Fragrant flora

Posted on Jun 24 2024 in Backyard
Garden Phlox
Garden Phlox

By Jo Ellen Myers Sharp

Enhance your garden with scents from these aromatic plants

I have a small urban yard, and I’m picky about the plants I put there. Because space is limited, I look for fragrant plants. Here are some of my favorites.


Flowering tobacco

I especially like Nicotiana alata and N. sylvestris, the latter of which releases its fragrance at night. These are among the best plants in the tobacco family because they not only beautify our gardens but are also visited regularly by pollinators, including hummingbirds and hummingbird moths. A North American native, it is easy to grow from seed. Transplants may be available at garden centers.

Four o’clock

This old-fashioned seed-grown annual seems to be enjoying an upswing in popularity. True to its name, sun-loving four o’clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) bloom in the late afternoon. Hummers and other pollinators visit the fragrant multi-color, striped, white, pink, or yellow trumpet-shaped flowers.


Garden phlox

This native perennial can be found in the Indiana wilds. Even better, there are beautiful varieties on the market, ranging in pink, white, bi-color, red, and purple. Besides their summer fragrance, sun-loving garden phlox is prized as a cut flower. Butterflies and other pollinators visit the plant. Readily available at garden centers and online retailers, look for plants labeled as disease-resistant. Garden phlox is susceptible to powdery mildew, a leaf fungus disease.


What would a shade garden be without hostas? These perennials are appreciated for their leaf size, form, color, variegation or splotching. One of the most fragrant hostas is sometimes called August lily (H. plantaginea). August is when this hosta sends up its fragrant, white, trumpet-shaped flowers that bees, hummers, and other pollinators visit. Hostas are readily available at garden centers and online retailers. The genetics of this plant are used to get fragrance into other hostas. Stems (called scapes) with white or purple flowers can be cut for indoor enjoyment.



You can hardly go wrong with a viburnum, including many that fall into the native category. If you have a small yard, pay attention to the mature size of the viburnum you’re interested in. I planted the spring-blooming ‘Judd’ viburnum (V. x juddii) outside my bedroom window. What a wonderful fragrance from waxy, white-pink flowers. Cut a stem or two of the sun-lover to enjoy indoors.


Everyone loves lilacs and their fragrance in the spring garden. I have a couple of ‘Miss Kim’ (Syringa pubescens subsp. patula), Korean lilacs that bloom a bit later than regular lilacs. This shrub is smaller than most regular lilacs, and its winning characteristic is that it does not get powdery mildew, which is common on many other lilacs. It grows in full sun and, like the fragrant viburnum, you can cut a few branches for indoor enjoyment.

JO ELLEN MYERS SHARP, who writes and speaks about gardening, blogs at