Houseplants That Can Make Your Home Smell Better


It can be so nice to come home from a long, stressful day and breathe in the lovely scent of your favorite indoor plants. Which houseplants should you grow for a better-smelling home? We put together an extensive list of great smelling houseplants that we think you’re really going to enjoy.

So, which houseplants can make your home smell better? The following list of houseplants can make your home smell better:

  • Oncidium orchids
  • Plumeria
  • Lavender
  • Angel’s trumpet
  • Tea rose begonia
  • Hoya
  • Citrus
  • Passionflower
  • Geranium
  • Cuban oregano
  • Gardenia
  • Orange jessamine
  • Stephanotis
  • Jasmine
  • Sweet bay
  • Mint plant
  • Eucalyptus

In this extensive guide, we will go in-depth on each of these fun, fragrant houseplants, explaining more about what they are and what kind of aroma you can expect from them. It’s time to get gardening, so keep reading, as you won’t want to miss it!

Houseplants for a Better-Smelling Home

Oncidium Orchids

If you can’t get enough of nature’s scents, then you really can’t go wrong with orchids. Plenty of species in the orchid family have a pleasing scent, but we quite like oncidium orchids. Also known as the dancing-lady orchid, this houseplant has the benefit of looking as nice as it smells. It sprouts yellow flowers with brown ends. The unique yet somewhat odd shape of those flowers inspired the dancing nickname.

As part of the Oncidium variety, the orchids have a fragrance very much reminiscent of vanilla. To maintain your orchids, let the soil get mostly dry before watering, feeding the plants about once a week. This orchid variety also likes diffused light as provided from a window facing westward or eastward. Keep temperatures set to 60 degrees Fahrenheit at the lowest and 85 degrees at the highest.

Plumeria

Plumeria is a treat for the senses. While we’ll talk about the smell in just a moment, we have to mention the look of this gorgeous flowering houseplant first. As part of the Apocynaceae or dogbane family, depending on the species, your plumeria could bloom in a variety of stunning hues. These include white flowers with yellow centers, white flowers with orange and pink tinting, pink flowers with yellow and orange centers, and pale yellow flowers with darker yellow centers.

It’s hard to describe the pretty odor of a plumeria, especially because it can vary by cultivar. Have some fun browsing through the plumeria at your local gardening store. Pick the ones that stand out the most to you and then you can have a whole menagerie of scents going on in your home or office. Some give off a citrusy aroma, others smell like fresh summer peaches, more still like jasmine, and some others are spicy or sweet.  

Lavender

Mint family members lavender have nearly 50 species of flowering purple houseplants. Originally grown in southeast India, southwest Africa, the Mediterranean, eastern and northern Africa, Europe, and the Old World (including the Canary Islands and Cape Verde), today, you can get lavender just about anywhere.

That’s a good thing, too, considering lavender’s earthy aroma brings with it a slew of benefits. It may trigger your hair to grow, yet lavender also prevents overgrowths of fungus. Those who have entered menopause may have fewer hot flashes thanks to this houseplant. It also helps with asthma and high heart rate and/or blood pressure. Lavender can treat pain without medicine, could possibly alleviate skin blemishes, and it may even let you get better-quality sleep.

Angel’s Trumpet

If you’re not already growing angel’s trumpet in your indoor garden, you’re going to want to change that ASAP. The Brugmansia plant is another one of those that, like the plumeria, has the looks to go with the pleasing scent. The reason this shrub earned the nickname angel’s trumpet is because of the shape of the flowers it grows, which are decidedly trumpet-like. Angel’s trumpet looks best in a hanging garden where the flowers can dangle dramatically.

The scent of this houseplant is strong and distinct. Once the sun goes down, the smell may become even more prominent. Some gardeners say the leaves give off an odor that’s most unappealing, so it’s kind of like this strange mix of good and bad. In some instances, the leaves of the angel’s trumpet have doubled as a deliriant or hallucinogen. We don’t recommend using them for those purposes, though!

Tea Rose Begonia

The perennial begonia includes over 1,800 species in the Begoniaceae family. The one we’d recommend for a more fragrant home or workplace is the tea rose begonia. The delicate pink flowers grow in a range in colors, from a light baby pink to a darker, richer hot pink. As the name may indicate, these flowers smell like roses but without the hard work of maintaining that flower.

You can grow tea rose begonias outdoors or indoors, just like many other begonias. This indoor plant prefers dappled light, but not just any dappled light. It’s best if you have other trees or plants with branches where light can pass through. This way, your tea rose begonia gets the ideal amount of sunlight and shade to grow and smell amazing!

Hoya

Another Apocynaceae family member, hoya is a type of tropical plant species that has up to 300 varieties. It’s originally grown in Australia, New Guinea, Polynesia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, China, and India, with different species in many of these locations. The hoya has an unmistakable look with its white star-shaped bud and small purple flower sprouting from its center. It sure makes a majestic addition to any indoor garden.

