Best fragrant roses – 10 scented varieties for your garden

Add some of these fragrant roses to your garden to enjoy their delicious scents as well as beautiful blooms

fragrant roses in the David Austin nursery rose garden
(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Fragrant roses are well known for their captivating scents, and one of the greatest pleasures of gardening has to include strolling between these beautiful, blousy blooms, breathing in the delicious perfumes. 

Scent adds another dimension to your garden and is an increasingly sought after quality in roses, so is one of the elements to consider when planning your rose garden ideas.

Fragrant climbing roses can scramble over an arbour or pergola; potted roses placed on a patio next to a seating area, and shrub or tree roses planted near a window or next to a path to perfume the air.

Fragrant roses to plant

As well as their gorgeous range of flowers forms, ‘roses are enormously variable in fragrance, so it’s good to try and include all different types of fragrant roses in your garden,’ advises world leading rosarian Michael Marriott (opens in new tab).

When you are considering how to plant roses, a key decision is the position of your sweet smelling choices.

‘Plant fragrant roses where you can best enjoy their scent, such as beside a path, next to a seating area, and at nose level,’ says garden designer Jo Thompson (opens in new tab).

1. Fragrant rose 'Desdemona'

fragrant rose Rosa Desdemona

(Image credit: Alamy / Deborah Vernon)

Rosa 'Desdemona' has a terrific Old Rose fragrance, described as having hints of almond blossom, cucumber and lemon zest. 

The bushy shrub rose has beautiful pale, pink-hued blooms and is a favorite of garden designer Richard Miers (opens in new tab).

'Fragrance is always something I look for when choosing roses for my clients,' Richard says.

To enjoy more of the fragrant rose blooms around your front or back yard in the most cost-effective ways, learn how to take rose cuttings and nurture young rose plants.

2. Rosa ‘Zéphirine Drouhin’

fragrant rose Rosa ‘Zephirine Drouhin’

(Image credit: Alamy / R Kautzsky)

'Dark pink flowered Rosa ‘Zephirine Drouhin’ Is one of the best climbing roses. It is free flowering and thornless, with an extremely strong fruity fragrance with hints of raspberry,’ says garden designer David Stevens (opens in new tab).

'Most people want any plant to provide interest over as long a period as possible and fragrant roses such as climbers, floribundas and Hybrid Teas can flower from as early as May, right the way through to Christmas, albeit with less flower towards the end,' adds David.

Climbing roses usually repeat flower throughout the season, and it is important to know how to prune climbing roses to get a profusion of the best flowers, year after year.

Climbing fragrant roses can be trained to scramble up and over arbours or pergola ideas to surround you with the fragrance on all levels.

3. Rosa ‘Margaret Merril’

fragrant rose Rosa ‘Margaret Merril’

(Image credit: Alamy )

Rosa ‘Margaret Merril’ is a quintessential floribunda with an award-winning, sweet, citrus perfume. It is a favorite of Rosebie Morton of scented flower bouquet supplier The Real Flower Company (opens in new tab),  who described it as being 'my raison d’etre behind my career'.

This upright shrub rose with clusters of flowers is an ideal choice for borders, especially placed close to a pathway as a shrub for the front of the house to welcome visitors with its sweet fragrance.

Rosebie is passionate about restoring the growing of exquisitely fragrant roses and flowers, just as nature intended, and uses sustainable garden ideas, which in turn help to improve and enhance the natural scent of the blooms.

4. Rosa ‘New Dawn’

fragrant rose pink climber Rosa ‘New Dawn’

(Image credit: Alamy/ Jason Smalley)

A climbing rose with a sweet, fruity scent and glossy foliage, fragrant rose ‘New Dawn’ produces lots of medium sized, soft pink blooms.

‘I plant this for height, fragrance and its long flowering period,’ says designer Jo Thompson.

She recommends designing a rose garden so that you are enveloped by the blooms around and overhead.

5. Rosa ‘Munstead Wood’

Rosa Munstead Wood

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

'Rosa ‘Munstead Wood’ bears sumptuous, very deep crimson velvety petals,’ says David Marriott. 

It has an Old Rose fragrance with notes of blackberry, blueberry and damson. It is perfect for growing at the front of a border where its perfume can be better appreciated, or in more of a formal rose bed.

6. Rosa ‘Lady of Shalott’

fragrant rose orange Rosa Lady of Shalott

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

With a pleasant, warm tea fragrance, with hints of spiced apple and cloves, 'Rosa ‘Lady of Shalott’ was bred by David Austin. 

'The shrub rose has lovely deep orange blooms flushed with yellowy-pink that repeat-flower. It is a hardy and reliable fragrant rose, so is a great choice for beginners,' explains gardening writer and photographer Leigh Clapp.

