Best Fragrant Flowers for the South

Use these unique plants to fill your southeastern garden with sweet scents.

When siting fragrant plants in your garden, think about areas that invite you to linger -- a patio, front porch, or near windows you might open in fair weather. To welcome guests, plant them near an entry arbor, garden gate, beside a guest parking area, or along the path to the front door. Here are a few Southern favorites that are sure to tickle your nose.

If you're in the market for a beautiful, tough, evergreen with dynamite scent, try fragrant olive (Osmanthus fragrans), also called sweet olive and tea olive. Derived from the Greek "osme" (fragrant) and "anthos" (flower), plus "fragrants," which all translates to "fragrant, fragrant flower," the name does not overstate the plant's appeal. Tiny white flowers emit the sweet aroma of apricots in early spring and again in early fall. Plant them near the house and let the delicious scent waft in through the screen door.

Long treasured for their variety of gorgeous foliage in shady spots, gardeners are turning on to the wonderful scent of fragrant hosta, aka "August lily" (Hosta plantaginea). Thanks to its ability to produce foliage in 2-foot-tall clumps throughout the summer, it can handle some sun. Its 4-inch-long white blooms appear in late summer and are larger than the typical Hosta sieboldii. Another unusual feature is that the blooms open in late afternoon, so you can sit down with a tall iced tea at day's end and breathe in their honeysucklelike fragrance.

One old-fashioned favorite that deserves to make a comeback in the Southern landscape is Carolina allspice (Calycanthus floridus). Growing to 8 feet, this tough, deciduous shrub sports 2-inch, apple-strawberry-scented, crinkly, maroon blooms in summer. Potency of the fragrance varies widely from plant to plant, so take a whiff before you purchase one.


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