8 fragrant flowers for the sweetest smelling garden

Skip the roses, plant these instead.

Stimulate your senses with the most heavenly perfumed flowers that give an extra dimension to your garden!

Be it sweet, heady or refreshingly lemony, the scent of a flower can knock you out even before you see it.

And as you sit on your balcony, courtyard or backyard in the evenings, taking in the sunset and enjoying a soft cooling breeze, the perfume of many flowers will intensify as they reach out for night-time pollinators such as moths.

8 fragrant flowers for a perfumed garden

Roses, lavender and jasmine are the flowers most renowned for their perfume, but here are several lesser-known summer blooms that will thrill you with their beauty, and intoxicate you with their fragrance.

1. Port wine magnolia (Michelia figo)

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Plant this as a front hedge and every time you leave or come home in spring or summer you’ll catch the spicy and fruity fragrance of port wine – youngsters will think of chewing gum or bananas. The purply-red and cream flowers are smaller than other magnolias but are still perfectly formed.

They tend to hide in the shrubbery but the fragrance will draw you closer to their simple beauty. 

  • Climate Sub-tropical to cool.
  • Aspect Full sun to part shade.
  • Size 3mH x 2mW.
  • Soil Well drained.
  • Food Feed regularly from spring to autumn with potassium-enriched fertiliser.
  • Water Deep watering every 2-3 weeks.

2. Native frangipani (Hymenosporum flavum)

fragrant flowers
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A scented Australian native that thrives in the coastal rainforests of Queensland and NSW, this elegantly tall, evergreen and slender tree (great in tight, sunny spots) produces masses of little, exotic frangipani-like creamy white fragrant flowers that age into buttery yellow from mid-spring to summer.

The perfume is similar to the exotic variety – both creamy and zesty!

  • Climate Tropical to warm temperate.
  • Aspect Full sun to part shade.
  • Size 19mH x 5mW.
  • Soil Well drained.
  • Food Native plant fertiliser in spring and summer.
  • Water Keep soil slightly moist.

TIP Try a dwarf variety, growing to 1m!   

3. Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens)

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Love the sweet aroma of cherry pie? The deep-purple clusters of heliotrope flowers will remind you of this every summer day. 

A butterfly-loving favourite in cottage gardens with its dark purple-green textured foliage, it also loves living in pots.

  • Climate Tropical to temperate.
  • Aspect Full sun to part shade.
  • Size 1mH x 1.2mW.
  • Soil Well drained.
  • Food Feed regularly from spring to autumn with potassium-enriched fertiliser.
  • Water Keep soil moist.

TIP Prune back by a third after flowering to promote greater flowering next season.

4. Bouvardia (Bouvardia longiflora)

fragrant flowers
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This evergreen shrub from Mexico has soft arching stems at the end of which are crisp, tubular white flowers that bloom from summer to autumn and produce a sweet, fruity perfume in the evenings.

While used often in wedding bouquets, it’s also perfect for courtyards or balconies where the white flowers turn luminescent under the night sky and the superb scent is to die for!

  • Climate Tropical to temperate.
  • Aspect Full sun to part shade.
  • Size 1mH x 1mW.
  • Soil Well drained.
  • Food Feed regularly from spring to autumn with potassium-enriched fertiliser.
  • Water Keep soil moist.

TIP In cooler areas, potted bouvardia can be brought into brightly lit indoors in winter.

5. Snail vine (Vigna Caracalla)

fragrant flowers
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An intriguing, fast-growing climber that from summer to autumn produces beautifully spiralling snail-like flowers that start green, then mature to pink and creamy yellow.

From the flowers comes the divine, sweet scent of wisteria, hyacinth and jasmine.

  • Climate Tropical to cool.
  • Aspect Full sun.
  • Size 4mH x 30cm-1mW.
  • Soil Well drained.
  • Food Use liquid fertiliser monthly when they are blooming.
  • Water Keep soil moist.

TIP Snail vine needs support for vertical growth – a fence, a trellis, a pergola or an archway. Use a couple of stakes if you’re growing in a pot.

6. Rondeletia (Rogiera amoena or arachnothryx leucophylla)

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Put this shrub next to open windows so the intense, early evening fragrance can billow though your home from late winter to mid summer.

The luxuriously large leaves envelop clusters of salmon pink flowers (R. amoena) or hot pink (A. leucophylla).

  • Climate Tropical to temperate.
  • Aspect Full sun to part shade.
  • Size 1-3mH x 1-3mW.
  • Soil Well drained.
  • Food Feed regularly from spring to autumn with potassium-enriched fertiliser.
  • Water It’s drought tolerant but deep-water every 2-3 weeks from spring to autumn.

TIP Plant as a hedge or screen.

7. Luculia (Luculia gratissima)

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It’s a Himalayan  native, yet the showy, dome-shaped clusters of candy-pink flowers have the fragrance of tropical gardenias. They add a punch to your late summer garden, then linger through to winter. 

Their roots are shallow so they cope with  living in a large tub on your balcony or in your courtyard.

  • Climate Sheltered warm temperate to cool.
  • Aspect Full sun to part shade.
  • Size 2-3mH x 1-5mW.
  • Soil Very well drained.
  • Food Feed regularly from spring to autumn with potassium-enriched fertiliser.
  • Water Keep soil moist.
  • TIP It can get leggy so prune back after flowering.

8. Peony (Paeonia sp)

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Your spring tulips may quickly fade but the voluptuous, multi-ruffled peony flowers linger into summer, filling the air with a beautifully soft intertwining of jasmine, rose and carnations, or perhaps ranging from sweet to rosy to citrusy.

You can also cut some of the blooms so you can delight in the peony perfume inside.

  • Climate Cool to cold.
  • Aspect Full sun to part shade.
  • Size 70cmH x 70cmW.
  • Soil Well drained.
  • Food Feed every 1-2 weeks from spring to autumn with potassium-enriched fertiliser.
  • Water Keep soil moist from spring to autumn.

TIP Peonies need three months of a cold winter to flower well.

Lemon scented leaves

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Foliage is the foundation of your perfumed flowers. But often it’s the leaves that fill your garden with sweet, tangy lemony scents.


This NZ native comes with double the power – lemon-scented leaves all year round and honey-scented flowers in spring and summer.

Lemon Balm

While this herb is often used for natural medicines, the leaves are ornate enough to be planted as a perfume-filled garden filler.

Lemon Verbena

The little flowers are pretty enough, but the foliage scent will drive you nuts. Put them in a tea to calm you down. 

Lemon Myrtle

A native rainforest tree with clusters of pretty white flowers that are overwhelmed by the foliage fragrance.

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The ultimate guide to Australian native flowers

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The secret to growing bigger and brighter flowers

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