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. Blue Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, Hardy Plumbago

    Hardy Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) is one of the most versatile groundcovers for cold climates growing in both sun and shade and most soil types. Plumbago blooms in late su...

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    Ceratostigma plumbaginoides Hardy Plumbago Ceratostigma plumbaginoides
    As low as $8.79 Sale $7.91
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    Hardy Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) is one of the most versatile groundcovers for cold climates growing in both sun and shade and most soil types. Plumbago blooms in late summer with deep blue flowers followed by the foliage that turns burgundy red in fall.
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  2. Red and Orange Agastache Coronado Red, Agastache Coronado Red, Coronado Red Hummingbird Mint

    Coronado Red® Hyssop (Agastache Pstessene Coronado® Red) is a distinctive selection of Hummingbird Mint with silver-green foliage and spikes of orange-red flowers. This Agastache p...

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    Agastache Coronado Red Coronado Red® Hummingbird Mint (Hyssop) Agastache Coronado Red
    As low as $10.99 Sale $9.89
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Coronado Red® Hyssop (Agastache Pstessene Coronado® Red) is a distinctive selection of Hummingbird Mint with silver-green foliage and spikes of orange-red flowers. This Agastache plant has a very vertical habit and blooms beginning in mid-summer. A 2009 Plant Select winner. Drought resistant perennial plant (xeric).
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  3. 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...

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    Salvia sylvestris May Night May Night Meadow Sage Salvia sylvestris May Night
    As low as $9.49 Sale $8.07
    Per Plant - 2.5" 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.
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  4. Jumbo Waterwise Pre-Planned Garden

    A High Country Gardens Exclusive, our drought resistant jumbo Waterwise pre-planned garden will allow you to grow more flowers while using less water with this arresting combination ...

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    Jumbo Waterwise Pre-Planned Garden Jumbo Waterwise Pre-Planned Garden
    As low as $169.32 Sale $152.39
    Per Collection of 18

    A High Country Gardens Exclusive, our drought resistant jumbo Waterwise pre-planned garden will allow you to grow more flowers while using less water with this arresting combination of long-blooming, easy-care perennials. Their bright, clear colors are a delight to your eye, but their inedible foliage will keep the rabbits and deer at bay. Perfect for that hot, sunny spot in your yard. Available in two sizes, 18 or 27 plants. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric). Save $20 off the single plant price!

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Text and Photos by Founder and Chief Horticulturist David Salman.

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