White flowers provide a beautiful and soothing presence to any garden. But one of the best aspects of white flowers is their attractive aromas. Some of the most beloved and famous fragrances come from white flowers, like honeysuckle or jasmine. Read on as we take you through 19 of the most fragrant white flowers in the world.
- What Makes Flowers Fragrant?
- 19 of the Most Fragrant White Flowers
- Wrap Up
- Fragrant White Flower FAQs:
What Makes Flowers Fragrant?
All flowers need to attract pollinators to reproduce. By evaporating essential oils held in their petals, flowers create a noticeable floral scent to attract insects such as bees or butterflies.
Some flowers may seem more fragrant than others because each individual flower produces a slightly different scent. This creates huge variations in fragrance strength, even within the same species.
White flowers that bloom at night produce especially potent fragrances. With visibility reduced, these flowers can’t rely on a dazzling floral display to guide pollinators. Instead, these flowers utilize stronger fragrances to attract nocturnal pollinators like bats and moths.
Gardeners can increase flower fragrance through various practices. Plant fragrant flowers in a sheltered spot to keep their aroma in a particular place. Recent studies have also shown that areas with higher temperatures can diminish fragrance production, which may affect gardeners in warmer areas such as Zones 7 to 11.
Are White Flowers More Fragrant Than Other Types of Flowers?
Although several white flowers, like Lily of the Valley and Honeysuckle, are famous for their robust and recognizable fragrances, not all white flowers smell more strongly than flowers of other colors.
Certain colors and fragrant chemicals in flowers, however, are correlated to help the right pollinators locate their food sources – even on windy days when fragrance might dissipate in the air.
Can You Amplify the Scent of White Flowers?
When it comes to the fragrance of flowers, the strength of a flower’s scent is mostly up to genetics. However, water does seem to play an important role in the production of the floral essential oils we can smell. So, to encourage a sweet smell in the flowers you grow, make sure they have plenty of moisture.
19 of the Most Fragrant White Flowers
Here you’ll 19 heady and aromatic types of white flowers which are revered for their fragrance during the spring and summer months each year.
Jasmine is a famously fragrant flower that produces expensive essential oils for aromatherapy. These perennial climbing shrubs or vines come from Asia and the Middle East and will grow in USDA Zones 7 to 10. In many cultures, jasmine symbolizes beauty, intimacy, and love. Pakistan has adopted jasmine as its National Flower.
|Common and Botanical Names||Common Jasmine (Jasminum officinale)|
|What do they smell like?||Jasmine fragrance is described as exotic, intoxicatingly rich, and sweet. It produces a thick scent that hangs in the air.|
|Peak season||Flowers from June through to August|
|Most fragrant varieties||Arabic Jasmine (Jasminum sambac), Common Jasmine (Jasminum officinale), Spanish Jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum)|
Honeysuckles are a collection of climbing vines and shrubs with both summer and winter varieties. These plants have a variety of medicinal uses, including aromatherapy. Nearly 200 species of honeysuckle are found across most continents, including North America where it grows in Zones 5 to 9. Honeysuckle symbolizes affection, happiness, new or first loves, and nostalgia.
|Common and Botanical Names||Common Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum)|
|What do they smell like?||The scent of honeysuckle smells heavy and sweet, with a thick fragrance and notes of fruit, honey, and vanilla.|
|Peak season||Flowers from summer to fall (summer varieties) or November through to March (Winter honeysuckle)|
|Most fragrant varieties||Common honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) – “Scentsation”, “Sweet Sue”, Winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima)|
3) Mock Orange
Mock Oranges are a family of perennial deciduous flowering shrubs that grow in parts of America, Asia, and southern Europe. The foliage looks exceptionally similar to true orange trees, where their common name originates. The leaves of some varieties can be used as relief for swollen joints. Mock Orange bushes grow well in Zones 4 to 8. It’s also the State Flower for Idaho and offers plenty of symbolic value.
|Common and Botanical Names||Mock Orange (Philadelphus)|
|What do they smell like?||Mock Orange has a sweet citrus aroma that is very similar to true orange trees.|
|Peak season||Flowers between May and July|
|Most fragrant varieties||Lewis’ Mock Orange (Philadelphus lewisii), Philadelphus “Virginal”, Philadelphus “White Rock”|
4) Summersweet “Vanilla Spice”
Summersweet is a deciduous shrub that grows across eastern parts of North America in Zones 3 to 9. The “Vanilla Spice” variety is particularly pungent and popular, with showy spikes of creamy white flowers. These plants can reach between three and six feet in height and are great for filling borders.
