If you think fall means saying goodbye to fragrance in your garden, think again. There are a number of sweet-smelling flowers that bloom in late summer and early fall.
Flowers don’t smell nice to make us happy, though it’s a nice bonus. Fragrance is for pollinators, and the ability for a scent to carry in the air is crucial to that flower species survival. The further a scent dissipates, the likelier it will make it to the scent receptors of a wandering bee or moth.
But flowers that bloom in the late summer and early fall haven’t gotten their dates mixed up. Blooming later in the season means they capture a pollinator’s full attention and don’t have to compete with countless other flowering plants.
Don’t forget that those summer-blooming flowers that repeat bloom, such as roses, pinks, and certain lilac cultivars, have fragrance to offer through these shorter days, too, though the cooler weather might keep the scent from wafting as much as it would in warmer months.
Here are three late bloomers that don’t leave the sweet smell of summer behind.
Flowering tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris) An annual that blooms on balmy late-summer nights with a lush, intoxicating scent that carries on the air. White, trumpet-shaped clusters of flowers atop (very) large leaves. Full sun to part shade. Grows two to six feet tall and three feet wide. Hardy in zones 10 and 11, annual everywhere else.
Sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora) This sprawling perennial vine bears thousands of tiny flowers that pack a powerful scent punch and turn into cute, fuzzy seedheads that give the vine a fluffy look. Easy to grow and much less fussy than its larger-flowered, spring- and summer-blooming clematis cousins. This fast-grower can reach up to 30 feet. Full sun to part shade. Zones 4 to 9. (This vine is considered invasive in some areas, so check before planting.)
Hosta Yes, I know. Why is the common hosta on this list? Though known for their fabulous leaves and architectural form, many varieties of hosta have spikes of lovely lavender or white flowers with luscious scent. It travels across the late summer garden, inviting loads of pollinators. (In the past, a common name for hosta was August lily.) One of the few flowers that delivers a fragrant punch even in the shade. Zones 3 to 8.
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