looking for strong fragrance in garden

both(z5IL)August 31, 2005

I am in Chicago zone 5 and am looking to plant something with a strong fragrance. I don't want something that you can smell if you get close to it. I want something that you can smell when you walk into the garden. Next year I will try some pots of curry it is the only thing I have ever encountered that I could smell a few feet away. Even my sweet autum clematis just bloomed-no fragrance. I thought they were supposed to be soooo fragrant- not even under my nose!!! What a let down. I heard something about a jasmine vine that is supposed to be fragrant and hardy to zone 5 but I can't find it on the net. Any suggestions for knock your socks off fragrance would be great.

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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

Heat and humidity plays a vital role in fragrance. On some plants you can barely smell them normally, but when heat and humidity is just right, the fragrance can be quite intoxicating.
Here are what I have that smell very good without sticking my nose next to them:

-Narcissus 'Geranium', 'Sir Winston Churchill','Trevithian' & 'Curlew'
-Convallaria majalis - lily of the valley
-Lily regale & regale album
-Trumpet, oriental and orientpet lilies
-Primrose - can barely smell it if you bury your nose in it, but smells delightful yards away downwind.
-Rose 'Tiffany', 'Heritage', 'Sharifa Asma' & 'Pink Peace'
-Buddleia locinch - lost this one last winter
-Clematis montana odorata
-Garden Phlox
-Hosta plantaginea

Jasmin sambac is my most favorite fragrant flower but I donÂt have enough light indoors to keep it in bloom. I am also waiting for my tuber roses to bloom.

HereÂs my Hosta plantaginea:

    Bookmark   August 31, 2005 at 2:29PM
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CindyB_IL(z5b IL)

Is that the hosta where the old fashioned name is August lily? I have it and agree that it's wonderful. Beautiful pic!

Oriental lilies are also very fragrant in masses. Pots of tuberose are fabulous. My favorite seasons are lilacs and the mock orange which both make my whole yard smell wonderful. Sweet alyssum and garden phlox also are very fragrant in August, but I have them in large masses.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2005 at 7:22PM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

Yes, that's the Hosta called August Lily. It smells so strong that it gives me a headache if cut to use indoors.

I don't care for alyssum. I think it smells like cat's urine. Sorry. :-(

    Bookmark   August 31, 2005 at 10:06PM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

Oops. Forgot to thank you for the compliment on the pic. :-)
I am new at posting pics and resizing them. :-D

    Bookmark   August 31, 2005 at 10:16PM
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CindyB_IL(z5b IL)

Hmmm - they call it sweet alyssum - LOL. But we each enjoy what we do!

Peonies are wonderful as well - the old fashioned ones. They give that same hanging fragrance. I also love rose 'Abe Lincoln' and 'Double Delight'.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2005 at 8:07PM
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Daphne 'Carol Mackie' is a small shrub in the same family as rhododendrons. It has small shiny leaves with white borders and should be reliably hardy in your area (not reliably in mine, alas). Even a tiny one can wonderfully scent a large part of a yard, no bending required. Highly recommended.

Old-fashioned phlox are fragrant and also attract butterflies and hummingbird moths (sometimes hummingbirds too).

The tall, white-flowered nicotiana that's often called jasmine tobacco also has a wonderful jasmine-like scent in the evening. It's an annual, but often reseeds for me.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2005 at 10:01PM
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Hi Amy,
I have one dwarf Butterfly Bush that is very fragrant. I think its called Nanho Purple. Garden phlox is also fragrant. David is a nice variety with pretty white flowers.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2005 at 5:45PM
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cantstopgardening(Zone 4/5 WI)

Also petunias. And my plantaginea is wonderful right now.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2005 at 10:43AM
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lenten_rose(6a IL)

Sense of smell varies so much from person to person, that I hesitate to tell you what will have the desired olfactory effect. However, here's a few possibilities:

Jap. Styrax, Fringe tree, Sourwood (oxydendrum), Sweetbay Magnolia among others

Summersweet (Ruby Spice and sixteen candles are good varieties) comparatively long bloom period, for a shrub, that is. Also, mockorange (as mentioned), some roses (of course), many of the spring blooming viburnums--burkwoodii, judii, carlesii. I especially like "Eskimo" good, glossy foliage which is semi-evergreen here on the 5b/6a border. Winter honeysuckle, (lonicera fragrantissima). Elderberry (the species more than cultivars--no surprise)

Some peonies, iris, and hosta, phlox, as mentioned. Also, agastache, if you don't require sweet fragrance. Massed groundcovers, sweet woodruff, lily-of-the-valley, and most thymes especially if trod upon. Taller growers, at nose level have obvious advatages. For instance, this year my autumn clematis is quite fragrant. However, I can remember telling friends that it wasn't, about 4 years ago. Was it the plant, the climate, or my nose that year? I don't know. Year after year, the variables hang on a mobile. I have half a dozen lavenders, some years they seem quite fragrant, other years,... not so much. And it is ALWAYS hot and humid here in the summer. That, alas, does not vary.

