How to Grow: Fragrant Annual Flowers

Learn how to grow fragrant annual flowers such as heliotrope.

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Plant, Vanilla Flower, Heliotrope, Hummel, InsectAlthough my wife Wendy and I have plenty of room to grow flowers in the yard, we always plant some in containers as well, especially the fragrant ones. Planting fragrant annuals in a pot on a deck, patio or near an open window is an easy way to indulge in the sweet smells of summer. Here are three of my favorites.

Heliotrope is a borage family flower that is also called the cherry pie plant. Who could resist that description. I think the fragrance is more like vanilla, but either way the 1 to 2 foot tall plant with white, blue or purple colored flowers yields its sweet fragrance all summer. The plant is heat and drought tolerant and has few pests. However, it is poisonous to animals and children, if ingested.

I love 4-o’clocks not just for their ability to tell time, but also for the shrub-like plant that’s adorned with multiple colored, fragrant flowers. Thomas Jefferson called them the Marvel of Peru, even though they originally hail from Mexico. The flowers open in late afternoon and stay open until morning. On cloudy days they may be open all day. The flowers also attract luna moths and hummingbirds. 4-o clocks love to self sow, so watch for seedlings next spring.

Sweet peas are well-known fragrant annuals that love to climb. But for containers, there are some great dwarf varieties as well. ‘Color Palette Cupid’ only grows 8 to 10 inches tall in a bush form with fragrant, colorful flowers. Although they should have been planted already because they love to grow in cool weather, try planting bush sweet peas now in a spot protected from the afternoon sun where it won’t get too hot and keep them well watered.

From the Vermont Garden Journal on Vermont Public Radio