15 Indoor Plants That Smell Fantastic
Are you looking for a new indoor plant that will not only look amazing, but smell fantastic as well? There are a number of indoor plants that have a pleasant scent. In this article, gardening expert and houseplant enthusiast Madison Moulton examines some of her favorite plants that will look great in your houseplant collection, and smell just as good.
Plants are chosen mostly for how they look. Variations in leaves, texture and color all play a role – as well as the beauty of flowers. But sometimes, when choosing indoor plants, it can have benefits to also choose plants based on how they smell.
When you top off a houseplant that has beautiful visual attributes with an intoxicating scent, you have a sensory plant that deserves a spot in your indoor garden. So, where do you start? Which plants tend to have a better smell than others? While this may be subjective, there are some indoor plants that do carry a stronger scent than others.
Let’s take a deeper look at some of the more scented indoor plants you can add to your houseplant collection.
The subtle fragrance of flowering Hoya carnosa makes it a popular choice as an indoor plant. The waxy velvet pink and red flowers create a perfume, but it doesn’t overpower the room. And, as an added bonus, they cascade over pots or hanging baskets beautifully.
Hoyas are relatively slow-growing plants and only flower when mature (2-3 years old). To produce these scented flowers, they need a full day of bright indirect sunlight in a spot right next to a window.
Also don’t move its position once it’s growing well as they don’t like change. Only water when the soil is starting to dry out to avoid problems with root rot that prohibit flowering. Fertilize only in the growing season of spring and summer and don’t overfertilize or it will not bloom well (or at all).
Citrus trees like lemons, limes, oranges, kumquats and calamondins are not considered typical indoor plants. However, there are a few citrus plants suitable for growing indoors in containers and they do bring a fresh citrusy fragrance that is sought after in homes.
The smaller fruiting varieties like calamondins are more suited to indoor growing. They need at least 6 hours of sunlight a day, especially if you’re hoping for your tree to fruit. There are also dwarf varieties of lemons and limes that make good houseplants.
The drawback with most citrus grown indoors is the likelihood of the flowers pollinating to produce fruit. You can try brushing pollen from one set of flowers to another in order for the plant to fruit, but results vary.
The plant, however, will have a lovely scent that comes from the leaves and flowers all year long. So, if it’s the fragrance you are after, these plants are perfect.
A yearly burst of fragrance from Hyacinth bulbs is an intoxicating aroma. They are easy to grow, even on just pebbles, with their roots digging down into a saucer of water. With that, they will have all they need for a season of flower power.
The short stems are around 8-10 inches tall and packed with colorful blooms that smell beautiful and impart their fragrance around a room. The original purple-blue flower color has given way to more colors including cream, pink, apricot and red, giving you plenty of options when growing indoors.
If planted in soil, don’t overwater and plant in groups to get the best look and scent. Place in a bright position indoors out of direct sunlight. Spots close to sunny south-facing windows but out of the path of the direct sun are ideal.
Some are allergic to oxalic acid on the bulbs, so it’s recommended to use gloves when handling.
The classic gardenia fragrance loved by many can be brought indoors with potted Gardenia jasminoides. If well cared for and in a position with at least 6 hours of sunlight a day, you should have no trouble growing these plants.
Gardenias are subtropical plants that enjoy warm temperatures and high humidity – much like other houseplants found indoors. Although they will not grow as well indoors as they do outside, they still have the ability to grow and flower as houseplants.
In order for the plants to flower and give off their heady scent, they need the correct temperature – 65-70F during the day and 60-65F at night. Plant in potting soil enriched with compost and peat moss to increase the acidity in the soil to between 5.0-6.0 pH.
Fertilize every 2-3 weeks in the growing season and cut off any spent blooms to encourage re-blooming. More blooms mean more fragrance around your home.
Many types of orchids are grown indoors as houseplants. Some varieties have a spectacular fragrance when they flower, ranging from spices like cinnamon, vanilla and chocolate to the scents of other flowers like roses and lilies. They also flower for longer periods than other species so will produce a scent for a few months at least.
Choose orchids like Brassavola nodosa (Lady of the Night) that smell like Lily of the Valley, Oncidium ‘Sharry Baby Sweet Fragrance’ which has chocolate notes, or Cattleya walkeriana which has notes of vanilla mixed with cinnamon.
Unfortunately, some orchids have a scent that is not as pleasant. These have been described as smelling like rotting meat or feces. They have these smells in order to attract insects that eat decaying matter, which in turn pollinate the plants.
They are often not available in mainstream nurseries and will be in a more specialized setting but just in case, avoid any of the Bulbophyllum species in the home.
A favorite herb for its fragrance is any of the mint varieties. Mint grows best in pots as they have an aggressive root system that can take over a garden bed in no time, making them suitable for growing indoors.
Mint has a few special requirements to grow well indoors, including lots of light. Keep in a cool room with bright indirect light and preferably a few hours of direct sun.
Water when the top layer of soil feels dry, fertilize every few weeks with a liquid fertilizer and pick often to keep the plant in shape and encourage new growth. Pinch off any buds as soon as you see them or the plants will become leggy.
Many types of begonias are fragrant with a mild sweet scent that makes them ideal house guests. Tuberous begonias have bigger flowers in a large variety of colors that make them very decorative. They need good natural light indoors, protected from direct sunlight and drafts.
Plant in good potting soil with added perlite for extra drainage. Water regularly during the growing season and do not allow them to dry out or they may not flower.
