Fragrant plants

Fragrant plants can add a whole new dimension to the enjoyment of the garden. They are ideal plants for the smaller garden, where the scent of their flowers or foliage can permeate the whole area.

Philadelphus 'Manteau d'Hermine'

Introduction

A garden containing powerfully scented winter-flowering shrubs such as Daphne bholua, Mahonia japonica and Lonicera fragrantissima can transform an otherwise bleak and dark season into one that is looked forward to with anticipation. Floral fragrances on warm, summer evenings can be equally pleasurable.

Practical considerations

  • Scented plants are best grown in sheltered areas where the scent can be contained
  • Plant fragrant-flowered plants in a sheltered area where the fragrance can be retained for longer; an enclosed courtyard or walled garden is ideal
  • For smaller growing plants, plant at the front of raised beds or in containers near to the front door where their floral scent can easily be enjoyed when passing
  • Put cut winter-flowering stems where their fragrance can be enjoyed indoors
  • Fragrance can be incorporated in the garden for specific purposes such as a night-scented garden or a winter interest garden

Suitable plants

Suitable plants

Key:

*  Evergreen
(W)  Slightly tender and best grown against a wall
AGM  Denotes plants which have received the Society's Award of Garden Merit


Trees

Spring flowering
Acacia dealbata AGM * (W) yellow flowers; height 15-30m (49-98ft), spread 6-10m (20-33¼ft)
Azara microphylla AGM * (W) yellow flowers; height 10m (33¼ft), spread 4m (13¼ft)
Crataegus monogyna white flowers; height 10m (33¼ft), spread 8m (26ft)
Drimys winteri AGM* ivory-white flowers; height 15m (50ft), spread 10m (33¼ft)
Magnolia salicifolia white flowers; height 10m (33¼ft), spread 6m (20ft)
Prunus padus white flowers; height 15m (49ft), spread 10m (33¼ft)
P. × yedoensis pale-pink flowers; height 15m (49ft), spread 10m (33¼ft)

Summer flowering
Tilia × euchlora yellowish-white flowers; height 20m (70ft), spread 15m (50ft)
T. tomentosa ‘Petiolaris’ AGM pale-yellow flowers; height 30m (100ft), spread 20m (70ft)
T. platyphyllos ‘Rubra’ AGM yellowish-white flowers; height 30m (100ft), spread 20m (70ft)

Winter flowering
Acacia dealbata (mimosa) AGM * (W) yellow flowers; height 15-30m (50-100ft), spread 6-10m (20-30ft)

Large shrubs

Spring flowering
Azalea (See Rhododendron)
Buxus sempervirens * pale-green flowers; height and spread 5m (15ft) or more
Erica arborea * greyish-white flowers; height to 6m (20ft), spread 3m (10ft)
Magnolia denudata AGM white flowers; height and spread (10m (30ft)
Magnolia stellata white flowers; height 3m (10ft), spread 4m (12ft)
Magnolia × soulangiana deep rose-pink to white flowers; height and spread 6m (20ft)
Osmanthus × burkwoodii AGM * white flowers; height and spread 3m (10ft)
O. decorus * (syn. Phillyrea decora) white flowers; height 3m (10ft) spread 5m (15ft)
O. delavayi AGM * white flowers; height 2-6m (6½-20ft), spread 4m (12ft) or more
Prunus mume pink or white flowers; height and spread 9m (28ft)
Rhododendron Loderi * and its cultivars: white or pink, flowers; height and spread 4m (12ft)
Viburnum × bodnantense rose-red to pinkish-white flowers; height 3m (10ft) spread 2m (6½ft)
V. farreri (syn. V. fragrans) AGM pink or white flowers; height 3m (10ft) spread 2.5m (8ft)

Summer flowering
Argyrocytisus battandieri (syn. Cytisus battandieri) yellow flowers; height and spread 5m (15ft)
Buddleja alternifolia AGM lilac flowers; height and spread 4m (12ft)
B. davidii white, pink, lavender or purple flowers; height 3m (10ft) spread 5m (15ft)
Clerodendrum trichotomum white flowers; height and spread 5-6m (15-20ft)
Clethra alnifolia white flowers; height and spread 2.5m (8ft)
Corylopsis spicata yellow flowers; height 2m (6½ft), spread 3m (10ft)
Elaeagnus angustifolia yellowish-white flowers; height and spread 6m (20ft)
E. umbellata silvery-scaled, yellow-white flowers; height and spread 5m (15ft)
Genista aetnensis AGM yellow flowers; height and spread 8m (25ft)
G. cinerea yellow flowers; height 3m (10ft), spread 4m (12ft)
G. tenera ‘Golden Shower’ AGM yellow flowers; height 3m (10ft), spread 5m (15ft)
Itea ilicifolia AGM * (W) greenish-white flowers; height 3-5m (10-15ft), spread 3m (10ft)
Magnolia grandiflora * (W) white flowers; height 6-18m, spread to 15m (50ft)
M. sieboldii white flowers; height 8m (25ft), spread 12m (40ft) 
Philadelphus delavayi white flowers flushed purple; height 3m (10ft) spread 2.5m (8ft)
P. ‘Virginal’ AGM double-white flowers; height 3m (10ft) or more, spread 2.5m (8ft)
Ptelea trifoliata greenish-white flowers; height 8m (25ft), spread 4m (12ft)
Pyracantha * white flowers in early summer; height and spread 3m (10ft)
Rhododendron auriculatum * white flowers; height 10m (30ft), spread 5m (15ft)
Rosa many have fragrant flowers
Spartium junceum AGM yellow flowers; height and spread 3m (10ft)
Syringa vulgaris (lilac) white, pink or purple, single or double flowers; height and spread 7m (22ft)

Autumn flowering
Clethra alnifolia white flowers; height and spread 2.5m (8ft)
Elaeagnus × ebbingei AGM * silvery-scaled, creamy-white flowers; height and spread 4m (12ft)
Magnolia grandiflora * (W) white flowers; height 6-18m, spread 15m (50ft)
Osmanthus heterophyllus * (syn. O. aquifolium) white flowers; height and spread 5m (15ft)

Winter flowering
Chimonanthus praecox yellow flowers with purplish-centres; height 4m (12ft), spread 3m (10ft)
Daphne bholua * white, flushed purple-pink flowers; height 2-4m (6½-12ft), spread 1.5m (5ft)
Hamamelis mollis (witch hazel) yellow flowers; height and spread 4m (12ft)
Viburnum × bodnantense flowers from rich, rose-red to pinkish-white; height 3m (10ft) spread 2m (6½ft)
V. farreri (syn. V. fragrans) AGM pink or white flowers; height 3m (10ft) spread 2.5m (8ft)

Medium shrubs

Spring flowering
Choisya ternata AGM * white flowers; height and spread 2.5m (8ft)
Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca AGM (W) yellow flowers; height and spread 80cm (32in)
Cytisus × praecox cream or yellow flowers; height 1.2m (4ft), spread 1.5m (5ft)
Elaeagnus commutata white flowers; height 4m (12ft), spread 2m (6½ft)
Lonicera fragrantissima creamy-white flowers; height 2m (6½ft) spread 3m (10ft)
L. × purpusii creamy-white flowers; height 2m (6½ft) spread 2.5m (8ft)
L. standishii creamy-white flowers; height and spread 2m (6½ft)
Mahonia japonica AGM * yellow flowers; height 2m (6½ft) spread 3m (10ft)
Rhododendron luteum yellow flowers; height and spread 4m (12ft)
Viburnum × burkwoodii * white flowers from pink buds; height and spread 2.5m (8ft)
V. × carlcephalum AGM white flowers from pink buds; height and spread 3m (10ft)
V. carlesii pink white flowers from pink buds; height and spread 2m (6½ft)

Summer flowering
Citrus trifoliata (syn. Poncirus trifoliata) (Japanese bitter orange) white flowers; height and spread 5m (15ft)
Clerodendrum bungei AGM pink flowers; height and spread 2m (6½ft) or more
Clethra tomentosa white flowers; height and spread 1-2m (3¼-6½ft)
Deutzia × elegantissima rose-pink flowers; height 1.2m (4ft), spread 1.5m (5ft)
Elaeagnus commutata white flowers; height 4m (12ft), spread 2m (6½ft)
Escallonia ‘Donard Gem’ * pink flowers; height and spread 2.5m (8ft)
Olearia × haastii * white flowers with yellow centres; height 2m (6½ft), spread 3m (10ft)
O. macrodonta AGM * white flowers; height 6m (20ft), spread 5m (15ft)
Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’ AGM white flowers with pale purple centres; height 1.2m (4ft), spread 2.5m (8ft)
P. ‘Beauclerk’ AGM white flowers; height and spread 2.5m (8ft)
P. coronarius (mock orange) white flowers; height 3m (10ft) spread 2.5m (8ft)
P. microphyllus white flowers; height and spread 1m (3¼ft)
Rhododendron viscosum AGM pinkish white flowers; height and spread 2.5m (8ft)
(also many of the Knaphill, Exbury, Ghent and Occidentale Hybrid azaleas)
Romneya coulteri AGM white flowers, height 1-2.5m (3¼-8ft), spread indefinite
Rosa a large genus; many having fragrant flowers. 
Syringa pubescens subsp. microphylla ‘Superba’ AGM rose-pink flowers; height and spread to 6m (20ft)

