Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

Fragrant Shade Plants

By Sheri Ann Richerson ; Updated September 21, 2017

Creating a fragrant garden is somewhat like blending perfumes. Choose each individual plant based on the smell emitted from the flowers on that plant. Keep in mind that two varieties of the same plant can have flowers that smell differently. Once you have chosen the individual plants, set the fragrant shade plants together to see how well the different scents combine. Another option is to avoid fragrant shade plants whose bloom time overlaps.


Hosta is a beloved shade plant due to the different colors and textures of the leaves. Varieties such as the triple-flowered Aphrodite and the August lily (Hosta plantaginea) are among the most fragrant. Since most hostas are sold when they are not in flower, getting a division from a friend whose flowers you have already smelled may be the way to make sure the ones you plant are fragrant. Hosta flowers are often most fragrant at night, so if possible, choose a time to smell them when the sun is just getting ready to set. Hostas are hardy in USDA zones 3 to 10.


The cinnamon-scented flowers of Zenobia pulverulenta, commonly known as honeycup or dusty zenobia, add an exotic, spicy scent to a shade garden. Hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8, this deciduous shrub offers a mix of fall colors that range from oranges and reds to shades of purple. The tiny, bell-shaped, fragrant white flowers emerge in early summer. The flowers persist into the middle of summer. Zenobia prefers to grow in moist, sandy areas or bogs. The shrub is 6 feet tall when full grown.

Lily of the Valley

Lily of the valley is a fragrant shade plant that's ideal for naturalizing. These plants provide a natural ground cover for areas where other plants may not thrive. It is also possible to force a few bulbs indoors in late winter. Hardy in USDA zones 2 to 8, these tiny gems emit a powerful fragrance in mid-to-late spring when they bloom. Botanically known as Convallaria majalis, the most common form of the flower is the single, white one. There are double forms of the flower as well as a pink variety if you are seeking something a little different. The foliage of all varieties will die back in late summer, long before the frost.


About the Author


Sheri Ann Richerson is a nationally acclaimed bestselling author who has been writing professionally since 1981. Her bestselling books include "The Complete Idiot's Guide To Year-Round Gardening," "The Complete Idiot's Guide To Seed Saving & Starting" and "101 Self-Sufficiency Gardening Tips." Richerson attended Ball State University and Huntington University, where she majored in communications and minored in theatrical arts.