The Best Smelling Flowers: A Garden Scent Guide

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You are here looking for a list of the best smelling flowers because you want to add that extra layer of wow to your gardens. Since scent preferences vary significantly from person to person, we’ve prepared a unique list of recommendations that include descriptive scent profiles to make it easier for you to choose. So, sit back, relax, and let’s explore together to find the flowers that will add a lovely fragrance to your garden that you will love.

a rose bush outside fully bloomed with pink ruffly flowers.

Scent preference is very personal, and what I might consider a good-smelling flower may be the flower you hate the most. So, to make the most of this article, we’ve provided scent descriptions to help direct you toward or away from specific plants.

The guides below will also provide basic information on the best regional growing areas, because who wants to try to track down a plant that won’t grow in your zone? We’ve also provided the simplest growing information so you can decide if the plant fits your garden and gardening style.

A boquet of purple lavender and pink roses in a glass vase.   The image is used to illustrate the best smelling flowers paired together.


Fragrance Profile: Peonies have a rich floral scent with hints of rose or citrus. It embodies the essence of spring and early summer with a feminine and romantic aroma. Different types have varying fragrances, from intense sweetness to light and fresh notes.

This fuss-free plant with large, showy blooms can thrive for years without special care. Some varieties have especially fragrant blooms, while others aren’t particularly aromatic.

I highly recommend checking the variety before you purchase. Generally speaking, the double white and pink varieties are the most fragrant.

  • Zone: 3-8
  • Light Needs: Full sun (at least 5 hours a day)
  • Water Needs: Keep evenly moist in well-drained soil
  • Planting Season: You can plant peonies in spring and fall, depending on the varieties and your growing zone.
A big fully bloomed bright pink peony flower against a bright white background.


Fragrance Profile: Lavender has a floral and herbaceous scent with notes of mint and rosemary. It is known for its relaxing properties and ability to reduce stress. Its aroma is clean, crisp, and complex, with a slight camphoraceous quality. It is a popular choice in aromatherapy, perfumery, and scented products due to its calming fragrance.

Lavender’s tall blooms and the sought-after scent make it a great plant for perennial gardens or to plant along walkways. Lavender is deer-resistant and drought-tolerant and makes a wonderful addition to a cut flower garden.

Plus, they are helpful flowers for the vegetable garden to draw in those vital pollinating insects.

  • Zone: 5-9
  • Light Needs: Full sun (at least 6 hours a day)
  • Water Needs: Drought tolerant
Sprigs of bright purple lavender spires against a bright white background.


Fragrance Profile: Heliotrope has a sweet and powdery aroma, often compared to vanilla with almond undertones. Its fragrance is deeply floral yet comforting. The scent is warm and inviting, evoking a sense of nostalgia. Heliotrope is a standout among garden plants and a sought-after component in fragrances.

  • Zone: Perennial in zones 10 and 11; annual in other zones
  • Light Needs: Full sun (at least 6 hours a day); afternoon shade in hotter climates
  • Water Needs: Rich, moist soil

Sweet Alyssum

Fragrance Profile: The fragrance of Sweet Alyssum is delicate and sweet, with a subtle, honey-like aroma that wafts through the air, especially during the cooler parts of the day. Its scent is light and fresh, evoking the feeling of a serene, blooming meadow.

Sweet alyssum is a low-maintenance, cool-weather annual that produces delicate, cheery, and tiny but fragrant white or purple flowers. Give them well-drained soil and a bright location, and they will attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. It is one of my favorite plants that attract hummingbirds to your garden.

Alyssum is one of the fastest-growing flowers in the garden. It only takes 45 days from germination to the first bloom.

  • Zone: 7-10 
  • Light Needs: Full sun or part shade
  • Water Needs: Rich, moist soil
Trays of sweet alyssum in pinks and purples and whites at a garden center in spring.

Lily of the Valley

Fragrance Profile: Lily of the Valley has a sweet and enchanting fragrance with fresh floral notes highlighted by crisp, green undertones. Despite its small size, the aroma is intense and reminiscent of a dew-covered morning. It’s a cherished ingredient in perfumery and a timeless symbol of happiness and grace.

These dainty bell-shaped flowers bloom in spring and smell clean and sweet. Lily of the valley is a tough, low-maintenance ground cover to plant in late fall in a partially shady spot with moist soil.

Since this flower can be invasive, plant it in a naturally contained area or a garden container.

WARNING: Lily of the Valley is poisonous and should be kept out of gardens with children and pets. 

  • Zone: 2-9
  • Light Needs: Lily of the Valley is one of the flowers that grow in the shade without a lot of fuss!
  • Water Needs:  Moist, rich, well-drained soil
The tiny bells of lilly of the valley after a rain storm with tiny droplets of water beading down the tiny petals.  The image is used to show what some of the best smelling flowers will look like in your garden.