Autumn flowering
Choisya ternata AGM * white flowers; height and spread 2.5m (8ft)
Clerodendrum bungei AGM pink flowers; height and spread 2m (6½ft) or more
Mahonia × media ‘Charity’ yellow flowers; height 5m (15ft) spread 4m (12ft)

Winter flowering
Lonicera fragrantissima creamy-white flowers; height 2m (6½ft) spread 3m (10ft)
L. × purpusii creamy-white flowers; height 2m (6½ft) spread 2.5m (8ft)
L. standishii creamy-white flowers; height and spread 2m (6ft)
Mahonia japonica AGM * yellow flowers; height 2m (6½ft) spread 3m (10ft)
M. × media ‘Charity’ yellow flowers; height 5m (15ft) spread 4m (12ft)

Small shrubs

Spring flowering
Daphne blagayana * creamy-white flowers; height 40cm (16in) spread 1m (39in)
D. × burkwoodii pale-purplish pink flowers; height and spread 1-1.5m (3¼-5ft)
D. cneorum * deep rose-pink to white flowers; height 15cm (6in), spread 2m (6½ft)
D. mezereum pink to purplish-pink flowers; height 1.2m (4ft), spread 1m (3¼ft)
Erica × darleyensis * white to rose-pink flowers; height 60cm (2ft), spread to 75cm (30in)
E. erigena (syn. E. mediterranea) * deep lilac-pink flowers; height to 2.5m (8ft), spread 1m (3¼ft)
Skimmia japonica ‘Fragrans’ AGM * (and other male-flowered forms). White flowers; height and spread 1m (3¼ft)

Summer flowering
Philadelphus ‘Sybille’ AGM white flowers with pale-purple centres; height 1.2m, spread 2m (6½ft)
Rosa many have fragrant flowers

Winter flowering
Erica × darleyensis * white to rose-pink flowers; height 60cm (2ft), spread to 75cm (30in)
E. erigena (syn. E. mediterranea) * deep lilac-pink flowers; height to 2.5m (8ft), spread 1m (3¼ft)
Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis * white flowers; height 1.5m (5ft), spread 2m (6½ft)
S. ruscifolia var. chinensis * creamy-white flowers; height and spread 1m (3¼ft)
S. confusa AGM * white flowers; height 2m (6ft), spread 1m (3¼ft)

Climbers and wall shrubs

Spring flowering
Clematis armandii * (W) white flowers; height and spread 8m (26ft)
C. ‘Elizabeth’ AGM pink flowers; height to 14m (46ft), spread to 3m (10ft)
Holboellia coriacea mauve male flowers, purple-tinged, greenish-white female flowers height to 7m (22ft), spread to 3m (10ft)
H. latifolia purple female flowers, greenish-white male flowers; height to 5m (15ft), spread to 2.5m (8ft)
Wisteria floribunda mauve, pink or white flowers; height 9m (28ft) or more, spread 4m (12ft)
W. sinensis mauve, pink or white flowers; height 9m (28ft) or more, spread 4m (12ft)

Summer flowering
Cestrum parqui AGM greenish-yellow flowers; height and spread 2m (6½ft)
Clematis rehderiana AGM pale-yellow flowers; height to 7m (22ft) spread to 3m (10ft)
Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris white flowers; height 15m (50ft), spread 8m (26ft)
Jasminum officinale white flowers; height 12m (40ft), spread 5m (15ft)
Lonicera × americana AGM purple-flushed, yellow flowers; height to 8m (26ft) spread 2m (6½ft)
L. japonica * white, aging to yellow flowers; height 10m, (32ft) spread 2.5m (8ft)
L. periclymenum white to yellow, deep-pink flushed flowers; height 7m (22ft), spread 2.5m (8ft)
Trachelospermum jasminoides AGM * (W) white flowers; height 9m (28ft), spread 3m (10ft)

