Fragrance – Stinkers or Bouquets?

The scent of a plant can be heavenly to one person or a nightmare to someone else. This is true for many reasons, most of which are connected to the genetics of humans. Some people react to milk or gluten or peanuts or pollen, although most of us do not. Some people love the fragrance of jasmine, while some people say it sells like ‘cat pee’.

Titan Lily (Amorphophallus titanum)

Titan Lily (Amorphophallus titanum)


There are many collectable plants in the world that smell like rotten meat – the reason is for blowflies to act as pollinators. I personally would not be willing to thrust my nose into the essence of a rotting carcass on the side of the road but I would be one of thousands of people who would line up to experience the Titan Lily (Amorphophallus titanum) in full glorious bloom with its robust roadkill stench. In fact, I have done so!

Many fungi and succulents also have bad scented flowers – ‘fruiting bodies’ (sporocarp) to be more accurate for fungi. These too are often pollinated by flies.


Flowers are not the only culprit. Some plants have stinky foliage such as the Butterfly Bush (Rotheca myricoides). Some gardeners take a disliking to the scent of leaves of tomato plants and petunias.


Murraya ‘Min-a-Min’

Murraya ‘Min-a-Min’

As I mentioned felines earlier, the classic English box (Buxus spp.) is renowned for its reputation of an ‘acrid’ odour of its flowers that reminds some people of cat urine. Flowers only last a short period so this brief odour should not necessarily be the reason to avoid this plant as it has many other landscape attributes. However, for an alternative, consider the native Murraya ‘Min-a-Min’, pictured left, or the more common Mock Orange (Murraya paniculata).

Landscape designers not only base their plant selection palette on images they see in magazines, books or the internet, but also on plants they have personally experienced, seen growing and suitability for the site (climate, soil, etc.). Good designers integrate the needs, wants and likes of the clients and in many cases also consider other factors which may involve allergies and sensitivities of pets and neighbours.

The next time a scented plant is wanted on the design for the client, select a plant with a fragrance that will bring joy to all who may experience it.

This Monthly Rant was written by Paul Plant, Project Coordinator, Instant Green Nursery.


Subscribe to our e-mail newsletter to receive updates.

Comments are closed.