10 Most Fragrant Bushes for Your Yard

Roses

One of the most powerful, but often overlooked, senses may be the sense of smell. The invisible nature of this sense makes it easy to discount how a burst of fragrance from a lavender bush could change the whole experience of your garden. 

In this article, we will introduce you to the most fragrant bushes for your yard that will have your neighbors following their noses to the sweet smell of your garden.

10 most fragrant bushes

Adding sweet-smelling bushes to your garden is a great way to bring an element beyond visual beauty to your landscaping.

Banana shrub (Magnolia figo)

pinkish petals of banana shrub
Thomas Quine | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

This evergreen produces attractive flower buds that are soft and fuzzy before blooming into cream-colored blooms with a touch of crimson around the edges and emitting a sweet smell of bananas

The banana shrub is often thought of as a miniature Southern magnolia and blooms sporadically throughout the summer. The shrub prefers slightly acidic, well-drained sandy soil and is drought-tolerant.

Plant type: Broadleaf evergreen shrub

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 7-10

Blooming season: Late spring into early summer (April-June)

Maintenance: Low

Soil drainage: Good

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Carolina allspice (Calycanthus floridus)

阿橋 HQ | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Large fragrant maroon flowers begin to bloom on this shrub from mid-April to mid-May and into July. This shrub’s blossoms have a sweet, spicy, and fruity scent like strawberries that intensifies in higher temperatures. When crushed, the leaves also release an aroma, and the bark can be used as a cinnamon substitute.

Plant type: Shrub

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 4-9

Blooming season: Spring (April-May)

Maintenance: Medium

Soil drainage: Good, moist, occasional flooding, occasionally dry

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Korean spice viburnum (Viburnum carlesii)

Korean spice viburnum (Viburnum carlesii)
Martin1009 | Wikimedia Commons | CC-BY-SA-3.0

This low-maintenance beauty shines year-round. Its springtime red buds bloom into showy pink or white flowers in snowball-like clusters that pour out a spicy-sweet fragrance. As spring continues into summer, its petals fade from pink to white. The blooms give way to bright red fruits that ripen to black in the late summer. In the fall, the shrub’s dark green leaves turn deep red or burgundy. 

Plant type: Evergreen perennial shrub

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 4-7

Blooming season: Early spring (March-April)

Maintenance: Low

Soil drainage: Good

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Lavender (Lavandula)

Lavender
Hans | Pixabay

Lavender is known for its small violet flowers that emit a strong floral aroma and has an herbal element similar to rosemary. The whole plant is fragrant and can be grown in a rock, pollinator, or edible garden. It is commonly used in teas, perfumes, soaps, and lotions.

This dwarf shrub can easily be grown and harvested in a backyard garden. No fertilizers are needed, just add compost to the soil. Then when you are ready to harvest your lavender, cut the stems just as the flowers start to open and hang them to dry.

Plant type: Shrub, herb, perennial

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 5-9

Blooming season: Summer (June-August)

Maintenance: Medium

Soil drainage: Good, occasionally dry

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Mexican orange blossom (Choisya ternata)

Mexican orange blossom (Choisya ternata)
Ruth Hartnup | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Mexican orange blossoms are known for their fragrant white flowers. This evergreen shrub blooms intermittently throughout the summer and even into the fall. Its leaves emit an orange fragrance when crushed.

Known for its fragrant and showy leaves and flowers, Mexican orange blossoms prefer locations with mild winters. Native to the Southwestern U.S. and Mexico, cold winds can cause damage if shrubs are not sheltered. 

Plant type: Evergreen shrub

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 7-10

Blooming season: Late spring into early fall (May-September)

Maintenance: Medium

Soil drainage: Good, moist

Light: Full sun

Mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius)

Mock orange
Eric Hunt | Wikimedia Commons | CC-BY-SA-4.0

This sweet-smelling ornamental shrub produces white blooms in cups that resemble the shape of an orange blossom, giving it its commonly used name – mock orange. It even smells like an extra sweet orange tree.

When in bloom, mock orange is very attractive, but it is rather unremarkable the rest of the year. However, its green foliage provides an attractive backdrop for other flowering plants.

Plant type: Perennial shrub

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 4-8

Blooming season: Late spring into early summer (May-June)

Maintenance: Low to medium

Soil drainage: Good

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Sweet box (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis)

Sweet box (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis)
Megan Hansen | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

The small creamy-white blooms of this winter-flowering shrub emit a hard-to-miss sweet vanilla scent. The fragrant flowers then give way to shiny red berries that transition to black throughout the summer. This evergreen shrub needs a lot of shade or the afternoon sun will discolor the foliage. Sweet box prefers loose, well-drained soil and is generally rabbit and deer resistant.

Plant type: Groundcover, broadleaf evergreen shrub

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 6-9

Blooming season: Late winter (January-February)

Maintenance: Low

Soil drainage: Good, moist

Light: Partial to full shade

White forsythia (Abeliophyllum distichum)

white flowers of a plant
sharon_k | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

This underused shrub features white to light pink flowers that open up from purple buds in the early spring. The blooms smell of sweet honey almonds and should be placed in the background as the plant is not very attractive when not in bloom. The white forsythia shrub is typically easy to grow and does best in a sunny area and well-drained soil. 

