6 Fragrant Houseplants That Will Make Your Home Smell Incredible

updated Oct 23, 2020
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One of the best parts of summer is the aroma: the scent of freshly cut grass, rose petals warmed by the sun, and night-blooming Madagascar jasmine that fills the air.

But summer isn’t the only time you can enjoy the scents of nature. In fact, there are plenty of yummy-smelling flowering plants and herbs that thrive indoors. Here, houseplant experts give their top picks for easy-to-grow houseplants that will make the inside of your home smell divine year-round.

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Chocolate Mint (Mentha X piperita)

Mint is easy to grow outside, but this fragrant herb can also thrive indoors under the right conditions, says Veronica Moore, the plant lover and therapist behind Brown Skin Plant Mama. “Anything you grow outdoors you can grow indoors, contrary to popular belief,” Moore says. It just takes the right conditions to make sure that your plants get their preferred amount of water and light.

Put your mint plant in a pot on a sunny windowsill and water it when the soil is dry to touch. Be aware that all plants have a dormant season, so cut back on watering when your mint isn’t growing rapidly.

While mint adds a delicious note to tabbouleh and Vietnamese salads, Moore likes to use these leaves outside the kitchen, too. She grinds up the leaves and put them in a little dish on the ledge of the shower to create a soothing aromatherapy steam session.

Other fragrant herbs you can grow indoors include:

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Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides)

I consider the gardenia the queen of scented plants, and it was always my choice for a special-occasion corsage. I was thrilled when Alfred Palomares, a Vice President at  1-800-Flowers, told me gardenias can grow indoors.

Because they come from the tropics, gardenias need six to eight hours of bright, indirect sunlight to thrive, says Palomares. They’re also particular about humidity and temperature: they like humid rooms that stay between 55 and 75 degrees.

Gardenias need acidic soil, so keep the pH between 4.5 and 5.5.

Choose a soil that drains quickly, so your gardenia’s roots don’t rot and turn to mush. 

While gardenias take a bit of attention, there’s just nothing like the deliciously lush fragrance from those creamy white blooms.

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French Lavender (Lavandula x intermedia ‘Provence’)

Bring some of that savory, calming je ne sais quoi of Provençal lavender to your home with a potted French lavender. “Lavender is heaven; it just takes a little more care in the wintertime when they go dormant,” Moore says. 

Be sure to give your lavender room to grow in a terra cotta pot with quick-draining, rocky soil. French lavender adores sun, so put it in a south-facing window if at all possible. If you don’t have one, consider investing in grow lights. 

It may take some effort to get your lavender into a happy place, but once you do, it’s quite hardy.

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Paperwhite Narcissus (Narcissus papyraceus)

You’ve probably seen this delicate flower for sale in fall and winter, when many people grow the bulbs indoors.

Palomares says these hardy plants prefer cool temperatures around 60 degrees and indirect sunlight, and you can grow them in either water or soil. If growing them in soil, make sure not to water the bulbs too much until they’re in their growth stage—otherwise, you risk rot.

Once they bloom, paperwhite narcissus flowers usually last for a couple weeks. But Palomares has a pro tip you can try if you want the musky scent of paperwhites to stay around: Pot your indoor paperwhite bulbs at two-week intervals for a continuous bloom. 

And if you take the time to grow your paperwhites in soil, you can plant the bulbs in the ground after they’re done blooming indoors. If the garden conditions are right, they’ll multiply and reward you with sweet-smelling blooms each spring.

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Sharry Baby Orchid (Oncidium Sharry Baby)

Of all the rare and remarkable orchids around, this one may be floral designer Jin Song’s favorite. This burgundy and white orchid has an intoxicating scent tinged with sweet chocolate notes.

“I’m just into the shape and color. It’s dark chocolate and white, and inside you can see different colors,” says Song, who owns Flora Arte in Berkeley, California. “And when it fully blooms, it looks like it’s dancing.”

To keep Sharry Baby happy, Song says to put it in an orchid pot (the kind with holes, as shown above) filled with sphagnum moss, so its roots can get nice airflow.

If you have a heavy hand with the water, place the pot atop a dish of pebbles. They’ll catch the extra water and provide the moisture this orchid loves. 

Sharry Baby orchids like east- or south-facing windows with bright morning sun and indirect light in the afternoon because too much sun can cause dark brown patches on the leaves.

Temperature is key for this plant, so keep it in a relatively warm area. Sharry Baby needs to live in a room that’s at least 60 degrees to bloom, but is comfortable up to 75 or 80 degrees—just up the watering regimen when the temperature rises.

Just below the leaves, Sharry Baby and other oncidiums have these plump oblong structures called pseudobulbs. The plants store water and food there, and they should look shiny and smooth.

“If the pseudo bulb is wrinkled, it means they are dried out,” Song says. “It’s a great indicator for beginners.”

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Variegated Hoya Macrophylla (Hoya Macrophylla Variegata)

Hoyas, also known as wax plants, are a somewhat under-the-radar family of scented plants that spend most of the year just chilling. But every so often, they send out these blooms that resemble mini bouquets with the most exotic scent. Brittany Minor of Black Girl Green World on Instagram says her Variegated Hoya Macrophylla is her favorite scented houseplant.

“My hoya isn’t currently in bloom but fingers crossed that the cooler temps mean blooms are on the way!” Minor says.  “They love to produce those blooms in fall and winter.” 

To up the chances of seeing a flower on your hoya, Minor says to put it in a terra cotta pot with well-draining soil—they can’t stand too much water. She adds crushed eggshells to the pot every quarter because that helps keep the soil alkaline.

Place your hoya where it gets bright indirect light, rather than full sun. 

“If you do this, you’ll be greeted with the most beautiful and sweet-smelling tiny flower clusters,” Minor says.