Posted by Brent Wilson on 9/9/2016 to Design Tips
You can enhance your garden's sensory appeal by planting shrubs, trees and other plants that produce fragrant flowers or foliage. There are hundreds of species and varieties of fragrant plants to choose from, so you can have fragrance in your garden almost year round. Some you have to get close to to catch their fragrance while others are more aromatic; filling the garden with their fragrance.
I selected the plants below based on my own experience with them in north central Georgia. Plant these fragrant wonders near decks, patios, porches, windows, doors, in courtyards and other outdoor living spaces where their fragrances can be enjoyed.
Follow the links to the plant and care tips to see if a plant you like will grow in your USDA Zone.
Fragrant Tea Olive
Thr Fragrant Tea Olive, Osmanthus fragrans, is a wonderful evergreen shrub or small tree blooms in both spring and fall, when temperatures aren't too cold and aren't too hot. This means it can be in bloom for 4 months or more during the year. The clusters of tiny white blooms are somewhat inconspicuous, but they sure pack a fragrant punch. This isn't a flower you have to bury your nose in to smell. One Tea Olive plant can fill an entire front or back yard with fragrance. The fragrance is hard to describe. No other plants I can think of smell like this. Some describe it as a rose scent, others as gardenia and still others as jasmine, but none of these really describe it well. I'd say it smells more like a lemony, sweet perfume. In the end, the smell is all in the nose of the beholder. Tea Olive can be grown as either a large shrub or "limbed up" as a small tree to 12 feet or so in height with a 6 to 8 foot width. Plant this fragrant wonder near decks, patios, porches, swimming pools and other outdoor living areas. It makes a very nice evergreen hedge or screen. As a tree or shrub, it is excellent for use as a corner plant for homes or other structures.
Orange Tea Olive
This Orange Tea Olive, Osmanthus auranticus, is an unusual variety that produces orange flowers instead of the typical white flowers. In my garden, the Orange Tea Olive blooms during the fall; September into October. Unlike the White Tea Olive, which has inconspicuous flowers, the bright orange flowers of the Orange Tea Olive are much more visible and showy. In the fall, one shrub will fill the backyard with a powerful and exquisite scent of perfume. This variety forms a large evergreen shrub or small tree that also has slightly larger and more elongated leaves than the white. It can grow to 20 feet tall however is usually seen at 8 to 12 feet tall in landscapes. Plant near windows and outdoor living areas where the fragrance can be enjoyed. Easy to grow in most any well-drained soil, in sun to partial shade.
Gardenia plants have been long-time favorites in the southern gardens, where they love the warmer weather. Those of you who live further north might be excited to know that gardenias can be grown in containers that can be overwintered or grown indoors year-round. Gardenias have shiny, dark-green green leaves and showy, double or single white blooms that produce a heavenly, sweet aroma in the garden. There are many varieties of gardenia available on the market today. Some, such as 'August Beauty' Gardenia, grow into larger, taller shrubs that can be planted at the corners of your home, decks or porches. Others, such as 'Daisy', 'Jubilation', and the Creeping Gardenia are more compact, mounding forms that are useful in smaller garden spaces. Perhaps the most cold hardy varieties are the 'Fall in Love' and 'Frost Proof' Gardenias, which are reliably hardy as far north as Zone 7a. One important thing you need to know about gardenias is that they prefer a very acid soil with a pH ranging from 4.5 to 6. If soil is too alkaline the foliage will be lighter green and the plant won't produce as many flowers, if any.
With it's dense attractive form, its shiny foliage, the intoxicating scent of its flowers, and its winter flowering time, Winter Daphne, Daphne odora, is a superstar of an evergreen flowering shrub. When it begins to bloom in late winter it heralds - with its intoxicating perfume - the promise of spring. The highly fragrant blooms are crystalline white inside and deep purplish-pink outside - a few have solid white blooms. Depending on the weather and zone, Winter Daphne usually bloom from sometime in January through March, when not mulch else is blooming in the garden. The plant is a small, evergreen mounding shrub, reaching about 4 feet in height with an equal spread. The attractive foliage is glossy green and some have variegated leaves with golden edges. The foliage almost makes it look like a houseplant but it is very hardy grown outdoors in zones 7a to 9b. Winter Daphne is best located in the landscape near windows or near decks, patios, porches and other outdoor living areas where the fragrance can be enjoyed.
Confederate Jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides, is an attractive, fast-growing flowering vine that produces masses of fragrant, white, star-like flowers starting in mid spring and continuing into summer. The fragrance will scent the whole yard. While it is not a true jasmine, its jasmine-like scent has earned it the jasmine name. Confederate jasmine is easy to grow and will grow up to 40 feet in length. It can be trained to grow along a deck rail, the top of a fence, and up and over arbors, pergolas and other structures. It will also grow up concrete walls. With careful pruning, confederate jasmine can be grown in pots, hanging baskets, or indoors in a sunny window where it will bloom even in winter. It is exceptionally drought-tolerant and will thrive in almost any soil. Plant this fragrant wonder in bright sun or partial shade.
Little Gem Magnolia
Unlike other larger growing evergreen southern magnolias that take many years to start blooming, the smaller Little Gem Magnolia will start to produce it's fragrant flowers on plants that are only a year old. The highly fragrant, lemon-scented white blooms are about 5 to 6 inches across and appear starting as early as May or June and continue all the way to first frost in fall! Little Gem has a much faster growth rate than its larger cousins. It matures to a height of about 20 to 25 feet with a width of about 8-10-feet, making it an excellent choice for those who want the beauty of the traditional southern magnolia, but don't have a lot of space to spare or work with. It can be grown branched to the ground or "limbed up" to form a small tree. I especially like using Little Gem as espalier (trained to grow against a large wall), but it is also perfect planted in staggered or straight rows to create a screen or buffer or as a stand alone landscape specimen.
Summersweet / Sweet Pepper Bush
A great plant that is way underused, Summersweet, Clethra alnifolia, also known as Sweet Pepper Bush, is a native North American shrub that produces an abundance of extremely fragrant flower spikes. The very pretty, bottlebrush-like flowers are produced for up to 6 weeks during mid to late summer and are very attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. Summersweets are somewhat unique among summer-flowering shrubs because of their ability to bloom in shady locations. They are easily grown in average, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade, but prefer some afternoon shade and will even grow in almost full shade. They are not picky about soil as long as the soil remains consistently moist. Soils should not be allowed to dry completely out. The plant will spread by suckers to form a nice patch. Remove root suckers unless a naturalized look is desired. Great for use in boggy to damp soil around the house or in landscape beds. A very nice addition to the shade garden, butterfly garden, or along stream banks or pond peripheries. Good flowering shrub for shade or woodland gardens.