With as many species of hoya as there are, the scents can differ. Since they look like wax plants, some gardeners have said hoya smells like them, too. Others insist their indoor hoya plant gives off aromas much like lemon, orange, vanilla, citrus, or chocolate. With so many great scents, you might want to get several species of hoya to try them all.

Citrus

We’ve talked about growing your own indoor citrus plants before in our article on Easy-to-Grow Indoor Fruits. To do so, you’d grow a citrus tree, such as lime, lemon, kumquat, satsuma (a type of tangerine), Tahitian orange, tangerine, or the Calamondin orange. These are all dwarf citrus trees, making them ideal for tending to at home or in the office.

We don’t really have to tell you what these trees will smell like. The natural, enriching citrusy scent that will fill your home each time you walk in will reawaken and invigorate the senses. Even better is that, with enough time, your citrus tree could even grow fruit that you can harvest and enjoy.

Passionflower

With 500 species to its name, not all passionflowers smell great. Although the purple passionflower or Passiflora incarnata looks beautiful, in this case, looks can be deceiving. Gardeners don’t really like the scent, and you probably wouldn’t either. It’s better to focus your efforts on other varieties of passionflower, as these may give off more palatable scents such as fruit or even nuts.

Like lavender, having passionflowers in your garden does more than just make your senses happy. This houseplant could also improve your life in several ways. While you have to ingest the plant rather than just smell it, some passionflower varieties could work to alleviate the pain of stomach ulcers. Scientists have even found that the purple passionflower may lessen anxiety and insomnia by increasing the brain’s levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA, says this 2010 study in Phytomedicine.

Geraniums

Another houseplant that your nose will delight in is the humble geranium. With over 400 species, these flowering plants include perennials, biennials, and annuals. Growing in the tropics, the mountains, and lots of places in between, the indoor plant also known as the crane’s-bill produces staggeringly elegant flowers. These come in all shades of red and pink with some even growing in hues like purple, yellow, or white.

Every geranium has that peppery and green scent, a geranium staple. Other species mix that basic scent with flavors like chocolate, pineapple, lemon, or rose. For some, the smell of geraniums can be a little strong, but those who love this plant can have lots of fun mixing and matching scents. You too can join them.

Cuban Oregano

Next, we’ve got Cuban oregano or Mexican mint. The Plectranthus amboinicus grows in Eastern and Southern Africa natively and belongs to the Lamiaceae family. The reason people call it Cuban oregano is because it resembles that herb in both its scent and its flavor (should you eat it). While a lot of the plants we’ve covered thus far linger on the sweet side of the odor spectrum, this is one that doesn’t.

Since it’s a succulent, Cuban oregano is quite hardy. You want to use gritty soil that drains well for growing your own. The warmer the environment you provide, the better. That doesn’t mean you should douse your Cuban oregano with sunlight, though. In fact, it prefers partial sunlight only. A container will house your Cuban oregano neatly in any home. While it’s a little sluggish in the colder months, once spring and summer get here, it will grow and thrive.  

Gardenia

Although it doesn’t smell like coffee, the gardenia is part of the Rubiaceae or coffee family anyway. Hailing from the Pacific Islands, Madagascar, and Asia and Africa’s subtropical regions, the gardenia dresses up any home, apartment, or office. Its white flowers can layer like a rose or sprout just a few long petals around the base of the flower. Gardeners often liken the shape to that of seashells, just adding further to the lore of this houseplant.

Some have described the scent of a gardenia as “intoxicating,” while others have called the flowers “sultry.” What can’t be disputed is that the gardenia is one of the best-smelling flowers around. If you want to experience what all the fuss is about, then we recommend growing some gardenia of your own indoors. Humidity can trigger those wondrous flowers to unfurl, and then you can take in the full range of its scent.

Orange Jessamine

Some houseplant names can leave you scratching your head, at least at first. So is the case of the orange jessamine, which no, has nothing to do with the fruit. In fact, this houseplant isn’t even orange. Instead, the orange jessamine or Murraya paniculata has tiny white flowers. This is where the plant’s scent is derived from. While grown outdoors as part of hedges or ornamental trees, you can also bring orange jessamine inside.

When you do, you can drink in the smell that explains its name a little bit better. Yes, as you may have assumed, the orange jessamine smells a whole lot like citrus. With time and love, your houseplant may develop tiny fruits, often red in color, that some say are like kumquats. Just keep your windows closed, since birds love the fruit!

Stephanotis

From one white flowering houseplant to another, you’ll also want the stephanotis plant in your indoor garden. Grown in Madagascar, the Stephanotis floribunda or S. jasminoides can get quite large, growing as much as six meters or more than 19 feet! The flowers are small, tubular, and waxy. They’ll sprout up in groups amidst a backdrop of dark green leaves with a leather-like texture.