Most jasmines, some oleanders, scented geraniums, nemesias, baby's breath, sweet alyssum, pansies. Needless to say, the small ones need to be massed.

Again, if you don't limit your choices to sweet fragrances, your options mutiple. What smell is more stimulating to a gardener, then that promising fragrance of the soil first waking up in the spring. If one has grown up in the Midwest then the smell of cut grass means home. And to me, due to long association, my heart swing dances to the first, deep skunky scent of fritaleria imperialis lutea, which heralds the main spring bulb season, each and every year. Or, even more fragrant, the smell of a large labrador whose been enjoying a romp in the muddy puddle euphemistically called "the pond", combined with the aged essence of a dead rabbit that's been buried, rediscovered, and rehidden, 5 or 6 times. Now, there's an unforgettable garden fragrance.
Okay, enough unnecessary description. Good luck with your fragrant garden!

    Bookmark   September 6, 2005 at 12:19PM
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I really was thrilled to see so many ideas. I have looked up many and some look great. My problem is that I have planted soo much over the last few years that has good bloom time that fragrance has been forgotten. I guess gardening takes practice.
Hosta Plantaginea is a must!!!
Daphne'Carol Mackie' gets too big for the space I have left.
Nicotiana sylvestris I am going to try to find a place, maybe a pot on the patio.
Which old fationed phlox for fragrance would you recomend that is mildew resistant?
I went to a nursery and also asked for something with a fragrance and they showed me a grass. I think it is called dropseed prarie grass,it is fragrant, but my DH hates the smell; oh well it looks great infront of my fairy rose bush!

    Bookmark   September 6, 2005 at 6:49PM
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daisy_me(Z6b IL)

The original Hosta plantaginea may be a hard one to find at your local nursery, but there are several other hosta varieties that are fragrant (Guacamole, Fried Green Tomatoes, Aphrodite, etc.)--check the hosta forum for suggestions, or I believe Plant Delights Nursery has an article on their website.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2005 at 8:14PM
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Phlox varieties with a good fragrance include: David, Eva Cullem, Bright Eyes, Franz Schubert, Nicky and Laura. I grow all of these and am always impressed with their fragrance. Some roses also have a good fragrance, for example, Viking Queen (a climber)and Ramblin' Red (also a climber). I don't do too many annuals except for petunias and coleus, but I've read that nicotiana (tobacco plant) has a good fragrance.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2005 at 6:41PM
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Night blooming datura are absolutely gorgeous and smell out of this world. I can smell mine from about 15 feet away. I will have hundred's of seeds in a couple of weeks and can send you some if you'd like. Extremely easy to grow from seed, and a fast grower from seed as well.
Send me an e-mail if you'd like some.

Blessings, Tina

    Bookmark   September 12, 2005 at 12:10AM
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terryr(z5a IL)

If you want to take a drive, come down to Princeton and Hornbaker Gardens. They have the hosta you want..hosta plantaginea. I'll provide the link for them below.

Here is a link that might be useful: list for Hornbakers hosta's

    Bookmark   September 12, 2005 at 5:24PM
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Butterfly bush, (especially white flowered) Stargazer lily's, Sweet Pea (hardy) Petunia (annual) and Only the Lonely Nicotiania..You can buy the seeds of Only the Lonely at Pinetree Gardens in Maine..Sow them in Feb/Mar then plant in garden..this type grows 4-6' tall..Toni

    Bookmark   September 12, 2005 at 9:16PM
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I may have missed it, but I didn't see "Miss Kim" dwarf lilac. When that shrub blooms you can smell it all over the yard. It's not quite a lilac scent, but it is very powerful and sweet. Don't be too fooled by the "dwarf" part of the name. Mine is about 8 feet tall and a good 12 feet across. It is happy where it is!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2005 at 9:39AM
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Oswegian(Z5 IL)

Personally, I like the herbal fragrance of our catmint bed planted with roses. Also, our white garden phlox and dark purple butterfly bush smell heavenly, as others have said. Kind of like hyacinths, which are a favorite of mine.

But our plant that has the most scent is an indoor one: a big potted snake plant. When it blooms it smells like gardenias x bananas!

