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Fifty Fragrant Plants For Florida Landscapes

If you are like me, during this strange, unsettling time of the pandemic, you’re noticing more of the little things in life that effortlessly bring you a moment of peace and joy and appreciating the larger role these things can play for your overall happiness and well-being. I’ve been stopping more to smell the roses so to speak, or actually I’ve been stopping to smell the gardenias (my favorite!), literally.

The intensely fragrant Gardenia shrub, flowering in South Florida. Photo by Bonnie Wells

One of the little things in life that can entice my senses and unexpectedly uplift me to my happy place is the fragrance of certain plants. It has always been amazing to me flowers, bark, leaves and fruit of some plant cultivars contain compounds that become fragrant with the heat of the sun, when crushed or some only emit their aroma at nighttime. Once inhaled, it’s understood that these scent molecules travel from your olfactory nerves in your nose directly to your brain and quickly reach the emotional center. From there, the scent can relax you or perhaps take you back to a special place in time in your memory. It’s like music for your nose.

Angel’s Trumpet has been assessed as a ‘moderate risk’ for planting by UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Natural Areas, meaning care should be taken to limit it’s spread if incorporated into Florida landscapes. Photo by Bonnie Wells

As the commercial horticulture agent for UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County, I was recently contacted by a local golf course superintendent who is working on updating the landscape at his course’s clubhouse and was specifically looking for recommendations for plants to incorporate that would create a pleasant fragrance in the landscape for visitors.  Roses, gardenias, jasmine, lavender and lemongrass, even honeysuckle, are some of the plants that instantly came to my mind when challenged to recommend fragrant plants to incorporate into the landscape.

Confederate Jasmine is a nice addition to Florida landscapes with its climbing habit. A similar species night-blooming jessamine, Cestrum nocturnum, has been assessed by UF/IFAS as a ‘High Risk of Invasion’ and should not be planted. When considering jasmine or jessamine plants consult your local county extension agent for recommendations. Photo by UF/IFAS

Knowing that honeysuckle and some jasmines are invasive, and wondering if lavender, a historically Mediterranean species can even grow well here in hot, sticky Florida, I had to dig deeper into to the literature to find the safe and appropriate fragrant plants for recommending for a Florida landscape. I performed a literature review of Florida-Friendly Landscaping plants, Florida Exotic Plant Council’s Invasive Species List, and the UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Natural Areas database to bring you the table below (Table 1) that summarizes my findings for 50 fragrant plants suitable for Florida landscapes. Do you know of other fragrant plants safe for planting in Florida that I might have missed? Please give me a comment and let me know, if so! Happy sniffing!

            Table 1.  Fragrant Plants for Florida Landscapes
Common Name
Scientific Name
Florida Friendly1
Remarks
ANNUALS
Sweet Alyssum  

Lobularia maritima

 

Yes

Purple/white/pink, winter flowers; tolerates light frost
PERENNIALS
Spiral Ginger

Costus spp.

Yes White, fragrant, summer through fall flowers
Butterfly Ginger

Hedychium coronarium

 

No Pleasant fragrance; summer flowering; fall flowering
Pinecone Ginger

Zingiber zerumbet

Yes Red, fragrant, fall flowers; tolerates occasionally wet soil
Crinum Lily Crinum spp. Yes Many cultivars; fragrant, spidery, year-round flowers vary; poisonous; susceptible to pests and diseases
Lavender Lavandula angustifolia No ‘Phenomenal’ cultivar is disease-resistant, tolerates heat and humidity; attracts butterflies
Cherry Sage Salvia greggii Yes Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, cascading habit
Fragrant Waterily

Nymphaea odorata

 

