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Fragrant Flowers & Plants for Outdoor Garden Planters

Fragrant container plants are ideal in your outdoor garden planters—adding wonderful scents to enjoy your garden even more!


  • Hyacinth hybrids are among the most fragrant flowers in the garden in April and May.
  • Paper-white narcissi is favorite and well-suited to growing in planters.
  • Jonquils offer a lovely fragrance with creamy-white to soft yellow blooms. If you like miniature daffodils, mix them with your jonquils.
  • There are aromatic tulips that are single or double flowered.
  • Miscellaneous bulbs include the mildly scented grape hyacinth and the Iris reticulata.
  • Scented, summer-flowering lilies add a wonderful fragrance to the garden. Scented lilies include Lilium auratum (Gold-banded Lily), Lilium longiflorum (Easter Lily), Lilium regale (Royal lily), Lilium candidum (Madonna Lily), and Lilium speciosum.
  • Acidanthera closely resemble gladioli. They need well-drained soil and full sun. Other fragrant, summer-blooming bulbs include gladiolus and oxalis. In addition to scent, summer bulbs offer a variety of colors and textures to enhance borders and beds. Along with other plant materials, bulb flowers can make a fragrant contribution to your garden.


  • Evening stock (M. longipetala) Small lilac colored blossoms with powerful lily-like perfume; excellent for window boxes and pots; 12 by 9 inches.
  • Flowering tobaccos (Nicotiana alata, N. sylvestris, N. suaveolens) Plants with tubular white flowers, fragrant mostly at night; 2-6 by 3 feet. (Most hybrid bedding plant varieties have little scent.)
  • Four-o’clock (Mirabilis jalapa and M. longiflora) Multicolored trumpet flowers cover bushy 2-foot-high plants. M. longiflora has white flowers with orange-blossom scent; 2 by 3 feet.
  • Fragrant amaryllis (Clidanthus fragrans) Sweet-scented yellow crocus-like flowers in mid-summer; 8 by 8 inches; perennial bulb in Zones 9-11.
  • Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens) Large violet or white flowerheads with a vanilla/cherry pie scent; 12 by 12 inches.
  • Mignonette (Reseda odorata) Powerful vanilla/raspberry fragrance from small yellowish flowers; attracts beneficial insects; direct sow in early spring;12 by 9 inches.
  • Night phlox (Zaluzianskya ovata ) Unusual snowflake flowers are strongly fragrant at night; 1 by 2 feet.
  • Peruvian daffodil (Hymenocallis species) Especially ‘Sulfur Queen’; white or yellow spidery summer-blooming bulb; 18 inches high; perennial in zones 8-10.
  • Petunia (Petunia) Many modern varieties have little fragrance, but old-fashioned white or purple vining types release a strong lily-like fragrance at dusk; 1 by 1-3 feet.
  • Stock (Matthiola incana) Spicy clove-scented flower spikes; excellent cut flowers; thrives in cool weather; 2 by 1 feet.
  • Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) Low-growing groundcover with honey-scented white flowers; highly attractive to beneficial insects; 6 by 8 inches.
  • Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa) Extremely fragrant white flower spikes; late-summer bloom; 3 by 1 feet; perennial bulb hardy in Zones 8-10, grown as an annual in cooler climates.
  • Virginian stock (Malcolmia maritima) Small red or purple flowers with powerful scent; prefers cool weather; 16 by 6 inches.
  • Wallflowers (Erysimum asperum [biennial] and E. perofskianum) Short spikes of yellow or copper- colored flowers; 12 by 10 inches.


