by High Country Gardens

Agastache planting in bloom
Agastache carries a sweet aroma with both it's foliage and blooms, and is known for it's popularity with hummingbirds.

What makes some plants fragrant, and others not?

Instinctively, when we see a beautiful flower, we lean over to sniff it hoping for a sweet scent. The natural perfume of plants is an attribute we gardeners are always searching for.

There are two types of scents to be found in plants;

  • Fragrant flowers and plants are ones that release a scent into the air
  • Aromatic plants release their scented oils when brushed, bent or crushed

Fragrant Flowers

Flowers that release scent often do so to attract pollinators. Many nocturnal blooming plants have strongly scented flowers that attract moths and other night-flying insects.  A flower’s color is of no use to pollinators in the dark of night.

Purple allium in bloom with bee
Deer resistant Allium Millenium. Customer Photo.

Aromatic Plants

Aromatic plants are those that have volatile oils in their leaves and stems. When brushed against or their foliage is bent or crushed, the scents are released. These types of plants are often cultivated for their essential oils. Culinary herbs like sage, thyme, rosemary and lavender are aromatic plants long associated with mankind. These and other aromatic plants use their aromatic oils as a defense against browsing animals, like deer and rabbits. Since plants are rooted in place and can’t run away for protection, they have enlisted the help of chemicals to provide them with some defense. These plants are a great choice for areas where deer and rabbits are a problem.

I've long had a great fondness for fragrant and aromatic plants. Salvia (Sage), Agastache (Hummingbird Mint), Lavandula (Lavender), Berlandiera (Chocolate Flower), Garden Phlox (Phlox), Pansies (Viola) and many others are planted in my gardens to enjoy their scents.

Extra Cold Hardy Chocolate Flower
Extra Cold Hardy Chocolate Flower gets its name due to (surprise) beautiful chocolate smelling blooms!

Here are my lists of favorites:

Fragrant flowers

Aromatic plants

  1. Rose Swamp Milkweed

    Asclepias incarnata ‚Rose‚ (Swamp Milkweed) is a showy pink blooming Asclepias species that is a food plant for Monarch butterfly caterpillars and a nectar source for ad...

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    Rose Swamp Milkweed Rose Swamp Milkweed Asclepias incarnata
    As low as $13.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Asclepias incarnata 'Rose' (Swamp Milkweed) is a showy pink blooming Asclepias species that is a food plant for Monarch butterfly caterpillars and a nectar source for adult butterflies. Also known as Swamp Milkweed, it grows best in moist or wet soils.
  2. Sedum Autumn Fire, Dark Pink Sedum, Autumn Fire Stonecrop

    Sedum telephium ‚Autumn Fire‚ (Stonecrop) is an improved form of Sedum ‚Autumn Joy‚ that is larger growing, has larger flower heads and is longer blooming. Th...

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    Autumn Fire Sedum Autumn Fire Sedum Sedum 'Autumn Fire'
    As low as $11.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Sedum telephium 'Autumn Fire' (Stonecrop) is an improved form of Sedum 'Autumn Joy' that is larger growing, has larger flower heads and is longer blooming. The flat heads of rose-pink flowers appear in late summer. Leave the faded flowers on the plant for added winter interest.
  3. Verbena peruviana

    Verbena peruviana ‚Red Devil‚ (Perennial Verbena) is a perennial variety that grows as a groundcover and blooms all summer with a dazzling display of brilliant red flower...

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    Red Devil Perennial Verbena Red Devil Perennial Verbena Verbena peruviana
    As low as $11.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Verbena peruviana 'Red Devil' (Perennial Verbena) is a perennial variety that grows as a groundcover and blooms all summer with a dazzling display of brilliant red flowers. 3" tall x 15-18" wide.
  4. Gray Creeping Germander, Teucrium aroanium

    2-3„ tall x 18-24„ wide. Teucrium aroanium (Gray Creeping Germander) blooms with fragrant honey scented pink flowers in summer that are held over equally fragrant thin li...

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    Gray Creeping Germander (Teucrium) Gray Creeping Germander (Teucrium) Teucrium aroanium
    As low as $10.99
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    2-3" tall x 18-24" wide. Teucrium aroanium (Gray Creeping Germander) blooms with fragrant honey scented pink flowers in summer that are held over equally fragrant thin linear gray leaves. The plant is an excellent small scale groundcover for hot, sunny sites in well drained soil. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
  5. Dark Knight Caryopteris

    Caryopteris clandonensis ‚Dark Knight‚ (Bluebeard) blooms with a profusion of dark blue flowers in late summer when few other shrubs are flowering. Its modest size makes ...

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    Dark Knight Caryopteris Dark Knight Caryopteris Caryopteris clandonensis 'Dark Knight'
    As low as $12.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Caryopteris clandonensis 'Dark Knight' (Bluebeard) blooms with a profusion of dark blue flowers in late summer when few other shrubs are flowering. Its modest size makes it very useful in smaller yards. A fantastic nectar source for bees and butterflies. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
  6. White Chamaebatiaria millefolium, Chamaebatiaria millefolium, Fernbush

    Chamaebatiaria millefolium (Fernbush) is a beautiful native shrub that brightens the garden in mid-summer with big clusters of bright white flowers. It also has attractive dried seed...

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    Fernbush (Chamaebatiaria) Fernbush (Chamaebatiaria) Chamaebatiaria millefolium
    As low as $14.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Chamaebatiaria millefolium (Fernbush) is a beautiful native shrub that brightens the garden in mid-summer with big clusters of bright white flowers. It also has attractive dried seed heads and olive-green foliage. Drought resistant perennial plant (xeric).
  7. Purple Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe)

    Callirhoe involucrata (Poppy Mallow or Wine Cups) is a native wildflower that decorates the garden with a summer-long display of bright magenta-pink flowers. A sprawling grower, Call...

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    Purple Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe) Purple Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe) Callirhoe involucrata
    As low as $12.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Callirhoe involucrata (Poppy Mallow or Wine Cups) is a native wildflower that decorates the garden with a summer-long display of bright magenta-pink flowers. A sprawling grower, Callirhoe involucrata's long branches spread out across the ground to create a colorful mat of flowers and foliage. Drought resistant perennial plant (xeric).
  8. Lavandula angustifolia Buena Vista Photo Couresty of Emmis Oure

    Lavandula angustifolia ‚Buena Vista‚ (English Lavender) has a compact form with deep blue bi-colored flower spikes. A hard-to-find, twice blooming cultivar flowers in lat...

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    Buena Vista English Lavender Buena Vista English Lavender Lavandula angustifolia 'Buena Vista'
    As low as $13.99 Sale $11.89
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Lavandula angustifolia 'Buena Vista' (English Lavender) has a compact form with deep blue bi-colored flower spikes. A hard-to-find, twice blooming cultivar flowers in late spring and again in September. Sweetly fragrant flowers and foliage. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).

Text and Photos by Founder and Chief Horticulturist David Salman.

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