While it’s certainly true that non-fragrant blooms—like sunflowers, dahlias, tulips, and calla lilies—are just as lovely as the sweet-smelling ones, your favorite blossoms probably do likely have a scent. It’s part of their appeal: So many memories begin with smell, which is why fragrant flowers so often stand out in our minds. The best way to experience your go-to floral fragrance regularly? Plant the blooms’ shrubs, bushes, or trees in your garden.
Luckily, your fragrant flower options aren’t limited—these blooms come in all shapes, sizes, and types, from ones that grow on trees in the tropics to tiny, compact blossoms that hug the ground. Some are as showy as they are fragrant, while others don’t look like much—but when you lean in close, they surprise you. Believe it or not, flowers can be fragrant in all kinds of ways: Some release a sweet smell all day long, while others make you wait until evening or nighttime. And there are fragrant bloomers for any season, from the first of spring’s thaw to the dog days of summer. Longevity changes, too—certain varieties bloom for a few hours, and others persist for months.
There’s a reason for all this fragrance. Flowers produce a scent in order to attract pollinators, which is crucial for continuing the life cycle of the plant. And these little critters are critical to a flourishing garden. To help you bring your own space to this level, we’ve rounded up the 11 most fragrant flowers, which you and your garden’s tiniest wildlife will equally appreciate.
A rose is a rose is a rose—except that’s not actually true at all. Roses have a wide range of fragrances, including fruity (Jude the Obscure is a great one), musky (like Snow Goose), and “classic” rose (like our absolute favorite, Gertrude Jekyll).
A favorite in the perfume world, gardenia smells even better in the garden. These milky-white flowers bring a strong, exotic scent to your landscape.
These spring-blooming annual vines range in scent, with heirloom varieties like Cupani being the most classic. Their fragrance is strong enough to waft down the street—which explains why they are a true treat to have in your garden.
Rewarding us at the end of winter, daphne flowers form on small mounding shrubs. The buds give off the sweetest clean-smelling scent, perfuming the air surrounding the bush.
Though this plant is poisonous, its scent is inviting. Only fragrant once the sun goes down, it wafts an exotic perfume around the air. Suspended on the branches of a small tropical tree, the yellow buds hang like oversized, upside-down squash blossoms.
Most people love the scent of lilacs, but some find it too astringent or similar to a go-to household cleaner. If you’re into them, however, plant some of these multi-stemmed shrubs around your space—and expect to be wowed.
Planted in the fall as bulbs, freesia emerge in the spring as bell-shaped flowers lined along a single stem. These flowers come in many hues, including white, golden yellow, orange, red, pink, mauve, lavender, purple and bicolors.
Strongly scented, paperwhites are a divisive bud: You either love or hate this type of narcissus. Plant these florals as bulbs and expect them to bloom in late winter or early spring. And then it’s up to you to decide whether the musky scent smells good (which is our opinion!) or like dirty socks, as other suggest.
Another fall-planted bulb, these tropical-looking, tubular flowers bloom summer through fall. Their scent will leave you feeling like you’re on vacation—even when you’re standing in your own garden.
This flowering shrub bursts into small white blossoms in spring or early summer. Best of all is the sweet, citrusy scent of its flowers—though they’re not actually citrus blossoms. They are, however, a great alternative for gardeners in climates too cold to grow orange trees.