Top Fragrant Houseplants

Add color and scent to your home with these wonderfully scented specimens.

By Justin W. Hancock


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Scented Geranium
1/18

    There are many reasons to grow plants indoors -- they clean the air, soften and infuse our decor with nature, and reduce the amount of stress we feel. There are a stunning array of leaf colors and textures to brighten spirits even on the shortest, dreariest winter days. But that's not all: Pick carefully and they also provide scent -- from rich and flowery to warm and spicy. Read on to discover some of our favorite fragrant indoor plants.

2/18
Scented Geranium

    Start exploring the world of scented geraniums and you'll be amazed at the range of aromas they offer: Choose from rose, lemon, lime, nutmeg, ginger, or chocolate scents, just to name a few. They also present a lovely range of leaf shapes, from lacy to shield. And many have soft, fuzzy foliage that's as fun to touch as it is to smell.

    Name: Pelargonium selections

    What it needs: Grow scented geraniums in a bright spot protected from drafts. Water and feed regularly with a general-purpose plant food.

    Test Garden tip: Make sure your scented geraniums get plenty of light; otherwise they'll grow long and leggy. If they become lanky, pinch them back to encourage bushy growth. Use the parts you pinched off as cuttings.

3/18
Arabian Jasmine

    Arabian jasmine flowers almost all year long if it gets enough light. The starry, pure-white flowers produce a soft, flowery fragrance and are used to make jasmine tea.

    Name: Jasminum sambac

    What it needs: Grow Arabian jasmine in a bright spot protected from drafts and provide abundant humidity. Water regularly and feed it in spring and summer with a general-purpose houseplant fertilizer.

    Test Garden Tip: Arabian jasmine is a shrubby vine; you can let the stems grow long and train them on a trellis or grow in an arching mound.

4/18
Citrus

    You're sure to fall in love with the sweet scent of orange, lemon, grapefruit, or other citrus blossoms. Most are surprisingly easy to grow, provided you give them enough light. If you're patient, you may even get to enjoy homegrown fruits.

    Name: Citrus selections

    What it needs: Choose a bright spot protected from drafts and provide abundant humidity for your citrus. Water regularly, and fertilize in spring and summer with a general-purpose houseplant food.

    Test Garden Tip: If you grow citrus from seed, your plants may take many years to flower and they'll likely have long, sharp spines. Your best bet for citrus as a houseplant is to purchase a named, grafted variety.

5/18
Eucalyptus

    While most gardeners don't think of eucalyptus as a houseplant, this easy-growing tree makes a pretty showpiece indoors in a high-light spot. It offers blue-gray foliage with a distinct aroma when you rub it.

    Name: Eucalyptus cinerea

    What it needs: Eucalyptus thrives in bright spot protected from hot and cold drafts. Water it regularly throughout the year.

    Test Garden Tip: Don't be afraid to prune eucalyptus back to keep it full and bushy. Otherwise you may end up with a plant that looks too tall and sparse.

6/18
Sweet Bay

    An attractive slow-growing shrub that may become a small tree, sweet bay shows off shiny green leaves with a savory, herbal scent. Use the leaves in soups, stews, and other delicious winter treats.

    Name: Laurus nobilis

    What it needs: Sweet bay isn't fussy, but it does best in a medium to bright spot. Keep the potting mix evenly moist in spring and summer; let it go a bit drier in winter. It likes high humidity.

    Test Garden Tip: You may allow bay go dormant in winter if you have a cool room (between 45-60F) to keep it in. Water every few weeks -- just enough to keep the potting mix from drying out.

7/18
Gardenia

    Renowned for being one of the most fragrant flowers around, gardenia is a lovely, but tricky houseplant. Its glossy green leaves put the spotlight on the single or double white flowers that emit a heavy, flowery scent.

    Name: Gardenia augusta

    What it needs: Gardenia prefers a humid, very bright environment. Water and fertilize it regularly in spring and summer; hold off on the fertilizer and let the potting mix barely dry between waterings in fall and winter. Protect it from hot and cold drafts.

    Test Garden Tip: Keep your gardenia happy by periodically using a fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants such as azaleas.

8/18
Stephanotis

    A favorite flower for wedding bouquets, stephanotis shows off starry white flowers with a waxlike texture. Each bloom emits a delightful floral fragrance. It's attractive even when not in bloom because of its shiny dark green leaves.

    Name: Stephanotis floribunda

    What it needs: Place stephanotis in a very bright spot protected from drafts. Water and fertilize it regularly in spring and summer; stop feeding it and reduce watering in autumn and winter.

    Test Garden Tip: Stephanotis grows more slowly than many other vines when grown indoors. Get more growth and blooms by moving it to a partly shaded spot outdoors for the summer.

9/18
Orange Jessamine

    Orange jessamine makes for a beautiful foliage plant when it's not flowering. But it delights the nose as much as the eyes when it bursts into bloom with clusters of long-lasting white flowers that smell like orange blossoms.

    Name: Murraya paniculata

    What it needs: Grow orange jessamine in a medium to bright area that has high humidity and is protected from drafts. Water and fertilize the plant regularly in spring and summer; stop feeding it and reduce watering in autumn and winter.

    Test Garden Tip: Orange jessamine will survive low-light conditions, but probably won't bloom in them. Happily, the leaves are fragrant if you rub them so you can enjoy its scent even as a foliage plant.