  • Autumn snakeroot (Cimicifuga simplex) Foot-long spikes of white flowers in autumn; partial shade; 3 wide by 2 feet high; Zones 4-8.
  • Bouncing Bet (Saponaria officinalis) Clusters of pink, red, or white 3 inch flowers in summer and autumn, 24 by 20 inches; Zones 3-9.
  • Chocolate daisy, aka green-eyes (Berlandiera lyrata) Chocolate-scented yellow daisy flowers through summer and fall;12 by 12 inches; Zones 7-9.
  • Creeping phlox (Phlox stolonifera) ‘Bruce’s White’; shade tolerant; spring blooms; 1 by 1 foot; Zones 2-8.
  • Cut leaf violet (Viola dissecta) 1 inch white or rose flowers and very attractive divided leaves; 6 inches tall; Zones 6-9.
  • Daffodils (Narcissus) Many varieties in the poeticus, triandrus, jonquilla and tazetta groups are highly fragrant, especially ‘Buffawn’, ‘Canarybird’, ‘Cragford’, ‘Geranium’, ‘Trevithian’, and ‘Tripartite.
  • Daylilies (Hemerocallis) Here are 14 of the most widely available, highly fragrant daylilies: ‘Audacity Bound’, Barbara Mitchell’, ‘Ellen Christine’, ‘Ever So Ruffled’, ‘Forty Carats’, ‘Fragrant Light’, ‘Hyperion’, ‘Ida Miles’, ‘Kathy Rood’ , ‘Scape Stopper’, ‘Tetrina’s Daughter’, ‘Top Honors’, ‘Vanilla Fluff’, Hemerocallis citrina, H. lilioasphodelus.
  • Garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) especially white ‘David’, ‘Blue Paradise’, pink ‘Eden’s Crush’, and ‘Old Cellarhole’; summer blooms; 3-5 by 2 feet; Zones 4-8.
  • Giant lily (Cardiocrinum giganteum) Towering 5-12 feet high spikes of fragrant white trumpet-shaped flowers in summer; part shade; Zones 6-9.
  • Ginger lily (Hedychium coronarium var. chrysoleum ‘Yellow Spot’) Large spikes of exquisite white flowers in mid to late summer; sun or part shade; 4 by 3 feet; Zones 7-10.
  • Hostas (Hosta) Only some varieties are strongly fragrant, including ‘Fragrant Bouquet’, ‘Guacamole’ and the species H. plantaginea. Trumpet-shaped white flowers in summer; sun or part shade; 2 by 3 feet; Zones 3-8.
  • Hyacinths (Hyacinthus) The most fragrant hyacinths for spring color and sweetness are ‘Blue Jacket’, pink ‘Anna Marie’, and white ‘Carnegie’; 8 to 12 inches tall; Zones 5-9.
  • Iris (Iris) Highly fragrant bearded irises include ‘Dark Passion’, ‘Fort Apache’, ‘Last Chance’, ‘Mary Frances’, ‘Old Black Magic’, ‘Pacific Mist’, ‘Scented Bubbles’, ‘Stepping Out’, ‘Thriller’, and ‘Sweet Lena’; also I. pallida variegata; Zones 3-10.
  • Lavender (Lavandula ) Purple, pink, or white flower spikes in summer; 2 by 2 feet ; Zones 6 or 7 to 9.
  • Lilies (Lilium ) Many hybrid trumpet and oriental lilies are strongly fragrant, including ‘Casa Blanca’. Also richly scented are Goldband lily (L. auratum; Zones 4-9), Regal lily (L. regale; Zones 4-8), L. formosanum (Zones 5-8) , and Madonna lily (L. candidum; Zones 6 -9); heights range from 3 to over 6 feet; bloom times vary.
  • Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis) Low spreading groundcover with white or pink spring flowers; part shade or sun; 9 inches tall with indefinite spread; Zones 2-7.
  • Pinks (Dianthus superbus, D.gratianopolitanus, D.plumarius) Well-drained soil, full sun; spreading plants with spring to summer bloom, 6-6 inches by 8-24 inches; Zones 3-8.
  • Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) Long-blooming white or pink flowers from summer to fall with rich vanilla scent; attractive to hummingbirds and bees; 3 by 2 feet; Zones 3-8.
  • Sweet violet (Viola odorata) Small purple, rose, or white flowers in late winter/early spring; partial shade; 4 by 6 inches; Zones 7-9. Tulip ‘Apricot Beauty’ is one of the most fragrant tulips; early blooming; 18 inches high; Zones 4-6.
  • Woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata) ”Blue Perfume’, ‘White Perfume’; spring blooms; shade tolerant; 1 by 1 foot; Zones 3-8.


