Plants to make your balcony smell nice – 8 fragrant options perfect for pots

Transform your balcony into a sweetly-scented haven with these picks

composite image of plants that make your balcony smell nice
(Image credit: (From left to right) Lesia Chuprynska / Alamy Stock Photo – P Tomlins / Alamy Stock Photo – Clare Gainey / Alamy Stock Photo)

Balconies may be small, but they can provide plenty of planting opportunities. And choosing fragrant flowers and foliage is one of the best ways to boost their sensory appeal.

There are lots of suitably scented options for elevating your balcony garden, from leafy herbs to spring-flowering bulbs. I've spent many years living in beautiful city apartments, with the only outdoor space being a small terrace or balcony, so I know how to optimise a balcony garden in all seasons. 

As long as you pick varieties that fit your climate and location – and steer clear of the common container gardening mistakes – it's easy to create a pretty and perfumed space that's a joy to spend time in. 

Dobbies balcony garden with bistro set and potted plants

This stunning balcony garden by Dobbies has plenty of potted plants

(Image credit: Dobbies)

8 fabulous, fragrant plants for balconies

Turn your balcony into a compact, fragrant garden with these scented picks. You'll find plenty of expert tips to help you look after them, too. What's more, many of these selections are good plants for privacy on a balcony, helping you to create a private oasis. 

1. Roses

close-up of 'Just Joey' rose

The 'Just Joey' rose

(Image credit: FLAVIA BRILLI / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images)

Roses are a firm favorite for making a patio smell nice with their intoxicating scent. But compact varieties, such as the apricot-hued 'Just Joey' (available from Nature Hills) are perfect for balcony pots.

Jessica Mercer of Plant Addicts says, 'Look for the hybrid tea roses or miniature roses, which resemble their larger cousins, but come in a smaller package. Not all roses are fragrant, so make sure to do your homework before purchasing.'

In terms of care, potted roses require a container with bottom drainage and a high-quality potting mix, Jessica says. 'Roses love rich, moist soil, so the mix should contain ample organic matter to retain moisture.'

Providing proper hydration for these fragrant flowers is important, too. 'Water the plant when the top inch of soil feels dry,' Jessica says. 'Do not let the soil dry out, which can damage the roots and reduce blooming.

'Provide full sun to support prolific blooming all summer,' she adds.

smiling headshot of Jessica Mercer from Plant Addicts
Jessica Mercer

Jessica Mercer, PhD, is the senior content marketing coordinator for Plant Addicts. As a plant collector, Jessica enjoys growing many different plants and learning about the best culture practices for each. Writing for Plant Addicts is a real joy for her, as she can use her science background to research interesting plant topics.

2. Hyacinths

colorful hyacinth flowers

Hyacinths fill the air with scent in spring

(Image credit: iBulb)

Colorful spring bulbs in pots can bring a balcony to life once winter has passed. And hyacinths are some of the best on offer if you're looking for fabulous fragrance. Plus, they make lovely cut flowers for bringing indoors.

You can plant hyacinth bulbs in pots in the fall, or buy them as plug plants in spring. Well-draining soil is essential to prevent the bulbs from rotting. 

There are lots of gorgeous hyacinth varieties to consider. Try 'Sensation Mix', available from Burpee depending on the season, for pretty pink and purple hues. For yellow blooms, consider 'City of Haarlem', also at Burpee.

3. Sweet alyssum

white alyssum flowers

These delicate flowering plants are perfect for pots

(Image credit: Lesia Chuprynska / Alamy Stock Photo)

Low-growing sweet alyssum is a good option for softening the edges of balcony pots or hanging baskets with its scented summertime flowers. It prefers well-draining soil somewhere sunny, and can thrive in coastal gardens.

Plant 'Carpet of Snow' seeds from Burpee for mounds of tiny, white blooms, or 'Royal Carpet', also from Burpee, for purple hues.

Sweet alyssum is considered an invasive plant in some regions, so double-check before you add it to your outdoor space.

4. Scented pelargoniums

pink pelargonium flower

A scented summer favorite

(Image credit: amomentintime / Alamy Stock Photo)

A classic choice for Mediterranean-inspired gardens, these cheery potted plants (sometimes called geraniums) are a great way to bring a splash of color to a sunny balcony. 

The aromatic foliage is delightful, and different varieties offer different scents. The rose-scented ones are my personal favorite, but there are also apple-, citrus-, and mint-scented options to explore.

Pelargoniums are not frost-hardy, but can be brought indoors over winter to sit on a sunny window ledge if needs be. Alternatively, you can treat them as annual plants. They are undemanding and drought-tolerant. Just ensure you use a well-draining soil mix.

Note: The oils in pelargonium leaves can cause an allergic rash in some people, so handle them with caution.

5. Gardenias

white gardenias in flower

Try compact varieties of gardenias in your balcony space

(Image credit: Santiago Urquijo / Moment / Getty Images)

Jessica says, 'Gardenias are another plant with amazingly fragrant flowers. The classic gardenia scent blends floral and fruity notes with a hint of vanilla.'

However, Jessica notes that not all gardenias are good for container gardens, so recommends picking varieties with a mature size under three feet. 'The "ScentAmazing" is known for its highly fragrant, single white flowers and its compact size, which is perfect for planting in a container.'

Another suitable balcony plant option is the dwarf 'Radicans' gardenia, available from Fast Growing Trees, which reaches up to two feet in height and is easy to look after.