No Aquatic species
GRASSES
Lemongrass Cymbopogon citratus Yes Scented leaves remain green most of the year, turning dark red in fall and winter; dies to the ground in winter in North Florida
GROUNDCOVERS
Asiatic Jasmine Trachelospermum asiaticum Yes Small, dark green glossy leaves, prominent light green veins; tolerates foot traffic; spreads aggressively; susceptible to pests, diseases and cold damage in low 20’s
SMALL SHRUBS
Rose Rosa spp. Yes Flowers vary; susceptible to pests and diseases, ‘Belinda’s Dream’ is highly fragrant
Rosemary Rosmarinus spp. Yes Evergreen herb with aromatic needle-like leaves; flowers vary
Lady of the Night Brunfelsia americana Yes Evergreen; fragrant, white flowers
Passion Vine

Passiflora incarnata

 

Yes Evergreen; pink/purple, summer through fall flowers; larval food plant of zebra longwing, gulf fritillary, and variegated fritillary butterflies; tolerates occasionally wet soil
Rangoon Creeper Quisqualis indica Yes 1″ flowers turn from white to pink or pink to deep red, blooms in spring through fall; good for fences, pergolas, and small buildings; susceptible to pests; Assessed as a ‘moderate risk’ non-native
Fetterbush Agarista populifolia Yes Evergreen, creamy white, fragrant spring flowers
Star Jasmine Trachelospermum jasminoides Yes White, fragrant, showy, spring flowers; susceptible to diseases
American Wisteria Wisteria frutescens Yes Lavender, fragrant, spring through summer flowers; poisonous parts
SMALL OR LARGE SHRUBS2
Natal Plum Carissa macrocarpa Yes Also known as Carissa grandiflora; edible fruit; white, fragrant year-round flowers
Downy Jasmine Jasminum multiflorum Yes White, fragrant, year-round flowers; dies back in freeze, may come back; susceptible to pests; sprawling form
LARGE SHRUBS
Sweet Almond Bush Aloysia virgata Yes Evergreen; white, fragrant, summer through fall flowers, attracts butterflies
Yesterday-Today-and-Tomorrow

 

Brunfelsia grandiflora Yes White/purple, spring through fall flowers
Angel’s Trumpet

Brugmansia arborea

 

Yes Flowers hang from stems and branches and drape the plant with color; good specimen tree; susceptible to pests and diseases; Assessed as ‘Moderate Risk’ by UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants3
Butterfly Bush

Buddleia lindleyana

 

Yes Deciduous, non-fragrant, purple/violet flowers; excellent for butterflies; aggressive suckering and spreads through runners
Orange Jessamine Murraya paniculata Yes Yellow/orange, spring through summer flowers’ attracts wildlife
Sweet Pepperbush Clethra alnifolia Yes White, fragrant, summer flowers; attracts bees and other wildlife; grows well in wet areas
Gardenia Gardenia jasminoides Yes Also known as Gardenia augusta; white, fragrant spring through summer flowers; use only grafted varieties due to nematode susceptibility; susceptible to scales; use iron fertilizer to keep green
Oregon Hollygrape Mahonia bealei Yes Also known as Berberis bealei; yellow, fragrant, winter through spring Flowers; glossy grey/green leaves, holly-like appearance; purplish-blue berries provide food for wildlife
Tea Olive Osmanthus fragrans Yes Extremely fragrant, white blossoms, great for hedges
Chinese Fringe Bush Loropetalum chinense Yes White/pink, spring flowers; size varies; susceptible to pests and diseases; in high pH soils may have minor element deficiencies, mildly fragrant
Panama Rose Rondeletia leucophylla No Low-maintenance, pink fragrant flowers year-round
Shining Jasmine Jasminum nitidum Yes Evergreen to semi-evergreen vine or shrub; white, fragrant, spring through summer flowers
Primrose Jasmine Jasminum mesnyi Yes Rambling, evergreen; will climb like vine if given support; fragrant, yellow flowers; dies back in freeze, may come back
Red Powderpuff Calliandra haematocephala Yes Possible cold damage from freezing temperatures; large fragrant flower Blooms during warm months; susceptible to pests
LARGE SHRUB or SMALL TREES
Sweet Acacia Acacia farnesiana Yes Yellow, year-round flowers, great for birds
Marlberry Ardisia escallonioides Yes Fragrant, white, year-round flowers; attractive foliage; round, purple fruits provide food for wildlife, mostly in fall and winter; good for screens and hedges
Stoppers Eugenia spp. Yes Flowers vary; needs little attention once established; natives are E. axillaris, E. foetida, E. rhombea, and E. confusa; E. axiliaris, E. confusa, E. foetida have high wind resistance
Wild Olive Osmanthus americanus Yes White, fragrant, spring flowers; provides food for wildlife
Fiddlewood Citharezylum fruiticosum Yes Tolerant of dry sandy soil
Awabuki Viburnum Viburnum odoratissimum Yes Also known as Viburnum awabuki; fragrant, small white, spring flowers; red/black fruit provides food for wildlife; takes well to pruning; used for hedges; susceptible to pests and diseases
SMALL TREES
Frangipani  Plumeria alba, Plumeria rubra Yes Intensely fragrant, spiral-shaped, blooms which appear at branch tips June through November
Chinese Perfume Tree Aglaia odorata No Fragrant yellow ball-shaped flowers
Wild Cinnamon Canella winterana Yes Purple to red summer flowers, bark has a cinnamon like smell
Fringetree Chionanthus virginicus Yes Adds dark green color in summer and bright white flowers in spring
Chinese fringetree Chionanthus retusus Yes Somewhat available, may have to go out of the region to find
LARGE TREES
Southern Magnolia