|Common and Botanical Names||Summersweet or Sweet Pepper Bush (Clethra alnifolia)|
|What do they smell like?||Summersweet “Vanilla Spice” has a delicate, spicy aroma similar to vanilla pods|
|Peak season||The potent “Vanilla Spice” cultivar flowers in the middle of summer to the end of the season.|
|Most fragrant varieties||Summersweet “Vanilla Spice” (Clethra alnifolia)|
5) Sweet Alyssum
Sweet Alyssum is an evergreen annual that produces a mat of small, delicate white flowers. Sweet Alyssum is native to southern France and several Mediterranean islands but can be grown in Zones 5 to 9. Alyssum is believed to help combat anger and increase calmness, and also symbolizes “sweetness of the soul” in Victorian horticulture.
|Common and Botanical Names||Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)|
|What do they smell like?||Although small, Sweet Alyssum flowers can pack a strong, sweet honey-like aroma.|
|Peak season||Sweet Alyssum can flower in both early spring and summer as well as in fall.|
|Most fragrant varieties||Sweet Alyssum “Snowdrift”, Sweet Alyssum “Snow Crystals”, Sweet Alyssum “Snow Princess”|
6) Lily of the Valley
Lily of the Valley is a beautiful perennial that produces a choir of white flowers that resemble bells. Lily of the Valley thrives in woodlands throughout the Northern Hemisphere, growing in Zones 2 to 9. Although fragrant and lovely, the flowers are also toxic to both humans and pets. Lily of the Valley is honored as the birth flower for May and symbolizes happiness, motherhood, and purity.
|Common and Botanical Names||Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)|
|What do they smell like?||Sweet notes of lemon and a fresh scent sum up Lily of the Valley.|
|Peak season||Lily of the Valley flowers in late spring to early summer|
|Most fragrant varieties||Lily of the Valley “Albostriata”, Lily of the Valley “Hardwick Hall”|
7) White Roses
White roses are some of the most famous white flowers in horticulture. Grown as perennial climbers or shrubs, roses have been cultivated for thousands of years, with most varieties coming from Asia. Roses now grow across the globe and thrive in Zones 7 to 9. White roses symbolize innocence, peace, and purity and are frequently used during weddings.
|Common and Botanical Names||White Roses (various Rosa species)|
|What do they smell like?||White roses are more delicate than other colors, with a musk carrying notes of lemon and violet.|
|Peak season||White roses usually bloom from late spring to summer and even into the fall.|
|Most fragrant varieties||White rose, “Margaret Merril”, White rose “Rambling Rector”, White rose “The Garland”|
Freesias are herbaceous perennials that grow naturally in South Africa. In North America, they can be cultivated in Zones 9 to 11, but will also survive in colder areas as flowering annuals. White freesias have vibrant, funnel-like flowers that symbolize innocence and purity. In general, freesias also symbolize friendship.
|Common and Botanical Names||Freesia (Various species)|
|What do they smell like?||Most freesia varieties have floral, fruity fragrances similar to strawberries, along with hints of mint or honey.|
|Peak season||Freesias typically flower between the start of summer and early fall.|
|Most fragrant varieties||Milky White Freesia (Freesia lactea), Freesia “White”, Freesia “White River”|
9) Spider Lily
White spider lilies are part of the Lycoris genus of perennial bulb flowers with upright stems. White spider lilies grow natively in Japan but are also suitable for Zones 5 to 9. These delicately fragrant flowers have curling white lashes and splayed flowerheads.
White spider lilies represent beauty, protection, purity, and rebirth and are popular as cut flowers for display.
|Common and Botanical Names||White Spider Lily (Lycoris albiflora)|
|What do they smell like?||A gentle, delicate fragrance heralds the arrival of white spider lilies.|
|Peak season||White spider lilies start blooming towards the end of summer and continue into the beginning of fall.|
|Most fragrant varieties||White Spider Lilly (Lycoris albiflora)|
Clematis are perennial climbing and trailing plants or shrubs with over 300 known varieties. Clematis originally came from regions of Asia, but have spread throughout Zones 4 to 9. Clematis varieties symbolize aspiration, ingenuity, and wisdom.
