Smellin’ Sweet: Five Fragrant Plants to Grow Indoors
Indoor gardens look and taste great, but don’t forget they can also smell amazing. So, why not treat your nose to some sweet-smelling flowers?
Houseplants are a wonderful addition to any home. They bring nature indoors, add beauty, and clean the air. They can also be great replacements for air fresheners. The following plants will add exquisite fragrances to your home throughout the year.
Orchids are stunning, but they can be intimidating plants to grow. Although they have a reputation for being fussy, there are many orchids that are easy to grow indoors. With so many different varieties to choose from, it is worth visiting a specialty nursery to find your favorite colors and scents. However, not all orchids smell good, so it is important to choose varieties that do, such as Aeranthes grandalena, which smells like jasmine; Cymbidium Golden Elf, which smells like lemon; Maxillaria tenuifolia, which smells like coconut; Miltoniopsis santanaei, which smells like roses; Rhynchostylis gigantea, which smells like citrus; and Vanilla planifolia, which smells like vanilla.
The most important factor for orchids is how much light they receive. Depending on the variety, they may prefer low, medium, or high levels of light. If a plant receives the wrong amount of light, it won’t bloom. Low-light lovers do well in an east- or west-facing window. Medium-light lovers do well in a south-facing window. Orchids that need a lot of light will do best with an indoor grow light.
In nature, orchids grow on the tops of trees, not in the ground. To mimic this indoors, plant them in an airy orchid mix with plenty of bark. Do not plant them in soil or they will likely get root rot. Also, orchids like to be root bound, so make sure their pots aren’t too big. You can move them to slightly bigger pots when they start to get top heavy.
The worst thing for an orchid is to receive too much water. Water it thoroughly once a week and be sure to let it dry completely before watering again. You can fertilize every couple of weeks with a 20-20-20 fertilizer, but make sure to flush it once a month with plain water to avoid salt buildup. I’ve had great success feeding orchids only compost tea instead of fertilizer.
Temperature and humidity are also important factors. Orchids need a humid environment. You can achieve this indoors by putting a humidifier nearby, misting the leaves daily with water, or putting the orchid’s pot on top of a tray with pebbles covered in water.
In order to bloom, orchids need to experience a 10-20 degree drop in temperature at night. During the day, most orchids do well between 70-85°F, although certain varieties do well at lower and higher temperatures.
Whenever I walk by a lily, I look around to see what is creating such a delightful and powerful scent. It never fails. Lucky for me, it is easy to grow lilies indoors and enjoy the feeling of summer year-round.
In order to force lily bulbs indoors, they need to be in a cool, dormant state for about 12 weeks. To do this, place them in a plastic bag with a bit of soil and an open top. Then, put them in your refrigerator, making sure they stay slightly damp the entire time.
Next, layer stones in the bottom of a pot. Then, fill the vessel half to three-quarters full of potting mix and plant your bulbs. The general rule is to plant them about two to three times as deep as the size of the bulb.
Lilies do not like soggy or dry soil. They need slightly damp soil. I like to layer pretty stones on top of the soil to prevent them from drying out.
Although a few varieties prefer dappled light, most lilies thrive with a lot of light. Place them in a south-facing window or under a fluorescent grow light. They need six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day, and do well at 50-75°F.
Stunning, fragrant blooms should appear in about 90 days. When the flowers die off and the foliage turns yellow, you can trim them to soil level and plant them outdoors, where they will come back the following year.
If you want to bring a bit of Hawaii into your home, grow plumeria. These are the stunning, sweet-smelling flowers used in leis to greet visitors. They are easy to grow indoors if you can give them the right amount of light and humidity. To meet their light requirements, place them in front of a south-facing window or under a grow light for at least four to six hours per day, if not longer.
To give them the humidity levels they crave, place their pot on top of a tray layered with stones and filled with water. You can also mist them twice a day with water, but be sure only to spray their foliage and not their flowers.
Being a tropical plant, plumeria does well in high temperatures. You should be fine if the temperature ranges from 65-80°F, but don’t let it drop below 55°F.
Plant plumeria in well-draining soil to avoid root rot. A cactus mix works well. When the roots fill the container, transplant it to a pot that is only one size larger. Feed your soil with a high phosphorus fertilizer once every two weeks from spring through fall to encourage blooming but stop when the plant goes dormant in the winter.
Also, be warned plumeria can grow up to 10 feet tall indoors. So, be sure to prune regularly if you’d like them to remain small.
If you’d like to liven up your winters with sweet-smelling flowers that bloom at night, try growing jasmine indoors. This vining plant needs the support of a trellis and some special care to help it bloom, but it is well worth the effort.
For jasmine to bloom, it’s important to get the right temperature at the right time. In summer, this plant needs a warm, sunny spot to encourage growth. Then, it needs six weeks of cool weather during fall. You may need to place your plant outside to achieve this. The cool temperatures are what trigger the flowers to bloom.
Jasmine doesn’t tolerate dry air well. You can achieve the proper humidity levels by misting your plant daily, running a humidifier nearby, or setting your pot on a tray of gravel filled with water. Water your jasmine when the soil is just dry, but don’t overwater. The soil needs to be moist but not soggy. Be sure to plant in a porous soil amended with coir or bark to help with drainage. Also, fertilize every two to four weeks with a high phosphorus fertilizer at half the suggested strength during the bloom cycle so the flowers stick around longer.
Prune your jasmine regularly, but don’t prune after August 1 or else you risk cutting off new buds. Instead, do most of your pruning right after the blooming season to shape your plant.
Mint is robust, low maintenance, and hard to kill. It also smells delicious and is incredibly versatile. There are over 600 types of mint—including peppermint, apple mint, and pineapple mint—you can grow and use in your favorite meals and drinks. One plant can add wonderful flavor to mojitos, yogurt, salads, relishes, and tea.
You can start mint easily by taking five- to six-inch long cuttings from an existing plant and putting them in water to root. Be sure to remove the leaves from the part of the stem that will be in water or it will rot. Change the water every other day until roots appear. Plant the mint in well-draining soil; a mix of sand, peat, and perlite is good. Also, as mint likes to be moist, add a layer of pretty stones on top of the soil to help retain soil moisture.
Place your pot in an area with indirect sunlight, like an east-facing window, where temperatures are between 65-70°F during the day and 55-60°F at night. You can fertilize mint sparingly, but you will lose its great flavor if you over-fertilize. Finally, prune regularly by pinching off the tips and any flower buds to keep your mint bushy instead of lanky. To harvest, snip sprigs as needed.
The next time you’re shopping for a new houseplant, consider one of these sweet-smelling options to enhance your living space with beautiful fragrances.