Plant type: Perennial shrub

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 4 to 8, but not widely grown

Blooming season: Early spring (March-April)

Maintenance: Low

Soil drainage: Good drainage

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Winter Daphne (Daphne odora)

Winter Daphne
halfrain | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

The pale pink flowers of this evergreen give off a gentle, sweet, spicy scent. Butterflies are attracted to the nectar of this winter-blooming shrub. It’s a great option for climates that often go back and forth from warm days to cold days.

This plant will brighten any winter landscape with its showy flowers blooming in pink, lavender, or white in mid-to-late winter. Winter Daphne is somewhat salt-tolerant and prefers well-drained soils.

Plant type: Evergreen shrub

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 7-9

Blooming season: Winter (February to early March)

Maintenance: Medium

Soil drainage: Good, moist, occasionally dry

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Winter hazel (Corylopsis)

Winterhazel (Corylopsis glabrescens)
Yoko Nekonomania | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-2.0

Pale yellow flowers bloom from bare branches in the early spring on this shrub. The sweetly scented flowers give way to green leaves in summer, then the leaves turn orange and red in the fall. Winter hazel is a medium-sized deciduous shrub and a close relative of witch hazel unlikely to grow past 6 feet tall. 

Plant type: Shrub

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 5-8

Blooming season: Early spring (March)

Maintenance: Low

Soil drainage: Good, moist 

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Why scent matters in bushes, trees and flowers

Our olfactory sense is constantly at work taking in and processing aromas. Whether we are enjoying the pleasurable fragrance of winter hazel or sniffing out something malodorous such as boxwood, our noses smell it all. 

The power of smell

Our sense of smell is so closely tied to our memories and emotions, that just a whiff of a specific fragrance can impact a person’s mood. The fragrant flowers of a blooming magnolia tree can bring back a person’s fond childhood memories of grandma’s house.

Why do plants produce fragrance?

The role of fragrance varies from plant to plant.

  • Plants may use aroma if they want to attract something. Generally, fragrance attracts pollinators to the flowers to help create viable seeds. 
  • Plants also give off a malodorous smell if they wish to repel something harmful. The odor chases away insects or other animals that would like to otherwise make a meal out of the plant.

Plant location matters

If you want to make the most of your fragrant plants, consider these planting tips:

  • Naturally, you don’t want to put a fragrant plant out in the corner of your garden where no one can appreciate its sweet scent. Leave your more visually stimulating but non-fragrant plants to the spaces people can only see. 
  • Plant flowering shrubs like honeysuckle or gardenia closer to the house or along walkways. 
  • Be sure to include some fragrant blooms near outdoor seating. Think about sitting outside enjoying a beautiful spring sunset while savoring the sweet smell of blooming magnolias.
  • Bring the outdoors inside by planting lilacs under a bedroom window to enjoy some of spring’s sweet scents from inside the house.
  • Place plants such as rosemary near a busy pathway where passersby can enjoy a burst of fragrance.
  • Layering scents throughout your landscape rather than clumping them in one spot will help to spread the sweet scents throughout your property and separate any potentially competing scents.
  • Keep in mind which way the wind typically blows across your landscape and plant accordingly.

FAQ about fragrant bushes

Will fragrant bushes attract pollinators?

Absolutely! One of the benefits of a highly fragrant garden is attracting pollinators. Some pollinators will be attracted to not just the color of the flower but also the smell of the flower. Highly fragrant plants also can attract and feed native wildlife like tree frogs and toads.

Does soil matter?

Yes. The quality of your soil can make a big difference in the success of your garden. Understanding the type of soil you have and the best plants for your soil is essential to a plethora of blooms filling your landscaping with their intoxicating scents. 

In order to find out the type of soil you have in your garden and its pH levels you will want to purchase a soil testing kit from either a local garden center or contact your local cooperative extension. A soil test from a garden center will give you immediate results. However, sending your soil to your local cooperative extension lab will provide the most accurate and comprehensive results.

What are the best fragrant shrubs for each season?

Winter: Winter Daphne is the perfect evergreen with fragrant flowers that bloom mid-to-late winter.

Spring: Usher in spring with a fruity burst from Carolina allspice starting mid-April and lasting into the summer.

Summer: Starting in the late spring and throughout the summer Mexican mock orange will add a burst of citrus to your garden as it blooms.

Autumn: As many plants are losing their blooms in preparation for winter, angel’s trumpet fills with heavenly-scented upside-down trumpet flowers.

Let your nose make the decisions

Why not let your nose have a say in what you plant and create a landscape that’s irresistible to both your eyes and your nose? Need help choosing the right plants? Let our Lawn Love pros help.

Main photo credit: congerdesign | Pixabay

Amy Adams

Amy is a writer, editor and former newspaper journalist. She gave up the Kansas sunflowers she grew up with for Florida palm trees 15+ years ago and hasn’t looked back. She loves spending time outdoors enjoying Florida’s generous green grasses and soaking up some vitamin D.