While the stephanotis plant does smell great, admittedly, that’s not all the time. Once your flowers turn from white to yellow, the scent will morph as well. Instead of sweet and heady, your stephanotis smells sour. It’s a weird phenomenon, but don’t let it stop you from growing the stephanotis at least once!

Jasmine

Ah, sweet, sweet jasmine. With roughly 200 species, you can dive deep into the wild scents of jasmine. This warm weather-loving houseplant comes from such parts of the world as Oceania and Eurasia. The pretty if not sparse white flowers add to its beauty, but it’s undeniably its scent that makes the jasmine such a sought-after indoor plant.

You want to make sure you shop for your jasmine carefully. The varieties that give off the sweetest scents are often light pink or white. If you want something a little less saccharine, try the confederate jasmine. It may be white, but gardeners liken the odor to nutmeg, so it’s definitely spicier. Always smell your jasmine before buying. If you don’t smell anything, you might not ever, since not every variety of jasmine gives off a scent.

Sweet Bay

The sweet bay, bay laurel, or Laurus nobilis is a type of evergreen shrub or tree. The lengthy leaves have a smooth texture and their own scent, too, an earthy, natural one. In fact, the leaves of the sweet bay are harvested, dried, and manufactured as bay leaves.

As for the flowers, which you’re surely interested in if you’re a scent lover, these can grow up to three inches and come in an ivory or pure white hue. In the autumn and winter, the flowers don’t smell like much, but once spring arrives, the sweet bay comes alive. It has a slight lemon smell that won’t overpower the senses or make your home smell like a grocery store.

Mint Plant

Another houseplant with an obvious scent is the mint. In the Lamiaceae family, the Mentha may be a part of 24 species depending on how you classify their hybridization. One thing’s for sure, and that’s that you can pick from a lot of cultivars and hybrids of mint. They don’t all smell the same, either. There exist differences between peppermint, which has a slight sweetness, and the sharper spearmint. If their great scent wasn’t enough, you can also harvest your mint plant. Having some on hand is always good, as peppermint can lessen stomach pain.

Other mint varieties you might add to your office or home include:

  • Pennyroyal mint
  • Chocolate mint
  • Orange mint
  • Cordifolia mint
  • Curly mint
  • Apple mint

We must caution you against eating every variety of mint out there. Some, including the pennyroyal mint, have chemicals that can create a poisonous effect in both pets and people.

Eucalyptus

If you’re still looking for more fragrant houseplants to grow, we also like the eucalyptus. This belongs to another huge family, as there are more than 700 species, including mallees, shrubs, and trees. Some are reminiscent of tea tree while others smell like honey, pine, or mint.

This Australian evergreen has many holistic uses. If you have congestion, a cold, or a cough, it’s possible to reduce your symptoms with some eucalyptus. The oil from the houseplant also appears in many industrial solvents, dental prep products, flavorings, cosmetics, perfumes, and antiseptics.

What other fragrant orchids should you consider for your indoor garden?

If you enjoyed the oncidium orchid we recommended earlier in this article, why stop there? You can grow many other orchid species that smell amazing. They include:

  • Zygopetalum: With a scent that’s like a cross between freesias and hyacinths, Zygopetalum is a great option for your indoor garden.
  • Vanilla planifolia: As the name suggests, the Vanilla planifolia has a scent much like vanilla.
  • Rhynchostylis gigantea: You don’t always need a citrus plant to get that fruity smell. Just plant a Rhynchostylis gigantea instead.
  • Phalaenopsis violacea: Get in the fall spirit with the Phalaenopsis violacea variety of orchids. This one smells a lot like cinnamon.
  • Oncidium Sharry Baby: A type of hybrid of the Oncidium, the Sharry Baby gives off a scent that’s somewhere between vanilla and chocolate. Tasty!
  • Miltoniopsis santanaei: You don’t need roses in your home garden when you can have the Miltoniopsis santanaei instead. That’s just what this houseplant smells like.
  • Maxillaria tenuifolia: You’ll feel like you live in the tropics every day with this orchid, which gives off an odor much like coconut.
  • Cymbidium Golden Elf: Between its yellow color and its smell of lemon, you’ll love having the Cymbidium Golden Elf in your indoor garden.

What is the best smelling jasmine plant?

As we mentioned before, jasmine can be a bit tricky. First, one of the more beloved varieties, the star jasmine, isn’t actually jasmine at all. Then there’s the little matter that, depending on which jasmine variety you choose, your houseplant might not even give off a fragrance!

For that reason, we recommend you try Italian jasmine. It’s wonderful with a sweetness that will win you over. This houseplant is also quite unique in that it starts off with yellow flowers that last throughout the summer. Then, once the seasons change, the flowers vanish and you get little berries in their place.

Fred Zimmer

I'm a lover of plants, animals, photography, & people, not necessarily in that order. Currently, I'm focused on photographing indoor plants & chachkies. I write & rewrite articles about creating an environment where indoor plants can thrive. I'm good at listening to music but bad at shopping to muzak.

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