When it comes to buying houseplants, it's easy to put looks first. But don't forget, some flowers attract pollinators not just by their good looks, but also by exuding an alluring fragrance. So why not bring those aromatic plants out of the garden and into your home, and make every room smell good, naturally.
1. Jasminum Polyanthum
Make your long, winter evenings magical with an indoor jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum). The frothy white blooms of this jasmine smell honey-sweet, and though it smells good all day, even more of the scent is released at night. Give your indoor jasmine a few months outdoors in autumn to set those February flowers.
2. Scented Geranium
Apricot, apple, lemon, strawberry — it sounds like a list of delicious ice creams. But these "flavors" are only a few of the wonderful scented geraniums (Pelargonium spp.) available. Pick your favorite fragrance and bring it home. Just brush up against a leaf and the plant releases its fragrance. You won't have to spend much energy caring for this plant — just place it in a sunny window and water when the soil is dry.
If you have a window that is flooded with sunshine most of the day, that's the spot for a container of lovely lavender (Lavandula spp.). Its flowers are a striking purple and the soothing scent relaxes and comforts you. Pick a container for lavender one to two inches larger than the plant's rootball and keep the plant cool. Choose smaller lavender varieties for indoors, like French lavender (Lavandula dentata).
4. Cuban Oregano
Not every scent has to be honeyed to please. The big, fuzzy leaves of Cuban oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus) exude an exotic, spicy fragrance when you brush against them. Plus, they also infuse your cooking with peppery spice. Easy to grow, Cuban oregano needs a bright window and regular irrigation. It objects to winds and breezes, so keep it protected.
5. Fragrant Orchids
Orchids have a reputation of being difficult, but indoors they really don't take much work to grow. And there are so many different kinds, including varieties that offer gorgeous scents. Pick Miltoniopsis santanaei, a small plant with snow white, rose-scented blossoms. Or opt for Oncidium Sharry Baby for the fragrance of chocolate. For large flowers, buy Rhynchostylis gigantea, with a strong citrus smell.
6. Meyer Lemon
Citrus plants offer the double joy of fragrant flowers that develop into luscious fruit. Dwarf Meyer lemon trees (Citrus x meyeri) grow nicely in containers in a sunny area. The fruit is so delightfully sweet that you can eat it like an orange. But when the small plant is full of its pure while blooms, the entire house smells divine and you wish it would keep flowering forever.
7. Tea Rose Begonia
Never-ending frothy pink flowers overflowing their container? That's a sign that your the tea rose begonia (Begonia fibrous hybrid) is happy and healthy. An impressive container plant, the tea rose begonia is wonderful in a hanging basket or on the windowsill. All it needs to bloom year round is sunlight and high humidity. The light, sweet scent is enchanting.
8. Sweet Bay
You may not want your kitchen to smell like a sweet flower. Sweet bay (Laurus nobilis) is a perfect container plant for the countertop, a slow-growing shrub with appealing, glossy leaves and a savory, clean, herbal scent. Keep the plant in a bright spot with its soil evenly moist during the growing season. Make use of the pungent leaves in soups and stews.
A bright color burst, a delicate fragrance: Primroses (Primula polyantha) offer these gifts and more. With vivid flowers that seem to bloom forever, a primrose plant grows happily in a container indoors, where you can watch the flowers deepen in color as they mature. Your primrose needs lots of sun, but less water. Only irrigate the plant when the top few inches of the soil is dry.
Gardenia (Gardenia augusta) is famed for its beautiful, heady scent, a base for many popular fragrances. It's lovely to look at too, with shiny, dark-green leaves setting off the single or double white flowers. Keep your plant's soil moist and its environment bright, humid, and free of drafts.
From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. A professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler has written about home and garden for Gardening Know How, San Francisco Chronicle, Gardening Guide and Go Banking Rates. She earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.