6 scented plants proven to help you relax - turn your garden into a calming and fragrant oasis

Turbo-charge the relaxing powers of your garden with these scent plants

A set of garden chairs surrounded by lush foliage and flowers at RHS Chelsea Flower Show
(Image credit: Heather Young/Future)

A garden should be a place to unwind and relax, and the best way to boost the stress-relieving powers of your outdoor space is to include the best scented plants for a relaxing garden in your planting scheme.

Scent holds immense well-being benefits, which is why creating a fragrant garden is so much more beneficial than just making your garden smell nice. Well-being garden ideas and sensory garden ideas all include scent because it has a proven impact our mood and physiology, particularly when it comes to relieving stress.

According to an article by Stephen Warrenburg of Oxford University published in 2005, an aroma can significantly promote stress reduction and improve mood. For example in studies, lavender has been proven to lower cortisol levels, the hormone that is released into your body when stressed.

Science aside, a scented plants can be relaxing for so many other reasons. They can conjure up nostalgic memories, or help you practice mindful gardening by focusing on a single scent.

Best scented plants for a relaxing garden

'Designing a garden for relaxation means using low maintenance plants that all work hard in your garden space, not tempting you to jump up and do any jobs,' says Penelope Smith, the garden designer behind the Wilton London Botanical Fragrance Garden at this year RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

We've asked Penelope's advice, along with garden designer and plant grower John Cullen, who has won over 30 RHS medals and specialises in growing culinary and medical herbs, for the scented plants that not only have a relaxing aroma but that are easy to maintain for your relaxing garden ideas.

1. Geranium

Purple geraniums

(Image credit: Getty Images)

'My go-to stalwarts are hardy geraniums that provide excellent ground cover to smother weeds and repeat flower for summer-long colour. A favourite is the vigorous Geranium 'Azure Rush' that has beautiful and vibrant lavender-coloured flowers,' recommends Penelope Hill Smith.

There are also several studies that link the scent of geranium to stress reduction and relaxation. In one clinical trial it was found that inhaling geranium essential oil had a calming effect on women in labour. So it's fair to say this stress-busting scented plant is a must.

Where to buy geraniums online:

2. Lavander

Garden with lavender border between lawn and garden room

(Image credit: Future PLC)

As mentioned earlier, lavender is a famously relaxing scent, but it's also easy to grow lavender in borders or in pots alongside your garden path ideas.

'Planting Lavandula angustifolia 'Munstead' or the taller Lavandula × intermedia 'Grosso' not only gives lots of scent and visual appeal, but attracts pollinators that are very relaxing to watch and listen to,' explains Penelope.

'Lavender can be used to lovely effect as a low-growing hedge along a pathway,' she adds. 'It will mix well with herbs on pathway edges like thyme or oregano, and self-seeding Mexican fleabane Erigeron karvinskianus softens paving edges and brings the planting scheme together.'

Where to buy lavender online:

3. Pelargonium

white fence with shower caddy hanging planter filled with geraniums

(Image credit: Pelargonium for Europe)

Pelagoriums are one of those scented flowers that look as good as they smell. 'The wonderfully scented Pelargonium Attar of Roses in a plant pot on a sunny garden table is a gorgeous plant to see and smell. Rub a leaf between your fingers for an instant calming scent,' says Penelope.

Pelargoniums are best suited to south or west-facing garden in full or dappled sun. The Pelargonium Attar of Roses is best grown in well-draining soil, just make sure you keep on top of deadheading any spent blooms.

Where to buy pelargoniums online:

4. Daphne

Daphne with pink flowers

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Daphne is a must-have scented plant for a relaxing garden according to John Cullen. 'It' a lovely evergreen shrub that flowers very early spring and will fill the garden with a heady sweet spice smell,' he says.

Penelope agrees that it is a great scented plant, largely because it's very low-maintenance and easy to look after. 'Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' is an evergreen shrub that has pleasing glossy leaves but its real appeal is the divinely scented pinkish and white flowers that appear in late winter and last into spring,' she explains.

'It needs next to no maintenance and although slow growing, will reward over the years as it produces more and more fragrant blooms. Grow on a pathway to breathe in the lovely scent on passing.'

Where to buy daphne online:

5. Rosemary

pot of rosemary

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Herb garden ideas are perfect for scented gardens, and growing rosemary is John Cullen's top pick if you're looking for an easy and relaxing scented plant to grow.

'Rosemary is a great plant for beginners. They don’t like to be over-fussed with and once established are drought tolerant. Just make sure they are planted with lots of drainage, if using a container then 60% grit to 40% soil and don’t use multi-purpose use a low nutrient soil mix as with all herbs they like to grow slowly.'

Alongside lavender, in studies rosemary has been found to help reduce anxiety.

Where to buy rosemary online:

6. Jasmine

Jasmine plant with white flowers

(Image credit: Getty Images)

'You can’t beat the calming effect of the jasmine perfume. There are lots of different varieties available from evergreen to deciduous and flower colours in yellow, white, and pink,' says John Cullen.

Studies have found that the scent of jasmine can help your feel more positive and energetic. So if you're looking for your relaxing outdoor space to help lift your mood too, then consider investing in climbing jasmine plants to cover your fences or walls.

Where to buy jasmine online:


What is the most calming plant?

Overall lavender is arguably the most calming plant. A lot of the studies looking into scent have focused on lavender and found it lowers cortisol levels. One study using 60 patients in intensive care found that inhaling lavender essential oil increased quality of sleep and reduced the level of anxiety in patients.

However, the answer to this is in part subjective as it all depends on your scent preferences. For example, if you hate the smell of lavender, no matter how much scientific research there is it's unlikely you'll feel any benefits if you can't stand the scent.

So when picking what plants to add to your calming space, focus on scents you love. It's all about find the right ones that work for you.

Rebecca Knight
Deputy Editor, Digital

Rebecca Knight has been the Deputy Editor on the Ideal Home Website since 2022. She graduated with a Masters degree in magazine journalism from City, University of London in 2018, before starting her journalism career as a staff writer on women's weekly magazines. She fell into the world of homes and interiors after joining the Ideal Home website team in 2019 as a Digital Writer. In 2020 she moved into position of Homes News Editor working across Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc, Real Homes, Gardeningetc and Ideal Home covering everything from the latest viral cleaning hack to the next big interior trend.