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. Delosperma Lavender Ice

    'Lavender Ice' Ice Plant has large, gorgeous lavender-pink flowers and a tidy mat of evergreen foliage that turns purplish in winter. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric)...

    Learn More
    Lavender Ice Ice Plant Lavender Ice Ice Plant Delosperma Lavender Ice
    As low as $7.99 Sale $7.59
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    'Lavender Ice' Ice Plant has large, gorgeous lavender-pink flowers and a tidy mat of evergreen foliage that turns purplish in winter. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
    Learn More
  2. Pink and Purple Delosperma ashtonii Blut, Delosperma ashtonii Blut, Blut Ice Plant

    'Blut' is one of the very best cold hardy Ice Plants. With its vigorous growth habit, durable evergreen foliage and summer-long display of deep magenta-red flowers, it is an invaluab...

    Learn More
    Blut Ice Plant Blut Ice Plant Delosperma ashtonii Blut
    As low as $7.99 Sale $7.19
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    'Blut' is one of the very best cold hardy Ice Plants. With its vigorous growth habit, durable evergreen foliage and summer-long display of deep magenta-red flowers, it is an invaluable groundcover. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
    Learn More
  3. Red and White Callirhoe involucrata, Callirhoe involucrata, Poppy Mallow, Winecups

    Commonly known as Poppy Mallow or Wine Cups, Callirhoe involucrata is a native wildflower that decorates the garden with a summer-long display of bright magenta-pink flowers. A spraw...

    Learn More
    Purple Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe) Poppy Mallow, Winecups Callirhoe involucrata
    Sale Price I Save 5%
    $8.99 Sale $8.54
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    Commonly known as Poppy Mallow or Wine Cups, Callirhoe involucrata 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).
    Learn More
  4. Hesperaloe parviflora Yellow Texas Yucca flower

    Yellow Flowering Texas Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora 'Yellow') is a beautiful, uncommon yellow-flowered form of Texas Red Yucca, a low-water garden favorite. Plant it with other Hespe...

    Learn More
    Yellow Flowering Texas Yucca (Hesperaloe) Yellow Flowering Texas Yucca Hesperaloe parviflora Yellow
    Sale Price I Save 10%
    $12.99 Sale $11.69
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Yellow Flowering Texas Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora 'Yellow') is a beautiful, uncommon yellow-flowered form of Texas Red Yucca, a low-water garden favorite. Plant it with other Hesperaloes to create superb bi-colored combinations that are sure to draw hummingbirds to your garden.
    Learn More
  5. Silver Artemisia Powis Castle, Artemisia Powis Castle, Silver Sage close up by customer Mike D.

    Powis Castle is a superb foliage plant with finely textured silver-gray foliage and an attractive mounding habit. Use this plant to accentuate ornamental grasses and other perennials...

    Learn More
    Powis Castle Artemisia Powis Castle Silver Sage Artemisia Powis Castle
    As low as $9.99 Sale $9.49
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Powis Castle is a superb foliage plant with finely textured silver-gray foliage and an attractive mounding habit. Use this plant to accentuate ornamental grasses and other perennials with differently colored foliage. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
    Learn More
  6. Perovskia atriplicifolia Blue Spires

    Perovskia atriplicifolia Blue Spires (Blue Spires Russian Sage) is the best large growing Russian Sage selection blooming with dark blue flower spikes appearing in mid-summer. Though...

    Learn More
    Blue Spires Russian Sage Blue Spires Russian Sage Perovskia atriplicifolia Blue Spires
    Sale Price I Save 5%
    $10.99 Sale $10.44
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Perovskia atriplicifolia Blue Spires (Blue Spires Russian Sage) is the best large growing Russian Sage selection blooming with dark blue flower spikes appearing in mid-summer. Thought to be a hybrid of two species, this plant has amazing vigor and blooms for many months.
    Learn More
  7. Salvia sylvestris May Night, May Night Meadow Sage, Purple Salvia sylvestris May Night

    Salvia sylvestris ‘May Night’ (May Night Sage) blooms prolifically with deep purple-blue flowers. It is an outstanding perennial with excellent cold hardiness, vigor, and toleran...

    Learn More
    May Night Salvia May Night Meadow Sage Salvia sylvestris May Night
    As low as $9.49 Sale $9.02
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Salvia sylvestris ‘May Night’ (May Night Sage) blooms prolifically with deep purple-blue flowers. It is an outstanding perennial with excellent cold hardiness, vigor, and tolerance of heavy clay soils. Blooming in late spring with a profusion of flower spikes, it reblooms later in the summer when deadheaded.
    Learn More
  8. Achillea Moonshine Yarrow Photo Courtesy of Walter's Gardens Inc.

    Moonshine Yarrow (Achillea Moonshine) is an outstanding perennial plant with silver-gray foliage and lemon-yellow flat-topped flowers that cover the plant all summer. This is a well-...

    Learn More
    Moonshine Yarrow Moonshine Yarrow Achillea Moonshine
    As low as $8.99 Sale $8.09
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Moonshine Yarrow (Achillea Moonshine) is an outstanding perennial plant with silver-gray foliage and lemon-yellow flat-topped flowers that cover the plant all summer. This is a well-behaved variety, meaning it won't reseed and spread.
    Learn More

Text and Photos by Founder and Chief Horticulturist David Salman.

© All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republishing an entire High Country Gardens blog post or article is prohibited without written permission. Please feel free to share a short excerpt with a link back to the article on social media websites, such as Facebook and Pinterest.