As with all roses, know when to plant roses, and where to plant them, to ensure they have the right growing conditions to deliver the best results.

 

7. Rosa ‘Rambling Rector’ 

'For a vigorous rambling rose, you will find white Rosa Rambling Rector, with its powerful, musky scent, hard to beat,’ says David Stevens. 

'As opposed to repeat flowering climbers, fragrant rambling roses tend to produce a spectacular but single flowering time,' he adds.

However 'there are some modern rambling roses that work beautifully in a naturalistic planting design, and will repeat flower through the summer months and into fall,' advises garden designer Colm Joseph (opens in new tab).

8. Rosa 'Evelyn'

fragrant rose rosa evelyn

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Beautiful David Austin shrub rose ‘Evelyn’ has shallow cupped flowers flushed soft apricot and pink with a rich, fruity scent. It is a recommended variety to grow in Zone 7 by US rose consultant Paul Zimmerman (opens in new tab)

'Rest assured this one is very fragrant,' he explains.

As with mixing plants generally, 'be careful with mixing roses. They should be chosen in relation to the space they occupy, and the surroundings,' explains David Stevens. 

There will be some varieties of fragrant roses that do better in different climates, so check the ones recommended for the zone in which you live, or the position they will have in your yard. 

9. Rosa ‘Bella Rosa'

fragrant rose with multi-toned lemon and pink flowers Rosa 'Bella Rosa'

(Image credit: Alamy)

Rosa 'Bella Rosa' is a patio rose with multi-toned lemon petals suffused with pink edges and a delightful fragrance, ideal for a compact design,’ says David Stevens 

As a patio idea, smaller shrub roses are ideal for planting in containers around a seating area where their beautiful scent can be enjoyed to the full.

Choose hardy varieties such as this one that will require less maintenance.

10. Rosa ‘Paul’s Himalayan musk’

fragrant pale pink climbing rose, paul's Himalayan Musk

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Fragrant rose 'Paul’s Himalayan musk' has beautiful, little, rosette-shaped flowers that are a lovely pale pink colour and have a wonderfully strong, musky fragrance. 

'Although it is only once flowering, its blooms are borne in great abundance, making a magnificent display. An exceptionally tall, vigorous climber, it produces many long, slim, flexible branches which trail gracefully, hanging down elegantly from their support,' explains Leigh Clapp, so is a great choice as a flowering climber.

Which roses are most fragrant?

Old garden roses, also known as antique and historic roses, which mostly flower once, tend to be the most richly fragrant roses. The classic perfume is found in gallica roses and their hybrids, such as damasks, while clove scents are found in musk roses.

Modern roses are repeat-flowering, with diversity of form, color and fragrance, with some being more scented than others. These include hybrid teas, floribundas, climbers, miniature and David Austin English roses. 

Versatile shrub and tree roses can take the combined characteristics of the old and modern, so can be very fragrant.

Wild roses are considered the wildflower type of rose. Wild Roses, or 'species roses,' typically have a single bloom and can have a wonderful scent, as nature intended, to attract pollinators and wildlife.

'While repeat-flowering roses will probably be the basis of your rose garden, include ones that flower only once as they are often the most showy, tend to be healthier and many are beautifully scented,' advises Leigh Clapp.

Which color roses are the most fragrant?

While darker colored fragrant roses tend to have a more powerful fragrance than lighter colored varieties, each rose and color will have its own unique scent that will appeal for different reasons. 

Red and pink roses can have a more classic old rose smell,  while paler yellow and white roses tend to boast a lighter, more citrus perfume, or orange roses a fruitier scent.

Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, 'people react to fragrance differently and while the perfume of one rose might be attractive to some, it might not be to others, particularly if it's very heavily scented,' advises David Stevens.

He recommends to visit to an established rose garden to see and smell different varieties. Or bury your nose in fragrant rose plants at nurseries and garden centers before buying to see if you like the specific scent.

Rachel is senior content editor, and writes and commissions gardening content for homesandgardens.com, Homes & Gardens magazine, and its sister titles Period Living Magazine and Country Homes & Interiors. She has written for lifestyle magazines for many years, with a particular focus on gardening, historic houses and arts and crafts, but started out her journalism career in BBC radio, where she enjoyed reporting on and writing programme scripts for all manner of stories. Rachel then moved into regional lifestyle magazines, where the topics she wrote about, and people she interviewed, were as varied and eclectic as they were on radio. Always harboring a passion for homes and gardens, she jumped at the opportunity to work on The English Home and The English Garden magazines for a number of years, before joining the Period Living team, then the wider Homes & Gardens team, specializing in gardens.