Aromatherapy Garden Plants
The power of scent is remarkable. Just a whiff can transport us back in time to a distant memory. Scent can also affect our mood, appetite, concentration and libido. Discover aromatherapy. It’s as close as your garden.
With their elegantly shaped flowers, lilies make a wonderful addition to any garden. Add in the many bright colors, some of them two-tone, and the fact that many have an intoxicating scent as well, and you can see why lilies (Lilium spp.) are a beloved garden and cut flower. They’re also simple to grow—if you can keep the rabbits away.
As if the huge flower panicles weren’t enough, Mother Nature also gave the lilac a glorious scent to put any perfume factory to shame. The fragrance is absolutely delightful. And so are the flowers, which come in a range of hues from lilac (naturally) to purple to pink to white. Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is hardy in Zones 3-7.
Lavender is one of the most colorful—and fragrant—herbs. The flowers dry nicely and are often put in potpourri or bundled in sachets and kept in a sock drawer. The plants are also good at repelling mosquitos and flies in the garden. Lavender (Lavandula spp.) is easy to grow if the site is sunny and has well-drained, slightly alkaline soil. Most are hardy in Zones 5 or 6-9, depending on species.
One touch of rosemary and you’ll be in seventh heaven. Run the palm of your hand over the evergreen-like foliage and then hold your hand up to your nose. You might not want to wash after that—the fragrance is that good! Rosemary (Rosmarinus spp.) is an evergreen shrub in Zones 8 and above, a tender annual herb in colder areas. You can grow it in a pot and bring it indoors for the winter if you have a bright southwest-facing window. See other container plants.
Common sage is a culinary staple, but gardeners who don’t know their way around the kitchen like to keep it in the garden for the soft, velvety gray-green leaves and the delicate-looking purple flower spikes. It’s also deer resistant. Sage (Salvia officinalis) is hardy in Zones 5-8. Discover more herbs.
Lemon verbena makes an elegant addition to the landscape but it’s the leaves that really captivate. The leaves add a lemony flavor to teas and desserts and an equally lemony fragrance when brushed. Lemon verbena is easy to grow. It’s a perennial in frost-free areas, a tender annual elsewhere.
Scented geraniums (Pelargonium spp.) are a delightful plant to have around the garden, even when they’re not blooming. The ornamental leaves have a wonderful fragrance. Depending on species, scents include rose, peppermint, pine, lemon, and apple-nutmeg. They can be grown like common geraniums—plenty of sun and a well-drained soil—and treated as annuals.
If you’re ready to relax, chamomile is the plant for you. Not only is the scent relaxing, but so is the tea made from chamomile (it’s often served to calm nerves and help with sleep). Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), Zones 4-9,is a shorter groundcover, while German chamomile (Matricaria recutita), Zones 2-8,is more upright. Both have daisylike flowers in summer.
As the name suggests, sweet pea is sweetly fragrant when blooming in spring. It’s also quite ornamental, thanks to the brightly hued pastel flowers of pink, purple and white. Give it something to ramble on and put it where you can enjoy the scent—by a garden gate or doorway, for instance. Sweet pea (Lathrys odoratus) is an annual vine growing about 3 feet tall.
Mock orange (Philadelphus spp.) will captivate you two ways: with its clear-white flowers and yellow centers, and with its sweet perfume, cast in late spring when you’re out and about in the garden and can enjoy it. It’s a striking landscape shrub when in bloom, and a good background plant of 6-8 feet in height the rest of the season. It’s hardy in Zones 4-7.