Written by Richell Chiu-Yap

Landscape Designer at Blessing Landscapes LLC


The modern world can be an overwhelming place. With rising rates of stress and anxiety, many of us are searching for natural, simple strategies to help us relax, and one such strategy involves the use of plant aromas.

Aromatherapy is an ancient practice that uses plant-derived essential oils to promote relaxation, relieve pain, and improve overall mood. The practice is still used today in hospital settings, clinics, and health spas. But you don’t actually have to leave your home in order to reap the benefits of aromatherapy. Filling your landscape with fragrant flowers and plants with calming aromas can have the same effect.

In this article, we’re focusing on aromatherapy gardening in the Pacific Northwest and introducing you to 5 fragrant plants you can incorporate into your landscape design to create a soothing, sweet-smelling oasis in your own backyard.

Benefits of Garden Aromatherapy

Alternative-medicine advocates have touted the health and mood benefits of certain aromas for many years. But scientific research increasingly backs up their claims, with studies suggesting that aromatherapy can lead to the following benefits:

  • Improved mood
  • Better sleep
  • Reduced pain and anxiety
  • Enhanced job performance resulting from reductions in stress and increases in attentiveness
  • Reduced bacteria, funguses, and viruses
  • Less inflammation
  • Reduced nausea
  • Reduced headaches

But planting a fragrant garden may bring additional benefits beyond those associated with aromatherapy alone. That’s because research also indicates that there are significant psychological benefits associated with spending time in nature, including improvements in cognition and overall happiness. A landscape filled with fresh garden fragrances can also encourage biodiversity, which in turn helps the local environment.

Examples of Aromatic Flowers and Plants

1. Daphne Odora

Photo Attribution: Miya, CC BY-SA 3.0, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons

1. Daphne Odora

Daphne Odora, also known as Winter Daphne, is a flowering shrub beloved for its notable fragrance and semi-evergreen leaves. Native to China, this species typically grows to about 3-4 feet in height and 4-5 feet in width. There are a number of popular varieties of Daphne Odora, including:

  • Maijima – a smaller cultivar that produces leaves with thick, creamy edges
  • Marginata – a wider variety that grows heavily during the rainy season

Winter Daphne is well-suited to our Portland climate because it thrives in partial shade and regular rainfall. It’s usually best left undisturbed once planted. This plant is ideal for scent therapy, as it offers a truly floral aroma that is both citrusy and sweet without being overpowering or sickly. If you want to get the most out of your Winter Daphne, consider placing it near seating areas or garden entryways to perfume the air.

2. Star Jasmine Vine

2. Star Jasmine Vine

The Star Jasmine Vine is a beautiful fragrant vine that can be incorporated into virtually any landscape design. Its white, star-shaped flowers bloom in late spring to early fall and provide a sweet perfume. The year-round leaves sometimes turn dark red in winter, making your garden look vibrant and luxurious throughout the year. This species is often harvested for its fragrance and is regularly used to make soaps, oils, candles, and perfumes.

Native to East and Southeast Asia, this versatile vine can reach up to 12 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Because vines naturally grow both vertically and horizontally, they can be utilized as luscious ground cover or added to structures like trellises and fences. They can be particularly useful as a pergola cover, adding natural shade from the sun and creating a beautiful scent to surround an outdoor living space.

3. Trumpet Honeysuckle

3. Trumpet Honeysuckle

Mostly found west of the Cascade mountain range, Trumpet Honeysuckle, or Western Trumpet, acts as both an aromatic plant and a magnet for wildlife! Its trumpet-shaped tubular flowers bloom from summer to winter and are orange on the outside and yellow on the inside. When in bloom, starting in early spring, their flowers produce delicious nectar, attracting bees, hummingbirds, and other wildlife to your garden.

This variety of vine can grow up to 20 feet wide, thriving in full sun to partial shade. When in nature, Western Trumpet tends to climb over trees and shrubs. In a residential garden, you’ll want to be sure to provide a sturdy structure for the vine to grow properly. It may also require some training to grow along trellises and fences.


Photo attribution: Stan Shebs, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

4. Azara Microphylla 1

Photo attribution: Inao Vásquez, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

4. Azara Microphylla

Azara Microphylla, or Boxleaf Azara, is a small tree known for its delicious aroma that is often compared to vanilla or chocolate! Native to Chile and Argentina, this tree is best suited to full sun or partial shade. Its small clusters of yellow “pom-pom” flowers produce a yummy and comforting scent through January and February.

Growing up to 12 feet tall and 10 feet wide, this shrub tree has dark, glossy evergreen leaves that provide lush foliage that can work with any landscape design. Boxleaf Azara also has a beautiful branching habit and requires very little pruning to maintain its form.

5. Mock Orange

5. Mock Orange 

Mock Orange (known scientifically as Philadelphus lewisii) is a fragrant and beautiful plant that is native to Oregon. Its colloquial name is derived from the intoxicating orange scent that emits from its white flowers in late spring and early summer. It can grow up to 8 feet in height and its arching branches make it a versatile shrub for various garden designs. 

In addition to its wonderful fragrance, Mock Orange is extremely resilient, able to thrive under a wide range of soil and climate conditions. It can accommodate full sun and light shade. It’s also known to attract bees, so keep this in mind when selecting the perfect location.

Other Fragrant Plants To Consider

Other Fragrant Plants To Consider

Fortunately for our noses, there’s no shortage of fragrant flowers and plants that can act as great additions to aromatherapy gardens. Some other popular aromatic plants include:

  • Lilac
  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Lemon cypress
  • Lilies
  • Lavender

Each plant has its own unique scent that can invoke a mood, memory, or feeling. When it comes to your garden, fragrance is part of a therapeutic, sensory experience that has the power to enhance your overall health and happiness.

How to Incorporate Aromatherapy Gardening Into Your Landscape

How to Incorporate Aromatherapy Gardening Into Your Landscape

If you’re looking to truly transform your garden into an oasis of natural scent therapy, professional landscape design is the way to go. 

Not only are landscape designers knowledgeable about plants, soil, and the local environment and climate, but they’re also experts in aesthetics. They can help you incorporate fragrant flowers and garden fragrances into your landscape and create beautiful outdoor living spaces with comfortable seating, soothing landscape lighting, water features, and more.

But you don’t necessarily have to do a complete landscape makeover to enjoy the benefits of an aromatic garden. Just a few small changes to your outdoor spaces can make a big difference. Simply adding a few of the fragrant plants discussed above in strategic areas of your garden can help infuse your property with calming scents!

Ready To Turn Your Yard Into a Soothing Retreat?

Ready To Turn Your Yard Into a Soothing Retreat?

If you live in the Portland area and need help selecting fragrant plants and creating your aromatherapy garden, we at Blessing Landscapes would love to help. 

We offer premium landscape design, installation, and maintenance services with a focus on creating personalized landscapes for homeowners, business owners, and families. Everyone has their own unique goals, needs, and preferences when it comes to their outdoor spaces. We can’t wait to hear about yours and help you transform your backyard into a beautiful, relaxing environment that you truly enjoy.

Contact us to get in touch with our award-winning team, get your questions answered, and schedule your free consultation!