Of our five senses, the sense of smell is the one most fully developed when we are born. It also can trigger the strongest memories – just as the smell of baking bread can trigger fond childhood memories, a smell of lavender can instantly bring you back to some summer afternoon of years past. There are many beautiful, sweet-smelling flowers which grow very well in containers. Many fragrant flowering perennials can be grown with great success in large and small containers, hanging baskets, and window boxes. Here are ten of the favorites.
FRAGRANT PERENNIALS - FLOWERS
Dianthus- some are biennial or annuals so choose accordingly. D. caryophyllus (carnation) is a delightful perennial. Border carnations grow to 12” with bushy plants covered with flowers all summer. Some varieties are sprawling and do very well in hanging baskets. Other varieties also highly fragrant: D. caesius, D. deltoides, D. gratianopolitanus, and D. plumarius. Favorites: 'Tiny Rubies', 'Rose Bowl'
Fragrant Echinacea – Echinacea isn't just purple anymore! There are varieties in ranges of orange and red, white, and even green. Many of these are highly fragrant. Tall stems of daisy-like large flowers typically grow to 2 to 3 feet tall, so plant in a large container. Requires full sun. Will tolerate some aridity but best with regular water. Divide clumps in spring or fall when plants become too crowded.
Heliotrope - Perennial in warmer zones, house plant or summer annual otherwise. Masses of tiny purple sweetly fragrant flowers atop dark green evergreen foliage. A favorite of butterflies. Deadhead to prolong bloom. Can grow to 4' shrub under the right circumstances. Full sun to part shade, allow to dry out slightly between waterings (does not like to be constantly wet).
FRAGRANT PERENNIALS - BUSHES
Brugmansia, Datura or Angel's Trumpet – Incredibly showy evergreen bushes native to Peru and Brazil. Can be trained to small trees (10 – 15 feet tall) in large containers. Large showy leaves with incredible pendulous trumpet-shaped flowers with strong sweet scent. Full sun to shade, protect from wind. Requires regular water during growth and bloom seasons. Prune to shape in early spring after last frost.
Gardenia - Intensely sweet white flowers on deep green shiny leaves. Single or double flowers, bushes growing to 4 feet. Gardenia are a little fussy. They prefer warmth and sun, but filtered shade in hot summer areas. They require regular water and a moist soil, regular feeding, and good drainage. They will also benefit from a regular morning misting or dew. Use a soil mix with plenty of peat moss. Best if planted alone in containers as they do not like competing for root space. Feed every 3-4 weeks during growing and bloom seasons with a fertilizer for acid-loving plants or with fish emulsion. If leaves start to yellow give iron sulfate or iron chelate.
Lavender – Many shapes and colors blooming from late spring through the fall. Sizes range from 1 ½ to 4 feet tall and wide. Flowers pleasantly fragrant and can be dried for sachet and tea. Full sun, requires little water. Hardiness zones vary, so choose cultivars rated for your area. Prune back in the fall for fresh growth in the spring. Fertilize lightly a few times during the growing and bloom seasons.
Monarda (Bee Balm)- Blooms primarily in the summer, preferring sun with light afternoon shade in hot areas. Monarda require ample water and can grow 2 to 4 feet tall, so they are best planted in large, non-porous containers. The leaves make a wonderful tea with a flavor between mint and basil. Caution: can be susceptible to powdery mildew. Divide every 3-4 years. Longer-lived in cooler areas.
Palargonium – There are many wonderfully scented 'geranium' which are actually pelargonium. There are tender perennials which will need to be brought indoors during cold winters are cuttings kept for planting in spring. There are many varieties of scented 'geranium', ranging from a spicy aroma to the sweetness of roses.
Most pelargonium will do well in containers. Though the plants can get quite bushy, growing them in hanging baskets is also very attractive. Some of the leggy varieties will also do well tied to a small trellis.
Prefer full sun to partial shade, afternoon shade in especially hot areas. Water needs will vary depending on the cultivar you choose, but most prefer regular to light water.
Rose - Many full-size roses, even climbers, will do very well in containers (as long as your container is large enough) Half wine barrels are great for full-size roses and climbers, and look especially beautiful when planted with annuals trailing over the sides. For smaller containers, plant the smaller or miniature varieties.
Most roses prefer full sun, though some, especially those of lighter colored flowers and good disease resistance, will do well in part shade. Most roses are pleasantly fragrant and some are especially strong and sweet. Roses require regular water and will do well with a feeding of liquid fertilizer every 5 to 6 weeks during the growing and bloom seasons. In general, prune at the end of the dormant season when new branch and leaf buds begin to swell.
Tea Olive or Sweet Olive (Osmanthus) – all are evergreen shrubs with leathery leaves and small but fragrant blooms. Various cultivars range from slow to moderate growth and from 3 to 10 feet tall and wide. Full sun to part shade, requiring little water once established. Best known is O. fragrans, with tiny white flowers of a very strong sweet apricot scent. Very versatile and can be trained as a dense bush, hedge, espalier, or even a standard. Young plants do best with some shade but mature plants tolerate full sun.
Park Seed has a wide variety of fragrant perennial seeds and plants for your garden
Wayside Gardens is a quality supplier of plants and bulbs for your most beautiful containers