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Growing Green: Fragrant Flowers for Your Garden

There are many plants I love to include in my garden, but those with no fragrance, although eye-pleasing, always disappoint me.  I always try to intersperse fragrant plants among my zinnias, rudbeckia and echinacea, so that my arrangements are a mixture of colors, textures and fragrances. If you also like to delight your nose, as well as your eyes, think about including some of the following plants in your garden plans.

Sweet alyssum is a simple, annual, low growing plant that you can smell from afar.  It comes in pink, purple and white, and is often used on the edges of a flower bed.

Heliotrope is a traditional cottage garden flower.  Grown as an annual, it has a deep purple flower cluster, and an intense cherry vanilla fragrance. It is about 12-15” at maturity.  The seed is slow to start, so I would recommend buying plants from your favorite nursery.

Herbs, such as lavender, sage and rosemary offer nicely scented foliage options for your arrangements.  If you’re interested in a fragrant, low growing herb, try creeping thyme.  This low care plant will grow in full sun to shade, and can be walked on with no damage.

One of my all-time favorite foliage plants is scented geranium. Although most commonly known as the citronella plant, scented geraniums also come in a wide variety of fragrances including: apricot, rose, chocolate and citrus. In recent years, these varieties have been difficult to find.  Try White Flower Farm or if you’d like to try some unique varieties.

I love Artemisia annua, otherwise known as Sweet Annie.  This tall, annual foliage plant smells spicy and is great for filler in a bouquet.  Several years ago, Sweet Annie was a very popular dried plant used for making wreaths.  A word of warning, not everyone likes the fragrance of Sweet Annie (my “ever lovin’” is one of those) so try it in small quantities before committing to a large patch.

A few more to try: Dianthus, fragrant snap dragons, chocolate cosmos, fragrant sweet peas, oriental lilies like “Stargazer” and “Mona Lisa”, Nicotiana, Peonies, lily of the valley, and some varieties of Hosta. Check the plant tags to make sure you select a fragrant variety!

For more information about the Fragrant Garden, search our website for fragrant plants at Don’t forget to visit the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum this summer. They have a wonderful Sensory Garden that includes many fragrant plants.

Robin Trott is a Horticulture Educator with University of Minnesota Extension.