Fragrance Profile: Gardenia’s scent is rich, creamy, and highly fragrant with a luxurious sweetness. It evokes luxury and romance, is a favorite in perfumery, and is associated with warm summer evenings and exotic gardens.

This southern favorite is a lovely shrub with beautiful white flowers that exude a warm, spicy aroma. If you have never smelled them, trust me—these flowers smell wonderful.

Gardenias are one of the most famous fragrances in gardening, but these beautiful plants are cold-sensitive and will not survive harsh winters. You can, however, grow them in containers outside during the summer and then bring them indoors for the winter. 

Gardenias bloom at night, making them an excellent moonlight plant for your nighttime garden.

  • Zone: 7-11 for wintering outside
  • Light Needs: Partial shade
  • Water Needs: Moist, well-drained soil
  • Notes: Gardenias prefer acidic soil with lots of organic matter mixed in. 
A lovely white gardenia.  The flower has deep green glossy petals.  The image is used to show what the best smelling flowers look like.


Fragrance Profile: The scent of a rose is quintessentially floral, embodying a rich and complex fragrance that ranges from sweet and delicate to deep and spicy, depending on the variety. Classic roses often carry a balanced sweetness with hints of honey, citrus, and sometimes a subtle touch of clove or peppery notes, adding to their exquisite aroma. The fragrance can be intensely fragrant or lightly perfumed, evoking feelings of romance, luxury, and beauty.

No fragrant garden is complete without a rose. Roses are beautiful and come in lots of color and shape options. As you probably know, they are perfect for cut flowers as well.

Roses are a primary ingredient in my homemade potpourri!

  • Zone: 3-10
  • Light Needs: Full sun (at least 6 hours a day)
  • Water Needs: Rich, well-drained soil. 
Three fully bloomed yellow roses against a bright yellow background.  Image is intended to show what the best smelling flowers look like.


Fragrance Profile: The scent of hyacinth is rich, highly fragrant, and intensely floral, with a sweet and heady aroma that fills the air in early spring. This powerful fragrance can carry hints of earthiness and green undertones, which ground its sweetness and add depth to its overall bouquet.

If you want fragrance in your garden, forget about tulips; plant and care for hyacinths instead. These flowers provide a sweet aroma and beauty and are available in many colors. Plant several different colors for a real aromatic punch, as they each have their own scent. 

  • Zone: 4-9
  • Light Needs: Full sun or part shade
  • Water Needs: Keep moist in well-drained soil
  • Notes: Plant bulbs in autumn so they can fully bloom by summer. 
A pot of brightly colored hyacinths used to illustrate what the best smelling flowers look like.


Fragrance profile: Phlox’s scent varies among species but is generally sweet and floral, ranging from lightly honeyed to richly perfumed. It’s a lovely addition to moon gardens or evening walks, with fragrance compared to lilacs or cloves and a subtle earthy undertone.

Phlox is a very low-maintenance flower to grow, and it produces long-lasting color and fragrance when planted in a summer garden. You’ll especially notice its sweet aroma on warm days!

Phlox will bloom all summer long and is deer-resistant. It also makes wonderful cut flowers.

  • Zone: 3-9
  • Light Needs: Full sun
  • Water Needs: Moist, fertile, well-drained soil
A boquet of different colored phlox with their tiny flowers in pink, violet, purple and pink.

Oriental Lily

Fragrance Profile: Oriental lilies have a strong, complex fragrance with sweet and spicy notes. Their scent is deep and floral with undertones of citrus, vanilla, or musk, varying by variety.

Incredibly aromatic, eye-catching, oriental lilies add fragrance and beauty to the summer garden. You can find oriental lilies in various shades of pinks, yellows, oranges, and whites when they bloom in mid-to-late summer. They also make beautiful cut flowers to showcase around your home. 

  • Zone: 4-9
  • Light Needs: Full sun, part sun.
  • Water Needs: Moist, rich, well-drained soil
pink oriental lily in full bloom.  Image is used to illustrate one of the best smelling flowers.

Sweet Autumn Clematis

Fragrance profile: Sweet Autumn Clematis has a delicate, sweet scent of honey and vanilla. It blooms in late summer to early fall and releases its captivating aroma in the evenings and early mornings. It’s a great addition for gardens, and its fragrant presence makes it a popular choice among gardeners.

Sweet Autumn Clematis makes a showy statement at the end of the growing season when it becomes covered in star-shaped, white, sweetly fragrant flowers. You will especially notice its fragrance on warm, sunny days. Grow clematis over trellises or fences for stellar garden displays.

  • Zone: 4-9
  • Light Needs: Full sun for most profuse flowering; will tolerate part shade with fewer flowers
  • Water Needs: Keep moist in well-drained soil
Sweet Autumn Clematis blooms on a white background.