Autumn flowering
Cestrum parqui AGM greenish-yellow flowers; height and spread 2m (6½ft)
Clematis rehderiana AGM pale-yellow flowers; height to 7m (22ft) spread to 3m (10ft)

Herbaceous perennials

Spring flowering
Convallaria majalis AGM white flowers; height 23cm (9in) spread 30cm (1ft)
Primula auricula deep yellow flowers; height 20cm (8in), spread 25cm (10in)
P. veris AGM deep yellow flowers; height and spread 25cm (10in)
Viola odorata (sweet violet) white or mauve flowers; height 20cm (8in) spread 30cm (1ft)

Summer flowering
Clematis tubulosa ‘Wyevale’ AGM blue flowers; height 75cm (2½ft), spread 130cms (4½ft)
C. recta white flowers; height 1-2m (3¼-6½ft), spread 75cm (30in)
Dianthus (particularly border carnations and pinks) all colours except blue
Galium odorata white flowers; height 45cm (18in) spread indefinite
Hemerocallis dumortieri orange-yellow flowers; height 50cm (20in), spread 45cm (18in)
H. lilioasphodelus lemon-yellow flowers; height and spread 1m (3¼ft)
Hosta ‘Honeybells’ lavender-blue tinged white flowers; height 75cm (30in), spread 1.2m (4ft)
H. plantaginea ‘Grandiflora’ AGM white flowers; height 60cm (2ft) spread 1m (3¼ft)
Paeonia officinalis deep-red or rose-pink flowers; height and spread 60-70cm (2ft-28in)
P. lactiflora white to pale pink flowers; height and spread 50-70cm (20-28in)
Phlox paniculata white, pale or dark lilac flowers; height 1.2m (4ft), spread 60cm-1m (2ft-39in)
Primula florindae AGM sulphur-yellow flowers; height to 1.2m (4ft) spread 90cm (3¼ft)

Annuals and biennials

Spring flowering
Amberboa moschata white, yellow, or pink flowers; height 60cm (2ft), spread 23cm (9in)
Erysimum cheiri yellow-orange flowers; height 25-80cm (10-32in) spread 30-40cm (1ft-16in)

Summer flowering
Amberboa moschata white, yellow, or pink flowers; height 60cm (2ft), spread 23cm (9in)
Lathyrus odoratus wine-red and purple flowers; height 2m (6½ft), spread 30-45cm (1ft-18in)
Lobularia maritima white to pale-purple flowers; height 5-30cm (2-1ft), spread 20-30cm (8in-1ft)
Matthiola longipetala subsp. bicornis pink, mauve or purple flowers; height 30-35cm (1ft-14in), spread 23cm (9in)
Nicotiana affinis white flowers; height 1.5m (5ft) spread 30cm (1ft)
N. sylvestris AGM white flowers; height to 1.5m (5ft), spread 60cm (2ft)
Oenothera biennis yellow flowers; height 1-1.5m (3-5ft), spread to 60cm (2ft)
Reseda odorata white to reddish-green flowers; height 30-60cm (1-2ft), spread to 23cm (9in)

Autumn flowering
Oenothera biennis yellow flowers; height 1-1.5m (3-5ft), spread to 60cm (2ft)

Winter flowering
Iris unguicularis (syn. I. stylosa) AGM lavender blue and yellow flowers; height 30cm (1ft), spread 45cm (18in)
Viola odorata (sweet violet) white or mauve flowers; height 20cm (8in) spread 30cm (1ft)

Bulbs and corms

Spring flowering
Gladiolus tristis creamy-white, green-tinged flowers; height 45cm-1m (18-39in), spread 5cm (2in)
Hyacinthus orientalis cultivars, pink, red, yellow, white, or blue flowers; height 20-30cm (8in-1ft), spread 8cm (3in)
Iris reticulata and cultivars pale to deep violet-blue or reddish purple with yellow markings; height 10-15cm (4-6in), spread 2.5-5cm (1-2in)
Narcissus jonquilla yellow flowers; height 30cm (1ft)
N. poeticus white flowers with red-rimmed yellow cups; height 20-50cm (8-20in)
N. tazetta Group white and yellow flowers; height 15-50cm (6-20in)
Tulipa (many cultivars are scented)

Summer flowering
Crinum × powellii (W) pale to mid pink flowers; height 1.5m (5ft), spread 30cm (1ft)
Freesia (prepared corms, planted outdoors for summer flowering) whi


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