And what power, too. My husband asked me to move it out of his office, because the strong scent was getting to him after a few nights. The blooms open at night. I assume in the outdoors, this particular one must be moth pollinated. The blooms look like dozens of minature white lilies on single stalks. They are precious.

Probably if we moved it outside, something would pollinate it by night. It would be interesting to see how the fruiting part would turn out. The scent is so strong, it must really want to be pollinated, LOL.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2005 at 12:41AM
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putzer(z4 WI)

Don't forget four o'clocks and stock-both annuals.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2005 at 12:00AM
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Moonflower vines are very fragrant, and very pretty in the moonlight.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2005 at 10:42AM
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julie_mn(z4 MN Henn)

No one mentioned False soloman's seal- when the breeze catches that scent and carries it my way- I always stop a moment- breath deep and smile-
Another not mentioned is the 'Plum Granny' or 'Queen Anne Pocket Melon'. I grew these little beauties this year and WOW do they smell wonderful! Almost like perfume when they are ripe and a nice yellow orange color.
I love the smell of my Anna Belle Hydrangia- I chase down that scent whenever I catch it! I wish they would hold the scent a while longer though-
Cimicafuga, to die for! Hyacinths-whew! Also fruit trees- plums apples and pears all have a lingering scent- To name a few more unmentioned candidates-
But for all season long scent, these do bear repeating- I am never without these annuals- alyssum carpet of snow when the sun beats down on it and a short while after- and nicotianas (almost all) and Daturas for the evening breeze-
I wish I could smell those gardenia x banana blooms- I may have to search out one of those plants!
A side note- I learned a powerful lesson while searching out "fragrant" plants to enjoy- uh- "fragrant" doesn't nessesarily mean good smelling- it just means smelly! Oderiferious! Use caution when proceeding down the fragrant path!

    Bookmark   October 1, 2005 at 7:44PM
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I have absolutely no experience in attempting this, but I want to get a star jasmine like I had at home and try to keep it indoors in the winter, while letting it go hog wild when the weather turns warm.

It smells both like heaven and home. I had a pergola back 'home'. Across the top was a 13 year old wisteria. Up one post, and starting to come across to meet it, the jasmine.

For several weeks in the spring they would bloom at the same time. If I opened a couple of windows my entire house smelled fabulous. The jasmine would put on about three shows per season.

I'm booking this thread, I want to check out everything here that was mentioned...

    Bookmark   October 1, 2005 at 11:07PM
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funny, i think my sweet allysum smells just like my garden phlox.

lavendar! often, i intentionally knick it with the mower to catch the leaves' fragrance.

cimifuga racemosa- i adore its scent, but i undrstand some people hate it. smells like candy to me and it blooms late in the season.

cilantro is another i love that many don't. i could smell it across the yard mid season! makes me hungry for salsa! i grow it with my veggies.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2005 at 7:23PM
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meeperx(z4/5 Mpls)

African Marigold

Here is a link that might be useful: African Marigold

    Bookmark   October 18, 2005 at 8:00AM
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Stargazer Lily
Butterfly Bush (especially white flowers)
Mock Orange

4 O'clocks (perrenial)

As for Tropicals, Murraya, is the most fragrant, a cousin of citrus, only much easier to grow.
Jasmines, citrus, ylang-ylang (flowers) are some of many. Toni

    Bookmark   October 18, 2005 at 11:09PM
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carterobrien(5, Chicago)

I don't know if it's too large for your space, but the pagoda dogwood smells great in the spring when it flowers & is really stunning, out of everything we've planted that's what folks on the sidewalk stop and look at.

the Morton Arboretum also has a "scent garden" which is pretty cool, although it mostly made us very jealous!


    Bookmark   October 19, 2005 at 10:09AM
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I am so glad you said something about pagoda dogwood. I saw it this spring on the way to taking my kids to school in the car. This fall I had a tour of this lady's garden and she told me this flowering small tree that I liked so much was a pagoda dogwood. How little sun can it get? Thanks!!!

    Bookmark   October 19, 2005 at 4:47PM
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carterobrien(5, Chicago)

everywhere I see it listed it says full shade to part shade, will that work?

    Bookmark   October 21, 2005 at 5:31PM
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garden4bees(z4 WI)

I am still today enjoying the peacock orchids that I planted this spring.
They started blooming in late August and are still blooming next to my water
garden. I bought the package of 20 bulbs at either Menards or Farm and Fleet for under $5.00. What a find! They smell like men's cologne.
I can't dig up the bulbs and save them for next year yet because they are
still blooming with my pink knock out rose. Very pretty and fragrant.
I recommend it. Another name for them is Acidanthera or Gladiolus Callianthus Murielae. Native of East African mountains. I saved the package.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2005 at 3:50PM
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You folks have some great ideas, I'll have to look some up.
Is african marigold different in odor than regular marigold? My perennial sweet pea vine had no aroma at all.