Magnolia grandiflora

 

Yes Great shade tree, large creamy white flowers
Sweet Bay Magnolia Magnolia virginiana Yes Excellent vertical definition in a shrub border or as a free-standing specimen; lemon-scented flowers
Saucer Magnolia Magnolia soulangiana Yes Impressive display of large, pinkish flowers in spring
Banana Shrub Magnolia figo Yes Also known as Michelia figo; light-yellow, spring through early summer flowers; fragrance similar to ripening cantaloupes or bananas; generally used as specimen plant; susceptible to scale and mushroom root rot
Ylang Ylang Tree Cananga odorata No Best in Zone 10, blooms after 3-4 years
1Florida-Friendly Plants are considered by UF/IFAS horticulture specialists to be well-adapted to growing in Florida landscapes. The plants on this list are not the only plants that can be used in Florida. Contact your county’s UF/IFAS Extension office to determine if a plant not on the list is suitable for your region.

2Plants can be managed to be either one depending on space or desired habit.

3Non-native plant assessment by UF/IFAS indicates this plant is moderate risk, meaning it can be planted but must be managed to prevent escape.

 

5 Comments on “Fifty Fragrant Plants For Florida Landscapes

  1. Please, please, please add the FL native climbing aster! (Symphyotrichum carolinianum)

    The incredible explosion of fragrant purple flowers arrives in November & December, at a point when many other FL wildflowers are fading. To me, the flowers smell like sweet, warm sugar cookies! It’s always loaded with pollinators too…

    Perfect for wetter soils – along the edges of ponds, swales, etc.

    Thanks,
    Frank Galdo – Program Coordinator, Florida-Friendly Landscaping, UF/IFAS Extension Pasco County

    Pics & info:
    https://flawildflowers.org/flower-friday-symphyotrichum-carolinianum/

    http://hawthornhillwildflowers.blogspot.com/2009/11/climbing-aster-symphyotrichum.html

    https://twitter.com/PascoExt/status/1243217796705763329

    • Awesome Frank, will do! Thanks so much for the suggestion. 🙂

  2. These plants are very hard to find for purchase. Do you know anywhere in the Jax area?
    Thank you

    • Hi Mia, the Duval County Extension office should be able to help you with that question. Dr. Kerr is the commercial horticulture agent there, his email is CKERR@COJ.NET. Thanks for reading!

  3. It as hard to find experienced people in this particular topic, however, you sound like you know what you are talking about! Thanks

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