10/18
'Tea Rose' Begonia

    Begonias are old-fashioned favorites. While most aren't scented, use your nose while shopping to discover varieties such as 'Tea Rose' that are. This beauty offers clusters of fragrant pink flowers over lustrous green leaves.

    Name: Begonia 'Tea Rose'

    What it needs: You'll find 'Tea Rose' begonia isn't too temperamental, but performs best in a medium to bright spot that has high humidity and protection from drafts. Water and fertilize this begonia regularly in spring and summer to ensure a steady show of flowers.

    Test Garden Tip: High humidity and warm, sunny conditions enhance the flowers' fragrance.


    Image courtesy Logee's Greenhouses, logees.com

11/18
Corsage Orchid

    Showy corsage orchids are so lovely to look at that it may not occur to give them a sniff. But like begonias, there are some selections that are wonderfully scented.

    Name: Brassolaeliocattleya selections

    What it needs: Find a medium to bright spot that offers high humidity and protection from drafts for your corsage orchid. Water and fertilize it regularly in spring and summer; keep it drier and cooler in autumn and winter.

    Test Garden Tip: Do your research before shopping for your orchid; some corsage orchids flower once a year, others bear blossoms twice.

12/18
Oncidium Orchid

    There are hundreds of types of fragrant orchids. While the corsage types are among the showiest, oncidiums are among the easiest. They offer a range of bloom colors and sizes, as well as bloom times.

    Name: Oncidium Sharry Baby 'Sweet Fragrance'

    What it needs: Pick a medium to bright spot that offers high humidity and protection from drafts. Water and fertilize this orchid regularly during the spring and summer; keep it drier and cooler in autumn and winter.

    Test Garden Tip: The fragrance varies as much as color and size. Sharry Baby 'Sweet Fragrance', for example, has a distinct chocolate scent; Twinkle 'Fragrance Fantasy', on the other hand, smells more herbal.

13/18
Cuban Oregano

    A big-leafed plant with a distinct spicy aroma, Cuban oregano is an easy-to-grow relative of Swedish ivy. (Interestingly, neither plant is native to the locations from where they get their common names.) You can cook with the fleshy, fuzzy green leaves or just brush them to release their scent.

    Name: Plectranthus amboinicus

    What it needs: Cuban oregano does best in a medium to bright spot with protection from drafts. Water it enough to keep the soil evenly moist, but not saturated for extended periods.

    Test Garden Tip: Cuttings from this plant root easily in potting mix, so it's easy to propagate and share with friends.

14/18
Passionflower

    Among the most exotic plants you can grow indoors, passionflowers feature bizarre, almost alien-looking flowers. Not all are fragrant, so shop and sniff or read the plant tags and descriptions to ensure you get a scented selection. Some of the best are Passiflora x belotii, 'Inspiration', and 'Elizabeth' (shown here).

    Name: Passiflora selections

    What it needs: Grow passionflower in a bright spot protected from drafts. Keep the soil evenly moist (but not wet) throughout the year. Fertilize with a general-purpose houseplant food in spring and summer.

    Test Garden Tip: Passionflowers are fast growers and will need support, such as trellis to climb on. Because they grow so fast, don't fertilize them much. In fact, too much plant food can encourage lots of leafy growth and few blooms.

15/18
Hoya

    Hoyas are old-fashioned plants coming back into style. Easy-growing vines, many (such as Hoya cacunosa, shown here) feature waxy, sweetly scented pink or white flowers. Their glossy, dark green leaves are attractive even when the plants aren't in bloom.

    Name: Hoya selections

    What it needs: No-fuss hoya prefers a medium to bright spot and protection from drafts. This plant is good for forgetful gardeners because it likes to be on the dry side and doesn't mind if you sometimes miss a watering or two. Fertilize with a general-purpose houseplant food in spring and summer.

    Test Garden Tip: Hoyas can take a while to bloom. If you've had one for a couple of years and never seen a flower, give it more light.


    Image courtesy Logee's Greenhouses, logees.com

16/18
Angel's Trumpet

    An angel's trumpet in full bloom is nothing short of spectacular. A common patio tree, you can also move it inside for the winter to try to coax more blooms from it. Be warned, though: It's not the best plant for beginners and all parts are extremely poisonous.

    Name: Brugmansia selections

    What it needs: Provide angel's trumpet with a bright spot and protection from drafts. The plant is a heavy feeder, so fertilize regularly in spring and summer with a general-purpose plant food. Reduce water and fertilizer a bit during the cool, dark fall and winter months.

    Test Garden Tip: A lot of common pests love angel's trumpet; be on the watch for aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and whiteflies.

17/18
Plumeria

    A tropical tree famous for its beautiful flowers and stunning fragrance, plumeria flowers are often used to make Hawaiian leis. They appear in wide range of shades, including reds and pinks, yellows and oranges, whites, and mixtures.

    Name: Plumeria selections

    What it needs: Give plumeria a warm, very bright spot and protection from drafts. Keep it moderately moist in spring and summer and reduce watering in fall and winter. The tree may go dormant and lose its leaves but will begin to grow again once days get warmer. Move the pot outdoors in the summer to ensure it gets plenty of light.

    Test Garden Tip: As gorgeous as it is, plumeria can be a bit tricky and isn't recommended for beginners.

18/18
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