Most species grown in the Northern Hemisphere are deciduous or herbaceous. These versatile plants are easy to grow and can suit most types of gardens.
|Common and Botanical Names||Clematis (Various species)|
|What do they smell like?||Clematis flowers give off a subtle fragrance that smells like almonds.|
|Peak season||Different types of clematis flower at different times, with the overall season spanning February through to September.|
|Most fragrant varieties||Armand clematis (Clematis armandii), Clematis x cartmanii “Avalanche”, Clematis “White Columbine”|
Plumerias are deciduous trees or shrubs native to the Caribbean and parts of Central America. They thrive in the warmer temperatures of Zones 10 to 12. Plumeria flowers are famously used to make traditional Hawaiian wreaths.
Plumeria blooms represent beauty, health, love, and purity. In Asian cultures, white plumeria flowers are common burial offerings.
For more, see our essential guide to growing plumeria flowers at home.
|Common and Botanical Names||Frangipani, various Plumeria species|
|What do they smell like?||Thick, intoxicatingly sweet scents are common to Plumerias. Notes vary between citrus and fruity scents to fragrances of spice.|
|Peak season||Plumeria species bloom from late spring, throughout the height of summer, and into the fall.|
|Most fragrant varieties||Singapore graveyard flower (Plumeria obtusa), White frangipani (Plumeria pudica)|
Magnolias are a family of flowering trees and shrubs found in parts of Asia and the Americas in Zones 4 to 9. Magnolias are one of the oldest known plant species, dating back nearly 100 million years. Beloved for their large, thick flowers, magnolias represent dignity and purity. Both Louisiana and Mississippi have adopted magnolias as their state flower.
|Common and Botanical Names||Magnolia (Various species)|
|What do they smell like?||Powerful flora aromas of fruits are common to Magnolias, although some varieties may have notes of spice as well.|
|Peak season||Magnolias usually flower from spring to the end of summer.|
|Most fragrant varieties||Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), Magnolia sieboldii “Colossus”, Star magnolia (Magnolia stellata)|
Gardenias are relatives of the coffee plant and grow in tropical Africa, Asia, and Australia. Gardenias can be grown as houseplants or outside as perennial shrubs or trees, thriving in Zones 8 to 11. For those living in cooler climates, gardenias can still be enjoyed as annuals. Gardenias symbolize clarity, hope, and trust. They also represent intuition and self-reflection.
|Common and Botanical Names||Common Gardenia aka Cape Jasmine (Gardenia jasminoides)|
|What do they smell like?||Gardenias give off a rich, heady aroma with notes of citrus, coconut, and spice.|
|Peak season||Gardenias flower between mid to late spring and continue into the fall.|
|Most fragrant varieties||Gardenia jasminoides “Aimee”, Gardenia jasminoides “Chuck Hayes”|
Viburnums are deciduous or evergreen perennial shrubs that grow in Zones 4 to 8 across the Northern Hemisphere. Some of these hardy shrubs can flower in winter, while most emerge in spring and summer. There are over 150 varieties, all famous for their vibrantly colored berries and clusters of small white flowers. Viburnum flowers represent calmness, innocence, pride, and purity.
|Common and Botanical Names||Viburnum (various species)|
|What do they smell like?||Viburnums have a sweet, sophisticated scent that carries a slight note of vanilla.|
|Peak season||Most Viburnum varieties flower in the spring and summer into the fall, although some species can flower during winter.|
|Most fragrant varieties||Burkwood Viburnum (Viburnum x burkwoodii), Chinese Snowball (Viburnum macrocephalum)|
Phlox is a versatile group of herbaceous flowers, coming in both annual and perennial varieties of different sizes. The majority of these flowers grow in North America through Zones 3 to 9. Famed for their intense colors, Phlox also produce a beautiful fragrance.