When growing begonias in containers, make sure to place them in saucers of pebbles with water for extra humidity or use a humidifier.
The soft stems of these plants can become heavy with blooms and may need staking to prevent the stalks from snapping.
With direct sunlight for 4-6 hours a day, you can grow plumeria indoors and get the incredible fragrance it has when it flowers. An icon of hot beach weather, this tropical frangipani plant needs high temperatures to thrive and south-facing windows to give them enough light.
Only mature plants of 2-3 years old will bloom. Once they start to flower, feed regularly with a fertilizer high in phosphorous and low in nitrogen for better blooms. Feed right through spring and into fall.
Even indoors, the plants may head into a dormancy phase and lose all their leaves. Depending on the temperatures in your region, you may want to consider placing potted plumeria outdoors in the warmer months and bring indoors when it’s cold – any temperature below 55F.
Lemon balm is one way to get a citrus scent into the home without growing a whole citrus tree. This perennial herb from the mint family has lovely fragrant leaves, especially when rubbed between the fingers. Plus, it’s a good-looking plant to grow.
Lemon balm needs well-draining potting soil and plenty of light near a sunny window to thrive. Water only when the soil is dry and make sure it drains freely. Keep the flowers from blooming by pinching off any buds. When the plant flowers, it will bolt and become leggy and the leaves become bitter.
This herb is not often used in cooking, but can be for any dish that you would use mint in. However, the best way to use it is for a soothing tea to reduce stress and promote sleep.
Another fragrant plant for its leaves is scented geranium. Perhaps not as grand as some of the pelargonium and geranium types, this plant still has features in spades.
The leaves have aromas that range from rose, lemon, nutmeg, chocolate and ginger, giving you plenty of options to choose from. The pretty flowers bloom in late spring and summer in colors ranging from white, pink and red depending on the variety.
They are the perfect patio or indoor plants that need very little care. Make sure they are watered regularly and keep them close to a sunny window. Don’t overfertilize them and trim them to keep them neat.
In folk medicine, geranium oil has been used for centuries as a pain reliever amongst other things. But they are definitely worth growing just for their special fragrance. Crush a few leaves every now and again to release their scent.
The evergreen vine Stephanotis floribunda hails from the tropical island of Madagascar where it is known as Madagascar Jasmine, seen often in bridal and religious ceremonies. The white, waxy, tubular flowers have an exotic scent that makes this plant exceptional for fragrance in the home during the summer months.
It needs a cool, sunny spot to flower with temperatures above 70F. Stephanotis prefers cool roots (don’t place them near radiators) and once growing well, don’t move them around too much.
These vines need water about once a week in the growing season and regular fertilizing. Increase the humidity with trays of pebbles and water or invest in a humidifier for the best results.
Grown specifically for the indoor plant market, potted roses are usually considered a long-lasting bunch of flowers. They do not have a very strong rose scent compared to other rose types. But they are nevertheless subtly rose-scented and come in a wide range of flower colors.
They make this list for their long-lasting blooms and light scent, welcome in any home. They need regular watering every few days, but make sure not to waterlog the soil. Also deadhead any spent blooms to encourage more flowers. Place them in a well-lit position in the home, giving them several hours of sunlight a day.
Once they have finished flowering, transplant them into the garden outdoors to continue growing successfully.
One of the top scented plants to grow indoors is undoubtedly lavender. However, it’s not one that comes to mind frequently for growing indoors. Luckily, there are ways to grow lavender as a houseplant successfully and benefit from the sweet fragrance the flowers and leaves bring.
Light is all-important – picture fields of lavender out in the Tuscan sun. Choose south-facing windows with at least 6 hours a day of sunlight. Rotate the pot every week so that the plant gets enough light all around.
Allow the soil to dry out before watering again to replicate conditions in their native habitats. Overwatering will cause the plant to rot but it should not be underwatered either or the plants will become stressed. If you want to encourage bushier growth, prune regularly and use the cuttings around your home to add a calming scent.
Not all jasmines have a scent, but one that is really wonderfully sweet-smelling is Jasminum polyanthum. Usually grown outdoors, this fragrant climber can also be grown indoors in a well-lit position. Although you may not notice the scent during the day, it is sure to fill your some at night when its fragrance is strongest.
Plant in well-draining potting soil and use structural forms to let the plant trail upwards. Or plant in hanging baskets or pots set high up to trail over the edge. They like moisture, but not soggy roots that restrict airflow.
Young jasmine plants may not flower the first year but should be full of scented white and pink blooms the following years.
Lily of the Valley
Another classic fragrance comes from the seasonal bulbs called Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis). This popular indoor plant has white bell-shaped flowers.
Lily of the valley typically blooms in spring, but indoors they can even flower in winter, allowing the glorious scent to flow through the home during a season not known for many flowers.
They do well in bright light with evenly moist soil. Cool to average temperatures between 60 – 70F are ideal for these plants. Plant in potting soil with coconut coir and perlite for extra drainage. Fertilize only during the growing season with liquid plant food.
All parts of the plant are poisonous, so care should be taken around humans and pets. They will flower for around four weeks a season to give off their beautiful fragrance.
There are many indoor plants that smell as beautiful as they look. A few of them may be more traditionally viewed as outdoor plants (like lavender) but they can all function as beautiful indoor plants to add to your houseplant collection. With proper care, each of these plants will have your home smelling as beautiful as it looks!