15 Outdoor Plants That Smell Amazing

To create a garden that smells fantastic, you must choose the right flowers. We have some suggestions.

fragrant white flower with green leaves
Photo: Getty Images

Creating a beautifully landscaped path is great for curb appeal. But it's made more impressive when all your senses are invoked—including scent. "What's really interesting is that no two flowers can have the same scent because of the diversity of their compounds and their distinctive interactions," says Stephen McFarlane, regional landscaping manager of Sandals Resorts. "In addition to adding color and beauty to a garden, fragrant flowers can uplift a mood, increase levels of positivity, and reduce stress—essentially, aromatherapy."

Here are McFarlane's 15 top picks for outdoor plants that smell amazing. An added bonus: Many of these plants also attract wildlife, from birds to butterflies to bees, creating a pollinator-friendly garden and an elaborate ecosystem in your backyard.

01 of 15

Cape Jasmine (Gardenia jasminoides)

White, blooming Cape Jasmine flowers.
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Consider the Cape jasmine, which grows as a large shrub with 3-inch fragrant flowers. This aromatic plant is best grown in acidic, consistently moist, well-drained soils. It can grow in full sun, but partial shade in the afternoons in hot climates is preferred. Be sure to use a fertilizer for this acid-loving plant during the growing season.

Zones: 8 to 11

02 of 15

Common Jasmine (Jasminum officianale)

White Common Jasmine flowers.
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A fast-growing climbing shrub with clusters of fragrant white flowers, the common jasmine thrives in full sun to part shade. The pleasing scent will strike you, even from several feet away. This plant needs moist, well-drained soil. Remember to prune older shoots after blooming to encourage new growth, which will produce new blooms.

Zones: 7 to 10

03 of 15

Frangipani (Plumeria sp.)

Pink Frangipani flowers.
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A gorgeous small tree with fragrant blooms that are used to make the iconic Hawaiian lei, the frangipani is a fragrant plant that prefers full sun and well-drained soil with deep, infrequent watering. This plant benefits from fertilizer with a formulation high in phosphorus.

Zones: 10 to 12

04 of 15

Ylang Ylang Tree (Cananga odorata)

Yellow blossoms on a ylang ylang tree.
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A medium to large fast-growing tree, the ylang ylang tree produces incredibly fragrant blooms and is actually a key ingredient in the famed Chanel #5 perfume. This tree enjoys full sun with rich soil that doesn't dry out. Be sure to fertilize every 3 to 4 months.

Zones: 9 to 11

05 of 15

Butterfly Ginger Lily (Hedychium coronarium)

A White Butterfly Ginger flower.
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The perennial white butterfly ginger produces an appealing, spicy scent. The upright, rhizomatous plant prefers full sun to part shade with consistently moist to wet soil high in organic matter.

Zones: 7 to 11

06 of 15

Orange Jessamine (Murraya paniculata)

Orange Jessamine flowers.
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When you want to add a versatile plant to your collection, the orange jessamine is one that can be trained into a small tree or a clipped hedge. It performs best in morning sun and afternoon shade with a well-drained, rich soil. It will also benefit from a balanced fertilizer throughout the year.

Zones: 10 to 12

07 of 15

Night Blooming Jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum)

Night Blooming Jasmine flowers.
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Just as the name implies, the sweet, intoxicating fragrance of the night blooming jasmine is only released at night. It thrives in full sun to part shade with rich, well-drained soil. To care, provide regular water and a balanced fertilizer throughout the year. An annual pruning will help keep the foliage in check.

Zones: 9 to 11

08 of 15

Hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis)

Not only do hyacinths have a lovely, intense scent, but these blue, pink, red, purple, or white perennials are relatively easy to grow. Plant them in the fall in the ground or in planters. Just be sure to keep children and pets from eating them, because the bulbs are toxic. They thrive best when exposed to 6 -8 hours of sunlight a day.

Zones: 4 to 8

09 of 15

Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides)

Gardenias are high-maintenance, tropical plants with white flowers that grow best in warm climates. But if you are willing to put in the time and energy to tend to them, you will be rewarded with a magnificent, citrusy fragrance. They thrive in partial shade, and they like soil with a lower pH. They need about an inch of water a week, so if it's not raining that much, make sure to water them.

Zones: 8 - 11

10 of 15

Dianthus (Dianthus caryophyllus)

This plant (which is also called Sweet William) has bright pink (sometimes white or red) blossoms and a spicy scent reminiscent of cloves and cinnamon. It needs alkaline soil and at least six hours of full sun. Water dianthus whenever it's dry, and it requires fertilizer every two months.

Zones: 6 - 9

11 of 15

Flowering Tobacco (Nicotianas)

Star-shaped nicotianas have a strong scent—and no, they don't smell like tobacco. Their fragrance is similar to that of jasmine. They bloom in a wide range of colors and thrive in full sun and rich soil. Their scent is strongest after dark.

Zones: 10 and 11

12 of 15

Peonies (Paeonia lactiflora)

Peonies have a sweet scent reminiscent of roses. They thrive in full sun, blooming from late spring through early summer as long as they get about an inch of water per week. But be patient: Peonies usually don't bloom the first year but will begin showing the second spring after you plant them.

Zones: 3 - 8

13 of 15

Lilacs (Syringa L.)

Lilacs are a shrub with a sweet scent that's a bit like vanilla. They're typically purple but can be pink or white. They need at least six hours of full sun, and well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil. Water lilacs whenever they appear dry, and apply fertilizer once in winter.

Zones: 3 -8

14 of 15

Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)

Lily of the Valley flowers have a fresh, crisp, spring-like fragrance, which may be why there are a number of perfumes made for this scent. They are usually white but sometimes pink, and they grow best in either full or partial shade. They prefer soil that's well-drained and slightly acidic.

Zones: 3 - 9

15 of 15

Phlox (P. paniculata)

Phlox flowers have a sweet, nutty scent and come in colors that range from pink and white to purple and blue. Tall phlox thrive in direct sunlight, while other varieties grow best in partial shade. They need regular water, a balanced fertilizer, and nutrient-rich soil.

Zones: 4 - 8

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  1. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Gardenia jasminoides. Accessed May 10, 2023.

  2. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Jasminum officianale. Accessed May 10, 2023.

  3. University of Florida Gardening Solutions. Plumeria. Accessed May 10, 2023.

  4. Wisconsin Extension Master Gardener. Ylang-Ylang. Accessed May 10, 2023.

  5. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Hedychium coronarium. Accessed May 10, 2023.

  6. Missouri Botanical Garden. Murraya paniculata. Accessed May 10, 2023.

  7. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Cestrum aurantiacum. Accessed May 10, 2023.

  8. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Hyacinthus orientalis. Accessed May 10, 2023.

  9. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Dianthus caryophyllus. Accessed May 10, 2023.

  10. Missouri Botanical Garden. Nicotiana sylvestris. Accessed May 10, 2023.

  11. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Paeonia lactiflora. Accessed May 10, 2023.

  12. Missouri Botanical Garden. Syringa vulgaris. Accessed May 10, 2023.

  13. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Convallaria majalis. Accessed May 10, 2023.

  14. Missouri Botanical Garden. Phlox paniculata. Accessed May 10, 2023.

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