Jessica recommends planting gardenias in a container with several drainage holes, in a potting mix with added gritty material, like perlite, pumice, or horticultural sand, to support drainage. 'Keep the soil consistently moist over the growing season, but avoid overwatering and allowing the roots to sit in standing water or boggy soil,' she adds.

These plants also appreciate high humidity, highlights Luke Steffensmeier, landscape designer of Reedy River Landscapes. This can be achieved by placing a tray of water near the pot or misting them occasionally, he says.

Top tip: You can also grow gardenias indoors with a bit of know-how.

6. Lavender

lavender in hanging pots on balcony railings

Make the most of balcony railings with hanging planters, as demonstrated in this setup from Dobbies

(Image credit: Dobbies)

Rebecca Sears, a gardening expert from Ferry-Morse, recommends lavender as one of the best plants to make your balcony smell nice. 'This perennial herb will grow back year after year, providing your balcony with its sweet aroma and attractive flowers annually without much maintenance needed,' she says. 

'Your lavender will grow best in 12-inch containers placed in full sun, though they succeed in partial shade as well,' she continues. 'Water your lavender plant with about an inch of water per week and grow in well-draining soil.'

Georgia Clay of Monrovia also recommends this fragrant shrub, suggesting the compact and disease-resistant 'Silver Anouk' Spanish variety, which has dark violet blooms. She also suggests 'Phenomenal' French lavender – 'a must-have for sunny balconies'.

Other options include 'Sensational' lavender, available from Nature Hills – a sturdy variety with large, fragrant flower spikes.

Just like when growing this shrub as part of a scented border, it's worth knowing how to prune lavender. Luke notes how giving it a trim after blooming can encourage a second round of blossoms, prolonging its delightful scent.

Rebecca Sears
Rebecca Sears

As CMO and resident green thumb for the Green Garden family of brands, Rebecca Sears nurtures the company's heritage but also looks to develop new products and solutions to help gardeners of all skill levels fuel their passion and become more successful in the garden. Rebecca has been gardening from coast to coast, first realizing her passion while living in Portland, Oregon, inspired by the public gardens throughout the city. When she relocated to the northeast, she built upon her knowledge and craft, and now her backyard garden grows larger each year.

smiling headshot of Georgia Clay from Monrovia
Georgia Clay

In her role, Georgia works with breeders and plant finders from around the world to bring new plants to market for Monrovia. Georgia has worked in many different areas of the horticulture industry including retail, growing, and landscaping. 

7. Bee balm

bee balm 'Grape Gumball' flowers

Bee balm, with its vivid blooms, is a magnet for pollinators

(Image credit: P Tomlins / Alamy Stock Photo)

Rebecca says, 'Not only will this plant add some beautiful, vibrant flowers to your space, but the leaves will bring an herbal, citrusy scent like a cup of Earl Grey tea.' What's more, it's a great plant for pollinators, she points out, attracting bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. 

Bee balm grows best in full sun, but can be planted in partial shade if your balcony tends to lose some light throughout the day, Rebecca continues. 'Provide your flowers with up to two inches of water per week, keeping the soil moist. You can also use a moisture meter available at Ferry-Morse to easily check the moisture levels of your plant throughout the season.'

There are a few varieties to choose from, including 'Pardon My Cerise', available from Nature Hills, and 'Panorama Red' from Ferry-Morse.

8. Mint

variegated pineapple mint leaves

Pineapple mint has two-toned leaves

(Image credit: Clare Gainey / Alamy Stock Photo)

Mint is best planted in containers, otherwise it can quickly spread beyond control. It's an easy-care and aromatic pick for balconies if you fancy growing a mini herb garden.

The fragrant, freshly cut leaves can be used to elevate salads, desserts, and hot or cold drinks. There are many varieties available, including pineapple mint from Burpee, which has variegated foliage. 

These perennial herbs appreciate well-drained soil, in full sun or part shade. Note that mint also produces nectar-rich flowers, which are good for attracting butterflies and other pollinators to your space.


Which scented shrubs are suitable for balcony containers?

Alongside popular lavender and roses, there are a few other perennial shrubs that will bring glorious scent to your balcony.

Jessica recommends rosemary – 'a tough evergreen shrub that adores heat and sunlight. The leaves are very aromatic and can be harvested fresh for recipes,' she says. 'Some rosemary plants can grow large and may quickly outgrow a container, so look for smaller varieties like "Salem".'

Alternatively, try the low-growing creeping rosemary (available from Nature Hills) which will spill attractively over the sides of containers.

Compact daphne varieties are another option, which have incredibly fragrant, pink or white blooms. 'Eternal Fragrance' from Nature Hills could be suitable for your space, just be sure to provide good drainage.

For a shadier spot, you could try sweet box, also available from Nature Hills, which has small and perfumed white flowers in late winter and evergreen leaves.

What are some scented balcony plants suitable for shade?

Sweet box is a popular shade plant. Alternatively, try the 'Fragrant Bouquet' hosta, available at Nature Hills, which has scented, cream-colored flowers in summer.

Many scented container plants will tolerate partial shade, including gardenias, daphnes, lavender, bee balm, and mint.

With these planting picks, your balcony will soon become one of your favorite spots to unwind. Just ensure you've got some comfy balcony seating ideas in place, too.

Holly Crossley
Contributing Editor

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then; over the years, she's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator. Having worked for for two years, Holly now regularly writes about plants and outdoor living for Homes & Gardens.