5 fragrant and flowering houseplants for your Valentine’s Day

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Red roses may be the most classic option for Valentine’s Day, but have you ever really taken the time to smell them? Contrary to popular belief, they are often not very fragrant, as they are usually selected for aesthetic perfection at the expense of their natural scent. Plus, a clump of cut stems dies within a few days – not very romantic.

Another option? Instead, offer a plant with showy flowers. These five options will likely be much more fragrant than your typical grocery store bouquet, and with proper care, they will last for years.

This miniaturized shrub rose blooms in a wide range of colors, from pure white to peach to magenta to dark red. Its foliage is dense, dark and shiny. For an easy-to-grow cultivar, Dave Whitinger of the National Gardening Association recommends ‘Gigi.’ “It’s one of the most popular mini roses,” he says, “and it’s strikingly beautiful as well as fragrant,” with bold red and white stripes.

Depending on the cultivar, a mini rose typically tops out at one to two feet, making it a useful container or low hedge plant. In hardiness zones 4 or higher (see the Department of Agriculture map here), you can plant them outdoors after regular frosts have passed, in a location that gets at least six hours of sunlight per day . Like their larger cousins, mini rose bushes need plenty of nutrients to create their beautiful flowers, so plant them in compost-rich, well-drained soil and feed them with an organic fertilizer once a month in spring and in summer.

Indoors, mini rose bushes need sun in a south-facing window and good humidity so their leaves don’t drop; water them once the soil has dried out a little. Also keep in mind that they will suffer if placed in the path of a cold draft or heating vent.

Few plants are more fragrant than the gardenia, often used for weddings. In Victorian times, giving one meant telling the recipient “I love you,” so it’s an appropriate choice for Valentine’s Day.

These small shrubs grow in a tight mound of glossy leaves with silky white flowers that give off an alluring, sweet scent. Indoors, they like bright, indirect light and humid air. “Gardenias prefer acidic soil, with a pH between 5.0 and 6.0, and they like an inch of water per week,” says Whitinger. In addition, gardenias suffer near windows with drafts. In winter, a grow light will help keep them healthy.

Like a mini rose, a gardenia can be grown outdoors in a pot or, if you live in zones 8 to 11, in the ground. When planting, choose a location with as much sun and warmth as possible. Like roses, these tropical natives need fertilizer to produce their pretty flowers. If you live in the northern United States, you will need to protect them from frost and cold winds.

You may not think of romance when you think of lavender, but this plant native to the Mediterranean has a rustic beauty and a spicy, elegant scent. “Lavender aromas are widely recognized for their calming and relaxing properties,” says Whitinger, “making it a wonderful stress reducer after a long day.” Some varieties, like French lavender or shredded lavender, are fluffy and soft, adding to their sensuality. Touch this perennial plant and your hands will smell clean and fresh.

Overall, the key to growing lavender is light. It needs at least six hours of full sun, indoors or outdoors. Outdoors, plant the two-foot-tall perennial near the front of the border in well-drained, low-fertility soil. Lavender can tolerate wind and drought (it grows in the stony hills of Provence), but it does not like severe pruning. Do not cut its woody branches; Cut only the faded green stems, which will encourage prettier flowers.

For a particularly elegant gift, try an orchid, “especially the Moth orchid,” says Justin Hancock, horticulturist at online plant seller Costa Farms. “It’s an easy plant to grow, which makes it a good choice for plant lovers, but it’s also a good first-time plant because it’s quite forgiving of light and water.”

Moth orchids such as Phalaenopsis schilleriana feature sculptural pink flowers that bloom on delicate wand-shaped stems. The flowers last for several weeks and give off a light rose scent. Another solid choice for beginners is a corsage orchid (Bicolor Cattleya). This Brazilian native has wavy magenta-bronze flowers and gives off a strong fragrance.

Orchids, which grow on trees in the wild and absorb moisture from the air through their roots, prefer to grow in loose bark rather than soil. Moth orchids prefer bright light. Under dimmer lighting, Hancock says, they might not bloom as vigorously. They should be watered every week or two.

While some cultures believe that jasmine (jasmine) to be an aphrodisiac, there is little scientific evidence to prove this is true. However, a 2005 study by researchers at Kyoto University shows that its scent present in tea relaxes the body. Cultivars such as winter jasmine or pink jasmine grow in lush, sturdy forms, with drooping stems and flowers that give off a fresh scent.

To grow jasmine indoors, place the plant in a window where it can receive several hours of bright, indirect light. Mist it regularly or run a nearby humidifier to add moisture to the air. Jasmine needs darkness and cooler temperatures in winter to produce buds, so keep it in a cooler room until spring, then fertilize it.

In zones 8 or above, you can plant this evergreen vine outside in the garden. In colder regions, grow it in pots that can be stored under cover or in a garage over winter. These vines thrive in sun and heat, but if grown in hot desert climates, they appreciate afternoon shade. Additionally, they need a structure to climb on. A trellis or arbor near a patio is ideal for displaying their starry flowers and soaking up their scent.

Karen Hugg is a certified ornamental horticulturist and the author of “Leave your problems behind you: how to de-stress and cultivate happiness with plants.» Connect with her on Threads @karenhugg.

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