Favorite Fragrant Plants

Favorite Fragrant Plants

Matthew Noiseux
Jul 2, 2010

It's Friday—time for a little daydreaming to start your 4th of July weekend off: do you have a favorite plant or flower smell, possibly something you remember from childhood? I have a list of fragrant plants after the jump, some you may know and others that might be new to you, and of course we'd love to hear what your favorites are.

In the past few weeks The New York Times went from writing about making flowers into perfumes, to an article by Anne Raver on roses that lack scent. In the case of the roses, and many other hybrids, scent is an unfortunate casualty in breeding for visually bolder flowers or disease resistance. The scent is quite literally bred out of them.

Although we try to approximate and duplicate these smells, they never are as full and complex as when you are smelling them straight from the plant. Here is a short list of fragrant plants which can be grown in pots and containers:

Gardenia: Beautiful white flowers that are rose-like and extremely fragrant. I personally love this smell, but some find it a bit strong. Logee's has a number of varieties to look at.

Scented Geraniums: Not really Geraniums (they are Pelargoniums), but their leaves resemble Geranium leaves. Their scent is contained in oil glands on the leaves, which release the scent when it gets hot. They come in a wide range of fragrances from mint, rose, citrus, and even coconut and the leaves and flowers are wildly varied. D*S had a small post on them in May, and their opening pic gives you an idea of their variety.

Coconut Orchid: Orchids are truly the chameleons of the plant world. Maxillaria tenuifolia has a tiny flower with a light coconut or cocoa butter-ish fragrance. The flowers are not as showy as other orchids, but it's one of the most pleasantly fragrant orchids I have experienced, and fairly easy to grow.

Lavender: There are so many varieties out there, varying in both height and in flower color and fragrance. There is even a variety that is white, which would make you believe it has no smell, but in fact it is quite fragrant.

Jasmine: Jasminum sambac is shrub-like and truly fragrant, with small rose-like blossoms. But Jasminum polyanthum grows as a vining plant, with sprays of delicate white blossoms and makes for a great hanging plant as the vines trail down full of blossoms.

Nicotiana: Said to have a wonderful and strong scent and smaller hybrids can grow in containers. Nicotiana are related to the tobacco plant and often called 'Flowering Tobacco'. Nicotiana sylvestris is a very large variety, too big for an average planter, but super fragrant and it opens its flowers at night. There are many smaller and fragrant hybrids, however, that can easily be 'contained'.

Roses: As mentioned above, so many rose varieties have little to no scent. But one of the simplest, easy care roses of them all is also one of the most fragrant fragrant: Rosa rugosa. The flowers come white to yellow, pink, and purple, and can be either single (five petals), semi-double, or double. Once the blossoms are gone they leave behind rose hips that get to be the size of cherry tomatos and are packed with nutrients.

Dwarf Citrus: The delicate smell of the blossoms always reminds one of the fruit that they bear. Many dwarf varieties do very well in small containers and indoors as long as they have enough light. Again, Logee's has many varieties to look at.

Rosemary: A favorite herb, but never more than when it is right on the plant. Brushing the leaves releases the great aroma. A local farmer, Stokes Farm, brings in enormous rosemary pots to the farmers market and has a great care page on their website.

Where to Place Them:

The best place to keep them is near at hand. Having them by a doorway or where people sit will ensure you get to touch or smell the fragrant leaves and flowers. Hanging planters in a window, like with jasmine, will also let a nice breeze bring the fragrance inside. If you have an outdoor garden, keeping these plants close to the paths or by where people walk will ensure they are brushed up against.

Matt writes a weekly column on plants, flowers and gardening. Feel free to e-mail questions to matthew@apartmenttherapy.com

(Gardenia image by Flickr member miamism licensed under Creative Commons)

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