Phlox is associated with agreements, harmony, sweet dreams, and unity. Phlox is also used extensively in Native American medicine.
|Common and Botanical Names||Phlox (Various species)|
|What do they smell like?||White phlox flowers produce a subtle almond or vanilla scent with hints of honey or clove.|
|Peak season||Most phlox varieties flower from late spring to the end of summer.|
|Most fragrant varieties||Carolina Phlox “Miss Lingard” (Phlox carolina), Garden Phlox “Danielle” (Phlox paniculata), Garden Phlox “David” (Phlox paniculata)|
16) Stock annuals
Also known as Brompton or Hoary stock, stock annuals make excellent cut flowers thanks to their heavy aroma. These plants grow in parts of the Mediterranean and Southern Europe. They will also grow in Zones 7 through to 10. Stock annuals have been cultivated since the 16th Century and are thought to represent contentment, happiness, and everlasting beauty.
|Common and Botanical Names||Brompton or Hoary Stock (Matthiola incana)|
|What do they smell like?||Stock annuals produce a heady sweet scent with notes of spices such as cloves.|
|Peak season||Stock annuals can flower for most of the summer and some may continue into fall.|
|Most fragrant varieties||Matthiola incana “Alba”, Matthiola incana “Pillow Talk”|
Tuberose is a tropical herbaceous perennial previously native to Mexico before being cultivated by the Aztec civilization. Tuberose now grows in other tropical areas including Zones 8 to 10. Tuberose was first used for perfumes during the 17th Century as explorers brought the plants back to Europe. Tuberose represents peace and purity and was thought to guard wearers against spirits.
|Common and Botanical Names||Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa, Agave amica)|
|What do they smell like?||Tuberose is admired for its thick, sweet fragrance with creamy notes of beeswax or peach.|
|Peak season||Tuberose flowers from mid-summer into early fall.|
|Most fragrant varieties||Polianthes tuberosa “The Pearl”|
Planted as scented shrubs or small trees, lilacs are hardy perennials related to olive trees. Lilac comes from parts of Asia and southern Europe and can be grown in Zones 3 to 7. These hardy plants have especially strong wood, making them perfect for engraving. Lilacs commonly represent love but are also used in many regions in Easter festivities. White lilacs symbolize purity.
|Common and Botanical Names||Lilac (Various Syringa species)|
|What do they smell like?||Lilacs produce a cloying, thick, sweet scent with suggestions of vanilla.|
|Peak season||Lilacs are spring-flowering shrubs that bloom from May to July.|
|Most fragrant varieties||Himalayan lilac (Syringa emodi “Aureovariegata”), Syringa vulgaris “Madame Florent Stepman”, Syringa vulgaris “Vestale”|
An osmanthus is a group of evergreen flowering shrubs and trees native to parts of Asia such as China and Japan. In the US, these plants thrive in Zones 8 to 11. Several varieties flower during different seasons.
Also known as Holly or Tea Olive, Osmanthus leaves can make a wonderfully aromatic tea. Osmanthus represents faithfulness and love and is a common wedding flower in China.
|Common and Botanical Names||Osmanthus (Various species)|
|What do they smell like?||Osmanthus flowers have an alluring fruity smell, similar to apricot or peach.|
|Peak season||Most Osmanthus varieties bloom during the spring, with some species flowering in winter.|
|Most fragrant varieties||Osmanthus delavayi, Osmanthus suavis, Osmanthus yunnanensis|
These 19 white flowers can add a calming atmosphere and delicious scents to your garden. Many of them will also attract vital nocturnal pollinators such as bats, helping the health of your garden. From rich jasmine to delicate Phlox, these are some of the most fragrant white flowers available.
Fragrant White Flower FAQs:
What do white flowers symbolize?
White flower symbolism covers a multitude of meanings across cultures, species, and time periods. In the language of flowers, white flowers are often a sign of respect, peace, new beginnings, and innocence.
What do white flowers mean spiritually?
White flowers feature prominently in numerous spiritual practices spanning relgions and cultures around the world. In Buddhism for instance, the white lotus flower represents the spiritual journey to Nirvana – the ultimate point of englightment.
What is the most fragrant white flower?
Some of the most fragrant white flower varieties include honeysuckle, jasmine, lilac, osmanthus, phlox, and viburnum.
What determines the fragrance of a white flower?
The scent of flowers comes from thousands of various chemical compounds contained in a flower’s essential oils. Most abundant in a flower’s petals, the fragrant oils evaporate in warm weather when a flower blossom opens, and the olfactory glands in our noses smell them.
How do you make white flowers more fragrant?
Whilst the scent of a particular flower is largely determined by genetics, ensuring your plant has sufficient water is thought to play an important role in the production of essential oils that produce floral aromas.
Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.
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