COLUMBIA, Mo. - Home gardeners may want to plant flowers for their fragrance as well as their appearance, said a University of Missouri horticulturist.

"Fragrance gardening deals with creating a garden that excites the sense of smell as well as that of sight," said David Trinklein. "Fragrant plants can turn an attractive garden into an unforgettable one."

Site and plant selection are key to a successful fragrance garden. Select a location that gets at least four to six hours of sunlight daily and has good soil drainage. Try also to choose a site protected from the wind so that fragrances can linger in the garden, Trinklein said.

Select plants that have similar cultural requirements relative to sun, exposure, fertility and moisture.

If using aggressive plants such as mint, plant them in a bottomless container to keep them in check.

If using perennials, choose plants with different blooming periods for season-long fragrances.

Angel's trumpets (Brugmansia and Datura) are some of the most fragrant flowers in gardening, with heady aromas capable of filling an entire yard. They are also toxic, so use these plants with great care, or avoid altogether if pets or children are likely to be exposed to them.

In nature, aromas that people find appealing are often a means by which plants lure insects (or bats or hummingbirds) for pollination. Some aromas, however, help plants by fending off insects. The aroma of basil, for example, serves as an effective fly and mosquito repellent.

Many night-blooming plants are extremely fragrant because their flowers cannot rely on insects to notice them by eyesight alone.

Plant aromas are not always pleasing to humans. The carrion plant has flowers that reek of rotten meat, attractive to blowflies and other insects that feed on decomposing flesh.

"Just as beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, so fragrance is to the olfactory senses of organisms," Trinklein said.

Here are some flowers and foliage for fragrance gardening:

Plants with fragrant flowers

  • Brugmansia
  • Clematis
  • Dianthus
  • Flowering tobacco
  • Garden phlox
  • Heliotrope
  • Lily
  • Pansy
  • Peony
  • Rose
  • Stock
  • Sweet alyssum

Plants with fragrant foliage

  • Artemisia
  • Basil
  • Creeping thyme
  • Lavender
  • Lemon sage
  • Mint
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Scented geranium

For more information, see "Fragrance Gardening" in the June 2008 issue of MU Extension's Missouri Environment & Garden newsletter.

Media Contact