16 Plants That Smell Best at Night

Fragrant Blooming Plants for Your Garden

  • 01 of 17

    Scented Plants

    outdoor dining table at night
    Westend61/Getty Images

    Some plants, especially those that produce flowers, smell stronger and sweeter at night. Planting fragrant bloomers in beds and containers on patios, porches, and near outdoor spaces puts them up close and personal with you and your guests, where you can inhale intoxicating aromas that can't be duplicated.

    It's during the evening hours when you can really enjoy your patio, deck, and yard, especially during the warmer months of the year. Work is done for the day, you may have grilled...MORE outside, and it's time to kick back and savor the company of family, friends, or loved ones. 

    What about the extras—those little things that might coax you to stay outside and drink in the starry sky? A glass of wine or cocktail might help you unwind, and a fire pit is nice to gather around for conversation. Candles, lanterns, or soft lighting can create a relaxing atmosphere and allow guests to stay outdoors longer. But if you really want to tap into the senses, consider introducing wonderful, heavenly scents into your outdoor space. And not just with candles or incense—we mean the ​real thing.

    Why Do Some Plants Smell Stronger at Night?

    Flowering plants depend on birds, insects, or the wind to move pollen from one flower to another. While some flowering plants lure pollinators with their colors, others attract them with their scents. Plants that need to be pollinated by night-flying insects and bats smell stronger in the evening, when they are ready for pollination and when their pollinators are most active.

    Tips for landscaping with and planting scented flowers:

    • Place near a porch, patio, near outdoor seating, or along a path
    • Stay away from combining scents that might compete or become overpowering if concentrated in a small area
    • Plant according to light, water, and soil needs
    • With research and planning, you can have a sweet-smelling garden or patio throughout the year by knowing what blooms when
    • Plants that are especially fragrant will do well in areas that receive lots of traffic, like paths, a patio seating area, or near windows

     

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  • 02 of 17

    Angel's Trumpet

    White Angel's Trumpets (Brugmansia x candida Syn. Datura x candida)
    Matt Anker / Getty Images

    Botanical Name: Brugmansia

    Also Known AsDatura

    Zones: USDA 8-12

    Care: Sun or shade; regular water

    These South American natives bearing trumpet-shaped flowers in white, pink, or yellow grow well under eaves and against walls. Container-grown plants will be smaller and can be moved indoors if frost is a threat. Its fragrance picks up at night. The only angel's trumpet that is not scented is B. sanguinea, which has an orange-red flower.

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  • 03 of 17

    Casa Blanca Lily

    casablaca lily
    Casablaca lily flower. Flickr member k yamada

    Botanical Name: Lilium 'Casa Blanca'

    Zones: 3-9

    Care: Roots should be kept cool, while tops should be in sun or filtered light. Needs regular water.

    This Asian lily should be planted in spring or fall and will bloom in August and September. Happy in a container, it looks good when planted in groups of three or five identical bulbs. A large white bloom, Casa Blanca produces a sweet aroma.

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  • 04 of 17

    Evening Primrose

    white evening primrose
    White evening primrose flowers. John Cox/Getty Images

    Botanical Name: Oenothera caespitosa

    Also Known As: Tufted, Fragrant or White Evening Primrose

    Zones: USDA 5-8

    Care: Partial shade to full sun; little to moderate water

    A native to the western United States, this perennial/biennial attracts night-flying insects which are drawn to the flower's lovely scent. As the name might imply, evening primrose opens quickly at dusk or on overcast days. White to pink blooms are heavy in spring to autumn. A drought-tolerant plant that grows in poor soil or...MORE rocky areas and likes full sun. .

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  • 05 of 17

    Yellow Evening Primrose

    yellow evening primrose flower
    katerynap/Getty Images

    Botanical Name: Oenathera biennis

    Zones: USDA 5-8

    Care: Drought tolerant; grows in dry climates

    Another variation of O. caespitosa, yellow O. biennis attracts moths, hummingbirds, honeybees, and bumblebees, which pollinate the primrose. Easy to grow, it can become tall during its second year, when it flowers, sets seed, and dies.

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  • 06 of 17

    Flowering Tobacco

    nicotiana sylvestris
    Fragrant Nicotiana sylvestris. Flickr member peganum

    Botanical Name: Nicotiana. Scented species include: N. alata 'Grandiflora', N. sylvestris

    Also Known As: Jasmine tobacco

    Zones: Most

    Care: Partial shade or full sun; regular water

    These South American natives are upright growers that can be identified by their large, oval leaves and sticky stems and foliage. Tubular flowers open at night and on cloudy days, and are especially fragrant at night. 

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  • 07 of 17

    Four O'Clock

    marvel of peru
    Marvel of Peru flowers. Flickr member Yusuke Chiba

    Botanical Name: Mirabilis jalapa

    Also Known As: Marvel of Peru, beauty of the night

    Zones: Most

    Care: Full sun; little water

    A native to Peru, marvel of Peru seeds were sent to Europe by Spanish explorers in the 1500s. Mounding plants that reach heights of 3 to 4 feet, four o'clocks are enjoyed for their variet of colors: yellow, red, pink, white, and variations. Not surprisingly, flower blossoms become more fragrant in the late afternoon (around 4 p.m.) until early morning hours.

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  • 08 of 17

    Gardenia

    white gardenia
    Fragrant white gardenia in Maui. Flickr members Forest and Kim Starr

    Botanical Names: Gardenia augusta, G jasminoides

    Zones: Vary

    Care: Partial shade or full sun; regular or ample water 

    A native to Japan, China, and Taiwan, this plant is noted for its glossy, bright green leaves and single or double white flowers that are strongly scented. To grow, plant them in fast-draining soil with plenty of organic amendments and give them room for their roots to spread. Gardenias perform well in containers, raised beds, as espaliers, and as low privacy or green screens.

