Flowers may take centre stage in our summer borders, but many plants also have deliciously fragrant foliage. Here's our top 10 scented plants for your garden and home.
Above, Alan Down offers his tips on making a summer container display using pastel-coloured, scented plants.
Brushing your hand over a Lavender bush
leaf and having the scent linger on your fingertips can be an evocative, multi-sensory experience. Other scented plants, such as the curry plant
, cause a big divide between those that love it and those that loathe it.
Sweet flag is a pond plant which was once used as a 'strewing' herb. In the past, it was placed on the floor to release its scent as visitors walked over it.
So, why do plants smell?
This is because plants evolved scents not to please our nostrils, but to repel insect pests and hungry herbivores – somewhat ironic in the case of herbs
, which we grow to add to our food and beverages!
Here's our pick of the best plants with scented leaves, many of which work well as scented plants for shade and pots.
Houttuynia has leaves that smell strongly of orange rind, though it is a little too pungent for some noses!
Teas, sauces, sweets, cocktails, toothpaste, liqueurs, mouthwash, chewing gum... Mint
is arguably the most recognisable of herbs. As far as plants with scented foliage go, this versatile herb is a good one to have around.
Although it prefers full sun, Mint will thrive in partial shade and is one of the best-scented plants for pots as it can be invasive in the ground. See below for a list of some varieties to try, but don't let them overgrow each other or you'll lose the individual scents.
2. Scented-leaf Geranium/Pelargonium
Somewhat gaudy, Pelargoniums (often called Geraniums) are a family of plants no summer garden should be without.
Perhaps the classiest and definitely some of the best smelling plants for outdoors are the scented-leaf varieties, which come in a vast array of fragrances, including rose, apple, strawberry, peppermint, lemon and my personal favourite 'Orange Fizz'. Leaf shape and colour also vary widely, and small flowers add to the charm.
Common Myrtle is a beautiful little Mediterranean shrub with aromatic leaves and delicate white flowers.
is a delightful low-growing plant with strongly-scented leaves and little purple flowers which act like bee-magnets
. Outside of the herb garden, thyme works well in a rock garden, at a border edge or in between paving where its scent will rise as you brush past it.
Is there anything more lovely than a Lavender
border humming with the buzz of honeybees on a midsummer afternoon? A real gem of a scented plant, Lavender has a calming fragrance making it a popular scented bedding plant, which also looks dashing bursting from a garden pathway.
There are a few different types to look out for if you fancy growing your collection. The Canary Island Lavender
is an exotic, stunning option for sheltered southern gardens. Cotton Lavender is not related, however it has silvery scented foliage and likes similar growing conditions.
5. Lemon Balm
Naturally, Lemon Balm
is a good choice if you're looking for plants with lemon scented leaves.
Similar in appearance to its Mint relative, Lemon Balm makes a pleasant contrast in fragrance. There are gold and variegated varieties to choose from and like Mint, Lemon Balm can be used to create a soothing tea infusion. It also grows well in a pot.
Chamomile can be planted as a lawn, and its gentle, soothing fragrance is famously used in tea to relieve stress and help with sleep.
Not to be confused with the Bergamot citrus fruit used in Earl Grey tea, Bergamot
has a plethora of other names, including Bee Balm, Hare Mint, Indian Feathers, Rose Balm and Robin-Run-Around. The aromatic leaves are topped by whorls of vivid pink and purple flowers during the summer. Bergamot is a great scented plant for a cottage garden border.
has a real depth to its fragrance and the narrow leaves coupled with dainty blue flowers make for a beautiful plant. As well as being an asset in the herb garden, Rosemary looks excellent in a Mediterranean border and is tolerant of hot, dry conditions.
8. Lemon Verbena
If you want full-on fragrance, you’ve come to the right plant. The lime green leaves of Lemon Verbena are so strongly lemon-scented they’re almost like the real thing. The only downside is that the plant is barely hardy, needing winter protection or a very sheltered position to thrive.
Sweet Bay is often used in recipes to add flavour, but not all the plants listed here are edible, so always check first.
There are many (MANY!) types of Salvia
which are commonly grown in the garden. A lot of them have aromatic leaves, though common Sage is the go-to plant for a herb garden. There are also variegated and purple-leaved varieties, but keep an eye out for mildew.
The oil from the Gum Tree, or Eucalyptus
, has long been used in alternative medicine. The pungent, bracing aroma of the leaves is a common ingredient in cough medicine and chest rubs. There are many species, many of which are fast-growing. In the wild, the flammable oil helps trees burn quickly in bush fires to make way for new growth.
Looking for houseplants with scented leaves?
Pretty much all of the above can be grown in containers in a sunny spot in your home. Alternatively, you could bring nature's fragrance inside by making your own lavender pillows or infusing geranium leaves in water. Fragrant indoor plants also include Citrus, Jasmine and some species of Bergonia such as 'Red Glory'.
Ready to fill your garden with fragrance? Browse scented plants on Candide today.