I like sweet alyssum and once the daturas start blooming- they all smell lovely even blackcurrant swirl or other day bloomers ( the foliage before flowering to me stinks tho)

Yes I love hosta plantaginea- and great pic!
You must also check out this weedy looking lovely smelling annual- SWEET ANNIE! It is an artemisia. It is soo fragrant- even smells nice dried.Heavy reseeder.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2005 at 2:44PM
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meeperx(z4/5 Mpls)

I think it is a different fragrence. I planted a wildflower mix and their were apparently a bunch of african marigold seeds in it. They started blooming in August. The smell is really amazing. I can smell them about 15 feet away from where they are planted--and they are still blooming. I will definitly replant them next year.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2005 at 8:42AM
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Mozart2(Zone 5 Michigan)


Since it is late in the evening or in the wee hours of the morning, I'll make this somewhat short.

1. Even though it is no longer in print and a few years old, "The Fragrant Year" by Helen Van Pelt Wilson and Leonie Bell is one of the treasured gems in my personal library.

Your public library should have this book on the shelf or they can obtain it for you through the inter-library loan system. If you wish to add it to your own library, you can look for good to excellent copies at either of the two sources below.





A second method of approach is to search the Plant Finder section of the Kemper Center for Home Gardening at the wonderful Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.

I've listed their main search site way below and have given you a few links to show you can find at this wonderful tool.

One of the late fall editions to my gardens has been

Phlox paniculata 'Mount Fuji'

Here's the direct link at the MBG Plant Finder


Here's another plant that I will be adding this fall or next spring, depending upon its availability from a local rural garden center.

Geranium sanguineum 'Album'


In reading this plant's description, you note that the leaves are fragrant and that they exhibit a nice fall color as well.

It is an excellent searching tool to find the plants you wish to add to your garden. I do hope that you'll make use of it from time to time.


Of course, as noted above by several folks, "fragrance" is dependent upon a considerable range of factors. One early summer, all of my old-fashioned roses came into bloom within several weeks of each other and because of the climate, weather conditions, etc., the whole garden - I was then living in Peoria - smelled like a wonderful perfume factory in bloom. At other times, one had to draw close to smell the same roses.


If you live in northern Illinois - around the Chicago area, you have the chance of visiting the Chicago Botanic Gardens; the Morton Arboretum and its wonderful Sterling Morton Library, and if you don't mind the drive, the Boerner Botanical Gardens in Hales Corners, WI - just SW of Milwaukee.

Hope this short note is useful in your endeavors.


Here is a link that might be useful: Missouri Botanical Garden - PlantFinder - Search

    Bookmark   November 7, 2005 at 1:08AM
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Is Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana var. virginiana) self-fertile? Does anyone have just one specimen growing in a region where there are none nearby and yet still get fruit?


    Bookmark   May 25, 2008 at 7:26AM
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pondwelr(z5 WI)

I've had many of the recommended scented flowers in my life, and at various homes.
However nothing tops the Virburnum "Korean Spice". It is small (for a virburnum) well behaved, and I've yet to see a disease. Gets baseball sized blooms in mid to late May, depending on shade, berries and nice color in the fall.
This a real All Star shrub.
Also go with previous advice about Miss Kim lilac. Very nice scent.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2008 at 9:47PM
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Both ,please try rose - sweet intoxication. The scent is very powerful!

    Bookmark   December 5, 2013 at 3:15PM
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Night scented stock is the strongest scented plant I've ever grown. The flowers and plant itself is not that spectacular, but you won't believe how strong and wonderful it smells. I order a lot of night stock seeds every year. I fill all the empty nooks and crannies with it. I've had neighbors over a block away walking around trying to find where the scent is coming from.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 12:00AM
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wangshan(Z5 usa MW)

I have the same preferance and the biggest performers in my garden are the oriental lillies--you can smell them a mile away, and lilacs, ( I have 5 different types, 15 trees). In the fall the tiny white clematis are good too.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 12:41PM
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cilantro is the one I pick

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 6:11PM
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The most fragrant smelling plant I've encountered are clove currants. They fill the yard with the strong smell of cloves. Honeysuckle vine is similarly fragrant as mentioned above. I grow a row of each.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2014 at 3:52AM
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