Q. Can you suggest some annuals and perennials that have scented flowers?
Many annuals and perennials have fragrant flowers that can add to the pleasure of your summer garden. These include:
- Heliotrope (Heliotropium aborescens). A plant with beautiful purple flowers and very strong sweet smell. A variety called ‘Fragrant Delight’ is particularly fragrant, as the name suggests.
- Moonflower (Ipomoea alba). This is a perennial tropical plant and must be grown as an annual in the Northeast. Grows as a vine to 15 feet. Its flowers open in the evening and have a very strong scent. ‘Giant White’ has large flowers that can be 6 inches across.
- Ornamental tobacco (Nicotiana spp.). Several species of tobacco (particularly N. sylvestris and N. alata) are grown in the garden as tender annuals. The old-fashioned white varieties of N. alata have the best scent, and the variety ‘Fragrant Cloud’ is good. Nicotiana flowers in late summer. Its scent is strongest in the evening.
- Petunia (Petunia spp.). Like many other species that have been hybridized to produce some desirable trait or other, the commonly grown compact varieties often have little scent. The wild species (P. axillaris) is highly scented but is hard to find in nurseries, although seeds can be purchased. Among newer selections, ‘Damson Ripple’, ‘Frills and Spills’ mix, and some of the Tumbelina® series, e.g. ‘Angela’, ‘Joannna’ and ‘Priscilla’ have good fragrance.
- Scented geraniums (Pelargonium spp.). Grown as an annual in the Northeast. There are scores of varieties available. Scents vary from rose, to mint, to fruit and nut, to pungent.
- Stocks (Matthiola spp.). Best grown as a cool-weather annual in our climate. Numerous varieties in a variety of colors are available.
- Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima). A low-growing plant for the front of the flower bed. The white variety ‘Snow Crystals’ is best for hot summers.
- Sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus). This is the classic scented flowering plant beloved of English gardeners. It has a reputation for being difficult to grow. If grown from seed an early start is important.
- Chocolate cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus). Cosmos is usually grown for its brilliant flowers, but in addition to their dramatic appearance (dark-red, almost black) the flowers have a strong scent. Hardy to Zone 6.
- Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis). Grow this plant for scent in the spring garden. It makes a good ground cover but can be rather aggressive. Best in partial shade.
- Oriental lilies (Lilium spp.). There are numerous varieties available ranging in color from white to yellow to dark red, e.g. ‘Arabesque’, ‘Hotline’, ‘Black Beauty’, ‘Flying Circus’ (white variety), and ‘Stargazer’.
- Pinks (Dianthus spp.). An old-fashioned plant grown for its very fragrant, white, pink or red flowers. There are numerous species and varieties suitable for a variety of garden situations.
- Phlox (Phlox spp.). There numerous species of phlox but P. paniculata is the one usually grown for its late summer flowers with a strong scent. This species is susceptible to powdery mildew, particularly in hot, humid areas, however relatively resistant varieties are available, e.g. ‘David’, ‘Delta Snow’, ‘Natascha’, ‘Robert Poore’ and ‘Speed Limit 45’. Moss or creeping phlox (P. subulata) is also scented.
- Sweet violet (Violet odorata). This is the classic fragrant violet.
- Wisteria (Wisteria spp.). Two species of wisteria (W. floribunda and W. sinensis) are commonly grown in American gardens. both are twining vines. Their pea-like flowers are highly scented. Zones 5-8. Many varieties with flowers ranging from white to purple-violet are available. It needs a very, very sturdy support!
For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service