Best Fragrant Flowers for the Desert Southwest

Use these classic plants to bring welcome fragrance to your southwestern garden.


Our region is blessed with a bounty of fragrant (and sometimes downright stinky) plants that are well-adapted to local conditions. Below are a few of my favorites:

Hummingbird mint (Agastache cana): I was introduced to this mint family plant as "Double Bubble Mint" and I still think that bubble gum it what its scent most recalls. Besides its fragrance, its red tubular flowers are hummingbird magnets. This plant does best in the mid to high deserts, but will grow with extra water at lower elevations.

Cleveland sage (Salvia clevelandii): This intensely aromatic plant grows to shrubby proportions (3-4 feet high and wide) and in spring is covered in whorls of showy dark blue to purple flowers. Its dried leaves are often tied together and burned as incense.

Mt. Lemmon marigold (Tagetes lemmonii): Whether you consider Mt. Lemmon marigold fragrant or just stinky is highly individual. I find the acerbic scent sagelike and invigorating, much like its profusion of yellow composite flowers that make a fine fall show hovering above the ferny foliage.


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