Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > March 2014 > A NOSE BY ANOTHER OTHER NAME WOULD SMELL AS SWEET


While I am not a fan of scented toiletries or perfume, I do enjoy the fragrance from my citrus tree when it flowers in the winter.  It is just one of the many scented houseplants that can be grown in a bright window to provide your nose with as much pleasure as it does your eyes.  Here are a few fragrant plants and their care.

Arabian jasmine (Jasminum sambac) is a vining shrub that blooms periodically throughout the year.  Its small, very fragrant white flowers fade to purple over a day or two.  Provide very bright indirect light to direct morning or late afternoon sun, and allow the soil to dry slightly.  This fast-growing plant will require pruning to maintain an attractive size and shape, best done just after flowering.  There are double and semi-double flowered varieties available, generally in the spring.

The tropical gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides ‘veitchii’) is a small, compact shrub that produces beautiful white flowers two to three times a year, intensely but sweetly fragrant.    Cultivars of this gardenia, as well as other indoor varieties, vary in flowering time, flower size, and habit.  G. radicans is a low-growing small-leaved shrub that makes a good bonsai subject, while G. augusta var. ‘Miami Supreme’ is a large shrub producing large flowers in spring into summer.  All need very bright light, preferably some direct sun in the morning or in late afternoon.  Increased humidity is important to prevent bud drop.

Confederate or Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is a hardy vine that can also be grown in the house.  Small fragrant white flowers appear in late spring to early summer, but may also show up sporadically as a houseplant.  This evergreen vine twines onto anything nearby, so give it something to grow on.  Provide bright indirect light and even moisture with good drainage.  Prune after flowering to control size.

Madagascar jasmine (Stephanotis floribunda) is a twining vine with thick, leathery leaves and beautiful waxy white flowers borne in spring and intensely fragrant.  Provide dappled sun or direct morning or late afternoon sun.  Soil should be moderately moist when actively growing or flowering, cooler and drier in winter.

Pittosporum tobira (Mock Orange) is a subtropical evergreen shrub with dark, lustrous leaves and terminal clusters of fragrant creamy-white flowers.  The variegated Mock Orange is also fragrant, with white and grayish-green leaves.  Allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings.  This shrub makes an attractive bonsai, as well.

Sweet Olive (Osmanthus fragrans) is another hardy shrub that can be kept as a houseplant.  Clusters of tiny cream flowers are very fragrant, and produced periodically throughout the year.  Give it very bright indirect light or direct morning sun and prune after flowering to control size.

Scented geraniums (Pelargonium graveolens cultivars and hybrids), frequently found with herbs in the garden center, have smaller, less showy flowers than the common annual geranium (P. x hortorum), but the leaves contain oils that smell of roses, mint, fruits, and more, when brushed or crushed.  Keep them in a sunny window, and release the scent whenever you wish by handling the leaves.  The Mosquito plant, with its lemony citronella scent, is a geranium.

Some easily available orchids have wonderfully scented flowers, especially many cattleya hybrids and oncidiums like ‘Sharry Baby’.  Care for orchid varieties may differ widely, so check with a knowledgeable salesperson for specifics.

While not strictly houseplants, some herbs can be kept in a sunny window where they will release their scent if clipped or crushed.  Mints, rosemary, thyme, and others give off a fresh scent that is invigorating

Paperwhites (Narcissus tazetta) is a tropical “daffodil” bulb that gives a one-shot show of pretty white flowers with a powerful punch of scent, and is then discarded.  If you start a few bulbs each week from Thanksgiving through New Years, you can have a pretty continuous show of “spring bloom” through the dreariest part of the winter.

Finally, the citrus trees (lemons, limes, grapefruits, kumquats, etc.) not only produce pretty fragrant flowers when grown in a sunny window, but you also get to harvest and eat the fruits!  It doesn’t get better than that.

Posted: 3/26/2014 by Margot | with 0 comment(s)
Filed under: MargotGunn, TheGreatIndoors
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