Because they are so much larger than most perennials, flowering shrubs are great choices for maximizing fragrance. They are generally low maintenance, and provide winter structure and early spring greenery.

The smaller varieties are fine for container planting, while the larger-growing varieties will have to be re-planted in the ground when they outgrow your planters. Be sure to prtect your potted shrubs and trees in the winter by wrapping the whole pot in a thermal wrap of some type to protect the roots from the cold and freezing.

  • Azaleas Many native deciduous azaleas have highly fragrant flowers in pastel pinks, yellows and white, including the coast azalea (Rhododendron atlanticum); Zones 5-9, the sweet azalea (R. arborescens,); Zones 5-9, the pinxterbloom azalea (R. periclymenoides); Zones 4-9), the roseshell azalea (R. prinophyllum); Zones 4-9, and the swamp azalea (R. viscosum ); Zones 4-9.
  • Banana shrub (Michelia figo) Powerful fruity fragrance and lustrous evergreen foliage; blooms spring through summer, part shade to shade; 10 by10 feet; Zones 7 to 10.
  • Box-leaf azara (Azara microphylla) Small but richly fragrant flowers smell of white chocolate in late winter and spring; sun to part shade; 30 by 12 feet ; Zones (6) 7-9.
  • Buffalo currant (Ribes odoratum) Powerful clove-scented yellow flowers in spring; 6 by 6 feet ; Zones 5-8.
  • Carolina allspice or sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus) Dark red 2 inch flowers in summer; sun or part shade; 8 by 10 feet; Zones 5-9.
  • Daphnes Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’ and ‘Somerset’ Legendary powerful fragrance from small white or purplish flowers in late spring; 3 by 3-5 feet; Zones 4-6(7). Many other daphne species are also highly fragrant, including Garland flower (D. cneorum), Alpine daphne (D. alpina), Caucasian daphne. D. caucasica), Winter daphne (D. odora), February daphne (D. mezereum ), D. bholua and D. tangutica.
  • Fragrant tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans) Strongly fragrant, very long-blooming (from autumn to spring) evergreen shrub; excellent container plant; sun to part shade; 20 by 20 feet; Zones (7) 8 to 10.
  • Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides) Long-blooming evergreen shrub producing white flowers in summer with extraordinary creamy fragrance; light shade; 4 by 4 feet; Zones (7b) 8-10.
  • Japanese pittosporum (Pittosporum tobira) Wonderfully fragrant flowers in early summer and evergreen foliage; 2 to 8 feet high; Zones (7) 8-9.
  • Lilacs (Syringa) Of the hundreds of varieties of this popular 8 to 10 foot high shrub, the most highly fragrant and disease-resistant choices for Zones 3 to 7 are: ‘Henri Robert’, ‘Excel’, ‘Vauban, ‘Rhum von Horstenstein’ and ‘Miss Kim’. Gardeners in Zones 8 and 9 need to choose heat-tolerant lilac varieties such as ‘Angel White’, ‘Big Blue’, ‘Blue Skies’ and ‘Lavender Lady’.
  • Mexican orange blossom (Choisya ternata) Superb rounded evergreen shrub with1 inch white star shaped flowers in late spring, again in fall; shade or part shade; 6 by 6 feet; Zones 7-10.
  • Mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius) Most species and varieties of this old-fashioned favorite have strongly-scented showy white flowers in early summer; 10 by 8 feet; some hardy to Zone 3. Paper bush (Edgeworthia gardenii) Yellow flowers in late winter; 5 by 5 feet; Zones 7-10.
  • Sweet box (Sarcoccoca hookeriana [3 by 3 feet] and S. confusa [6 by 6 feet]) Small white flowers with heady fragrance in late winter; evergreen; part shade to shade; Zones (7) 8-9. S. hookeriana var. humilis is hardy in Zones (5) 6-8.
  • Sweet pepperbush or summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) Showy 6 inch clusters of white flowers in late summer; shade to partial shade; 6 by 8 feet; Zones 3-9. Also, C, barbinervis.
  • Viburnums Koreanspice viburnum (V. carlesii) has powerfully fragrant small white flower clusters in spring; sun/partial shade; 6 by 6 feet; Zones 5-8. Many other viburnums are also highly fragrant, including V. x bodnantense ‘Pink Dawn’, V. x burkwoodii , V. x carlcephalum, V. x judii, V. odoratissimum, V. farreri, and V. bitchiuense. Size and hardiness varies.
  • White forsythia (Abeliophyllum distichum) Showy 1/2 inch flowers in late winter; 5 by 5 feet; Zones (4) 5-9.
  • Winter hazel (Corylopsis glabrescens) 1 inch yellow flowers in early spring; partial to full shade; 15 by 15 feet; Zones 6-9.
  • Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox)1 inch yellow flowers in late winter; 12 by 12 feet; Zones (6) 7-9. Witch hazels (Hamamelis mollis, H. vernalis and hybrids) Long-lasting spidery yellow, orange, or red flowers open in winter; part shade or sun; 15 by 15 feet; Zones (4) 5-8.


