Sweet Scents: A Guide to Fragrant Flowers

There is nothing quite like the smell of fresh flowers. The scent may be subtle and sweet, or it may be bright and fresh. Perhaps the most rewarding are those inconspicuous buds that you don’t expect to have a strong fragrance, but overwhelm you with their sweet scent. One waft of a truly magnificent bloom, and you’ll understand why so many people love receiving fragrant flowers.

Certain scents can only be described as a flower type. Have you ever noticed that it’s hard to relate a magnolia’s scent without using the word “magnolia”? The same is true for discerning scents like jasmine and rose. Characterizing the incomparable smell is nearly impossible without those words. Some perfume manufacturers have managed to accurately convey the notes of natural flower fragrances, but the majority can’t do justice to the real thing.

This guide will help you understand which flowers are the most fragrant to choose for your arrangements or as a perfume scent. It will differentiate lighter scents from bolder fragrances and hopefully help you choose which scent-illating bloom is perfect for your next occasion.

What Gives Flowers Their Unique Smells?

All flowers produce oils called “essential oils” during their growing process. When the oil dissipates from the petals, we can detect the different smells. Flowers aren’t the only plants with such fragrant oils. You’ll find distinctive smells in fruit bearing plants such as citruses and in some barks and roots like cinnamon bark and sassafras roots.

Flowers that are scented also serve the purpose of attracting pollinating insects. The oils produced are considered “volatile,” which is why every flower is actually slightly different in scent. The more distinctive the smell, the more likely a flower is to be robust and have better nectar or pollen. In this way, the strongest specimens are the ones that pollinate new plants.

The Most Fragrant Flowers


Gardenias have regal white blooms that are perfect for weddings and summer affairs. The alternating petals develop in layers from the center and get larger as they reach out and away. The smell of a gardenia is distinctly bright and southern. They are highly fragrant, and their scent can reach through an entire house or yard. When blooming, they are bright pops of white against ribbed shades of green leaves. The flowers grow on bushes and are great in arrangements on their own or with varying shades of whites and creams.


The blooms of this plant are small and dainty. They may appear as small tulip-like buds or feature five petals. Clusters of flowers grow on stems from a shrub, and the jasmine flower is world-renowned for its sweet scent. Jasmine tea is very popular with a base tea that includes the dried jasmine flowers to impart a unique taste and smell. You will find the jasmine scent as a base or highlight in a variety of different fragrances, and the essential oil is popular for home mixing. The smell is bright and invigorating and pairs beautifully with a number of other scents.


The magnolia blossom is another bloom associated with the southern U.S. Both the leaves and the flowers of the magnolia tree are huge and make beautiful additions to table-scapes and arrangements. The scent is almost crisp and citrusy, but smooth and delicate at the same time. If used in confined quarters, the smell may be cloying; but with proper airflow, it is a memorable accompaniment to any occasion.


This guide would be remiss without mentioning the single most well-known fragrance in flower arranging. The light smell of the rose is never overpowering. In fact, the fresher and naturally grown varieties may exude a powdery or even spicy smell. If you have the chance to smell roses on a bush, close your eyes and sample a few different buds. You’ll likely notice a subtle change in scent from bloom to bloom.

It may go without saying that roses are classic in both beauty and scent and can be used in every occasion to brighten or soften an arrangement. Those who have a hard time detecting the unique rose scent may find the experience is easier with a bar of soap or a diffuser that uses the rose essential oil. The scent is generally more powerful when it is used as an extract than in the actual flower.


The brilliant waterfall flowers of the wisteria vine are known for their bright coloring in springtime and their beautiful scent. Native to the eastern part of the U.S. and some parts of Asia, wisteria is a great flower for tall arrangements that can house the cascading blooms. If you walk or drive by a vine at the right time of year, you’ll never forget the sweet smell. Vanilla notes are bright, rather than soft, and the scent is distinctly summery.


In addition to being a staple scent in many perfumes, lotions, and bubble baths, the lavender scent has been said to ward off pesky insects like mosquitos. The scent of the lavender plant is subtle and clean, floral and sweet, and isn’t as abrasive as some scents to those who are sensitive to smells. The blooms on the lavender plant are soft purples and periwinkles. The flowers are clustered, rising up the end of the stalk in velvety small blossoms. Similarly to some herbs, running your fingers up a stem will dislodge the petals from the plant and leave your hand smelling wonderfully fragrant.

Sweet Peas

The sweet pea scent has become popular in recent years for use in a variety of bath products and lotions. The aroma is distinctly sweet and flowery, but can also be quite bright and powerful. Use the scented sweet pea flower in cheerful arrangements to brighten up a loved one’s day. The flowers are small and rise up on dainty stems. There may be several wide petal blooms on one stem reaching away from each other as they climb. You’ll find sweet peas in a variety of colors, but most notably in shades of sweet pinks.

Choosing Fragrant Flowers

Some fragrant flowers may work better together than others. Ask your florist about scent combinations before choosing an arrangement of highly scented flowers. The scent of a flower may be very strongly associated to memory, so consider the smells you want matched with your arrangement for a great accompaniment.


Photo Credit:

Photographer oom_endro offered the photograph of Gardenia under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay

Photographer Eukalyptus offered the photograph of Summer Jasmine under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay

Photographer Omelli offered the photograph of Magnolia under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay

Photographer Hans Braxmeier offered the photograph of Lavendar under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay

Photographer Josch23 offered the photograph of Rose under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay

Photographer Public Domain Pictures the photograph of Sweet Pea under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay