wide
    • Deer Resistant: Ye

    Warning

    Yarrow is toxic to cats, dogs, and horses.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Negi, G.C.S., Sharma, S., Vishvakarma, S.C. et al. Ecology and Use of Lantana camara in India. Bot. Rev., vol. 85, pp. 109–130, 2019. doi:10.1007/s12229-019-09209-8

  2. Tanacetum vulgare, Missouri Botanical Garden

  3. Tanacetum vulgare, North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension

  4. Artemisia, North Carolina State University Extension

  5. Yarrow, ASPCA