  • Variegated kiwi vine (Actinidia kolomikta) White flowers in early summer; 15 feet tall; Zones 5-8.
  • Cinnamon vine (Dioscorea batatas ) Long-lasting flowers with strong, fresh cinnamon fragrance; roots are edible if cooked; 10 feet tall; Zones 5-10.
  • Clematis Most of the large, showy hybrid clematis are not scented, but the following species are all richly scented (also all vigorous climbers, to15 feet or more): Clematis armandii (2-inch white flowers in early spring; Zones 7-9); C. flammula (star-shaped white flowers from midsummer on; Zones 7-9); C. montana (various cultivars; Zones 6-9); sweet autumn clematis (C. ternifolia, aka paniculata; masses of star-shaped white flowers in late summer through autumn; Zones 4-9
  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera) Several vining species are wonderfully fragrant, including, Etruscan honeysuckle (L. etrusca), Goldflame honeysuckle (L. x heckrottii), Common honeysuckle (L. periclymenum) and Italian honeysuckle (L. caprifolium); 10 to 20 feet tall; most are hardy to Zone 5.
  • Jasmines Several species are legendary for their perfumes, including Poet’s jasmine (Jasminun officinale), Winter jasmine (J. polyanthum), Arabian jasmine (J. sambac), and Pink summer jasmine (J. x stephanese); size and bloom times vary; most are hardy in Zones 8-10.
  • Moonflower (Ipomoea alba) Large white flowers open rapidly at dusk during the summer months; vining tender perennial grown as an annual from seed; 15 feet tall.
  • Sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) Exquisite fragrance and varied colors; excellent cut flowers in early summer; annual vining plants thrive in cool weather; 6 feet tall.


You can start many trees out in large garden planters on your patio or deck and transplant them to your garden when they outgrow the pot.

  • Amur maple (Acer tartaricum ssp ginnala) Clusters of white flowers in spring; 18 by18 feet; Zones 3-7.
  • Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) White flower clusters in late spring; attracts beneficial insects; 80 by 50 feet; Zones 5-9.
  • Citrus (Citrus species) The spring to summer small white flowers of orange, lemon and other citrus trees are richly scented. Most citrus species are cold hardy only in southern Florida and California, but they make excellent and fragrant container plants in other regions.
  • Japanese apricots (Prunus mume) Showy red, pink or white flowers in late winter; 20 by 20 feet; Zones (6) 7-9.
  • Lindens (Tilia cordata and other species) Excellent shade trees with sweetly scented flowers in spring and early in summer; sun/partial shade; 30 by 60 feet; Zones (3) 4-7.
  • Mt. Etna broom (Genista aetnensis) Clouds of 1/2 inch yellow flowers in summer, deciduous; 25 by 25 feet; Zones 9-10.
  • Yellowwood (Cladrastis lutea) pendant panicles of 1 1/2 inch white flowers in early spring, deciduous; 40 by 30 feet; Zones 4-9.

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