Lilies are both fragrant and colorful.

Flowers that are both fragrant and colorful are uncommon only because each tactic uses resources. Concentration of effort into one method of appeal or another is more efficient. Diversification generally occurs among flowers that must compete for pollination within a very diverse ecosystem. Otherwise, most fragrant flowers prefer selective specialization.

Consequently, most of the most fragrant flowers are not remarkably colorful. In fact, some are visually mundane. Where they mingle with more prominent bloom, the more visually evident flowers are likely to get credit for ambient aroma. Although many fragrant flowers are bright white, many more are uninterestingly pallid white. Some can be difficult to find. 

They are no less specialized than more colorful flowers, though. Dispersion of fragrance coincides with pollinating activity of preferable pollinators. It is no coincidence that many fragrant flowers are most fragrant in the evening or night for nocturnal pollinators who do not pursue color. Some pollinators may appreciate minor ultraviolet or infrared markings.

Also, fragrant flowers customize their fragrances for their favorite pollinators. That is why floral fragrances are so distinctive. Hummingbirds and most insects prefer rich fragrance during the day. Bats and nocturnal moths prefer sweeter fragrances of nocturnal flowers. Humidity and warmth enhance the activity of most pollinators, as well as floral fragrance. 

Fragrant spring bulbs, wisteria, lilac, mock orange and pink jasmine finished blooming in spring. Star jasmine, night blooming jasmine and various pittosporum should continue to bloom sporadically and fragrantly as long as the weather is warm. Sweet osmanthus and sweet box are a bit less fragrant. Gardenia, although finicky, is famously overtly fragrant!

11 thoughts on “Fragrance Is Out Of Sight

    1. I really do not know. Heck, I do not even know what colors are incompatible. I have noticed that fragrance can get to be a bit overwhelming in confined gardens that are sheltered from any breeze. I suspect that there would be more potential for fragrance to get overwhelming in humid climates than here. Otherwise, I do not know what fragrances mix well or do not mix well.


  1. Osmanthus is one of the most fragrant (not to mention delicious) flowers I’ve ever smelled!! ๐Ÿ™‚ Not sure what osmanthus you’ve been sniffing (heh, sounds like doing drugs) that would be considered less fragrant. :-O But that’s oak-a, no plant is perfect. I know freesias don’t naturally bloom this time of year, but they’re also frilly, fruity, fragrant faves! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Oh, and the underrated 4 o’clocks are super-fragrant & have a long, reliable bloom period. I still grow them after all these years & they go from May or June, all the way to October at the least! It still amuses me how the seeds look just like old-fashioned hand grenades (minus the pin, that goodness!) Oh, and before I forget — happy birthday!!

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  2. I’ve kept this tab open just so I could offer another bit of confirmation. The day after you posted this, I was out on a local prairie. It had been burned months ago, and was filled with our native rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium). The flowers are white and globe shaped, but what really caught me was the fragrance. I’ve never experienced such fragrance; there was no wind at the time, which helped. The flowers aren’t stereotypically ‘pretty,’ but for a sort of bland white flower, they were amazing.

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