Fragrance Profile: Lilacs have a captivating aroma that embodies the essence of spring. Their lush and romantic fragrance is sweet, floral, and slightly spicy, filling the air around them on warm, sunny days. The scent is nostalgic, evoking memories of early summer days and colorful gardens.

Lilacs are my favorite low-maintenance flowering bushes for curb appeal. You can find the blooms in various shades of white, pink, and purple. They can quickly fill an empty spot and provide profuse and showy blooms in a few short years.

  • Zone: 2-9
  • Light Needs: Full sun
  • Water Needs: Moist, rich, well-drained soil
Closeup of a fragrant lilac in bloom.

Sweet Pea Flowers

Fragrance Profile: Sweet pea flowers have an enchanting sweet and floral scent that captures the essence of spring and early summer. Their fragrances range from soft and powdery to rich and honeyed, often with hints of fruit or grass. They are known to be uplifting and soothing and add elegance and whimsy to any setting.

No fragrant garden is complete without sweet pea flowers. Renowned for their captivating scent and vibrant colors, sweet pea flowers are a visual delight with graceful tendrils and hues ranging from soft pastels to striking deep tones.

  • Zone: 2-11
  • Light Needs: Full sun to partial shade (prefers cooler temperatures and can benefit from afternoon shade in hotter climates)
  • Water Needs: Moist, well-drained soil. Regular watering is necessary to moisten the soil, especially during dry spells.
Sweet pea flowers.  Image used to illustrate some of the best smelling flowers, these are bright pink, light pink, and white.

Expert Tips For Scented Flowers

  1. Plant in waves: Group fragrant flowers together to create concentrated areas of aroma that can be enjoyed up close.
  2. Consider bloom times: Choose plants with staggered blooming periods to ensure continuous fragrance throughout the growing season.
  3. Use height to your advantage: Plant taller, fragrant flowers at the back of beds and shorter ones in front to create layers of scent.
  4. Incorporate evening bloomers: Add flowers like jasmine or moonflower that release their fragrance at night to enjoy scented gardens in the evening.
  5. Place near high-traffic areas: Position fragrant plants along walkways, near windows, or seating areas where you can appreciate their scent daily.
  6. Mix and match scents: Combine flowers with complementary fragrances to create a unique and multi-dimensional scent profile in your garden.
  7. Don’t forget about foliage: Some plants have fragrant leaves, like lavender and mint, which can add to your garden’s aroma when brushed against.
  8. Use containers for mobility: Plant fragrant flowers in pots to move them around easily, bringing the scent closer when desired.
  9. Include climbers: Use fragrant climbing plants like clematis or sweet peas on trellises or fences to add height and layers of fragrance.
  10. Mulch wisely: Use organic mulch to help retain soil moisture and enhance plant growth, leading to stronger scents from your flowers.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is considered the best-smelling flower in the world?

The Gardenia is widely regarded as the best-smelling flower in the world. Its captivating scent is rich, sweet, and velvety with floral notes. The luxurious aroma of Gardenias has made it a symbol of elegance and refinement in the world of flowers.

What flowers smell best at night?

If you are fascinated by the beauty of gardens at night, then Jasmine, Moonflower, and Night-Blooming Jasmine should be on your list of must-see flowers. These flowers emit a strong fragrance at night, turning the air into a sweetly scented haven that provides a delightful sensory experience.

What are the best-smelling flowers for indoors?

When bringing the beauty of fragrance indoors, Lavender, Hyacinth, and Scented Geraniums are among the best-smelling flowers for indoor spaces. Lavender’s soothing aroma, Hyacinth’s robust floral scent, and the varied fragrances of Scented Geraniums can fill a room with nature’s perfumes, promoting a sense of well-being and comfort.

What are the best-smelling flower combinations for bouquets?

Combining Roses, Peonies, and Lilacs can offer enchanting fragrances for creating the best-smelling flower bouquet. Alternatively, a bouquet of Gardenia and Jasmine provides a richly perfumed option.

Final Remarks

Enjoy your garden on a whole new level by planting flowers that smell and look good for your summer garden. Pick one or two fragrant flower types from this list for your garden and see how much more you want to be outside (or open your windows) to catch a whiff or two.

Author: Laura Kennedy

Writer & Owner of Little Yellow Wheelbarrow

Laura is a highly skilled gardener and fervent flower enthusiast. Despite her playful battle with plant spacing guidelines, Laura’s work inspires gardeners to create thriving, beautiful spaces that reflect both creativity and sustainability.

Editor’s Note: This article was first published on April 1st, 2020, and updated on Feb 1st, 2024. The post was completely reformated, scent profiles were added to all recommendations, and additional recommendations, expert tips, and FAQs were added for a better reader experience.

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