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  • 09 of 17

    Heliotrope

    heliotrope flowers
    Pot of purple heliotrope flowers. Flickr member daryl_mitchell

    Botanical Name: Heliotropium Peruvianum

    Also Known As: Common heliotrope

    Zones: Vary

    Care: Regular water

    A native of Peru, this flower is a summer annual that produces blooms in purples, blues, violets, and whites. Most do well in pots and containers and need well-drained soil. Scent is sweet and delicate.

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  • 10 of 17

    Hellebore

    hellebore plant
    Hellebores planted in garden bed. Flickr member Harry Lawford/The Orangery

    Botanical Name: Helleborus

    Zones: Varies by species

    Care: Partial or full shade; water varies by species.

    The flowers of most hellebores are shaped like bells or cups--either facing outward or drooping. Species that smell good include:

    • H. 'HCG Champion'
    • H. 'HCG Josef Lemper'
    • H. 'Molly's White'
    • H. 'Gertrude Jekyll'
    • H. odorous: some are sweet, while others smell "skunky" or have no scent

    Bear's-foot hellebore (H. foetidus) bears clusters of flowers that are...MORE light green with purplish red edges that become foul smelling (malodorous) if crushed or bruised. This is also known as the stinking hellebore.

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  • 11 of 17

    Jasmine

    white jasmine flower
    Jasminum polyanthum flower. Flickr member Ken Bosma

    Botanical Name: Jasminum. Scented species include: J. floridum, J. humile (Italian jasmine), J laurifolium nitidum shining jasmine, angelwing jasmine), J. officinale (common white jasmine, poet's jasmine), J. polyanthum, J. sambac (Arabian jasmine, pikake)

    Zones: Vary by species

    Care: Light shade to full sun; moderate to regular water

    The species listed above are especially fragrant; some jasmines have little or no fragrance. Most are vining shrubs that grow quickly if given good soil and...MORE regular sunlight. Flowers are white, yellow and pink. J. sambac Arabian jasmine 'Grand Duke' produces double flowers that are used for leis in Hawaii and for making perfume. In Asia, this species is used to make jasmine tea.

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  • 12 of 17

    Kahili Ginger

    kahili ginger
    Kahili ginger flower in Maui. Flickr members Forest and Kim Starr

    Botanical Name: Hedychium gardneranum 

    Zones: 9-11

    Care: Light shade; ample water

    This tropical beauty is native to Asia, India, and the Himalayas. Kahili ginger grows to 8 feet high, which would make a dramatic accent to a garden that borders a patio or deck. Flowers are yellow with red stamens are produce a rich fragrance, especially during late summer evenings. Believe it or not, this ginger is considered a pest on the big island of Hawaii.

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  • 13 of 17

    Mexican Orange

    Choysia Ternata
    Choysia Ternata / Flickr

    Botanical Name: Choysia ternata

    Also Known As: Mock Orange

    Zones: 6-9; 14-24

    Care: Full sun in cool climates; moderate water

    This Mexican native features clusters of sweet-smelling white flowers that resemble orange blossoms. Flowers open in late winter or early spring and bloom continuously for a fewmonths, then intermittently throughout the summer. Attractive to bees. Makes a good privacy hedge or screen.

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  • 14 of 17

    Moonflower

    moonflowers at night
    White moonflowers in New Mexico. Flickr member John Fowler

    Botanical Name: Ipomea alba (Calonyction aculeatum)

    Zones: Vary by species

    Care: Full sun; moderate to regular water

    Ipomea, or morning glories, are native to tropical and subtropical regions. The genus includes several ornamental vines, including the sweet potato (edible). I alba, or moonflower, is a fast-growing vine that can provide shade for an arbor, patio roof, gazebo, or trellis. With the right growing conditions, it can reach 20 to 30 feet in just one season. Leaves are heart shaped, and...MORE blooms resemble funnels. Flowers are white and appear in the evening, and are visible and extremely fragrant throughout the night. 

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  • 15 of 17

    Night Jessamine

    cestrum flower
    Cestrum night queen. Flickr member Lalithamba

    Botanical NameCestrum nocturnum

    Zones: Vary

    Care: Partial shade; regular water

    This native to the West Indies this fast-growing shrub can grow up to 12 feet tall and wide. Creamy white blossoms appear in summer, producing a powerful fragrance at night. Prefers full sun for the most beautiful blooms.

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  • 16 of 17

    Plumeria

    plumeria
    Frangipani (Plumeria Rubra) QLD, Australia. Bob Charlton/Getty Images

    Botanical Name: Frangipani, Pua Melia. 

    Zones: Vary

    Care: Partial shade; moderate water

    This native to tropical America is grown as a shrub or small tree in warmer climates. Flowers range from white to yellow to pink and variegated  Flowers are sweet-scented and bloom spring through fall. 

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  • 17 of 17

    Wax Flower

    wax flower
    White wax flower. Flickr member Charlotte Nordahl

    Botanical Name: Hoya

    Also Known As: Wax plant

    Zones: Vary

    Care: Partial or full shade; regular water

    A native to Burma, southern China, and India, this tropical plant gets its name from its waxy leaves and flower clusters. A slow-growing, woody vine, H. carnosa does well in hanging baskets on patios and porches. Flowers are creamy white with a pink center and produce a lovely fragrance that is stronger at night.