Although many plants are dormant during winter, a select few will provide much-needed colour, scent and structure. We’ve selected nine fragrant plants, below, that will thrive in pots and containers, meaning you can grow them in the smallest of spaces.
Opt for as large a pot as you have room for. Large pots of compost lose moisture less quickly and will give your plants a bigger root run. Don’t forget to check for drainage holes, too, and if not provided, drill some in so your containers don’t become waterlogged.
More winter gardening content:
Browse our pick of pot-friendly plants for winter fragrance.
Witch hazel (Hamamelis)
Clusters of blooms composed of narrow, curiously twisted petals release a sweet scent in January and February, along with yellow and orange autumn foliage. Witch hazels are happy in full sun or partial shade. Prefers a well-drained, neutral-to-acidic soil, so use ericaceous compost in a pot.
Height x spread: 3m x 3m.
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Evergreen in all but the coldest winters, garden sage releases warm aromatic oils when you brush against the foliage. Give it a spot in full sun and moist but well-drained multi-purpose compost.
H x S: 80cm x 1m.
Skimmia (Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’)
Densely packed, domed heads of deep-red buds open to tiny, cream-white flowers that – from February – give off a sweet, spicy fragrance. ‘Rubella’ is a male form, so doesn’t produce berries. Grow in partial shade in fertile, well-drained, loam-based compost.
H x S: 1.5m x 1.5m
Daphne (Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’)
Domed heads of waxy flowers release their heady, jasmine-like perfume in January and February. Grow in sun or semi-shade. Daphnes like a rich, well-drained soil, so use a good loam-based potting compost. They don’t like being moved or disturbed, so plant them in as large a container as possible.
H x S: 1.5m x 1.5m.
Sweet box (Sarcococca confusa)
The flowers of this understated plant are composed of little more than a fringe of anthers, but they pack a punch of sweet scent that permeates the garden from December to February. Sweet box prefers a rich, moist spot, but will cope with growing in multi-purpose compost in a pot.
H x S: 2m x 1m.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Refreshing, aromatic oils in the needle-like foliage of rosemary are concentrated in winter and released when brushed against. Grow in full sun and well-drained multi-purpose compost.
H x S: 1.5m x 1.5m (depending on the variety)
Wintersweet has bare, greyish branches that carry fat yellow buds opening to waxy, translucent blooms. They exude an intense perfume that wafts through the garden in January and February. Grow in full sun in multi-purpose compost.
H x S: 3m x 2.5m.
Winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima)
Opening from December to March, blossom-like flowers release a strong, sweet fragrance reminiscent of its climbing cousin. Grow in full sun or partial shade. Choose a loam-based compost for container growing winter honeysuckle.
H x S: 2.5m x 2.5m.
Mahonia (Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’)
Mahonia in flower
Shuttlecocks of densely packed flowers give off a heady perfume, redolent of lily of the valley, as they gradually open their petals along the length of each spray from November to March. Mahonias prefers partial shade but will cope in sun if kept moist. Grow in a large pot of multi-purpose compost.
H x S: 5m x 4m.
Tips for enhancing the fragrance
When positioning your containers, try to find a sheltered position so the fragrances aren’t immediately swept away by wind. Snip a few stems to enjoy the aromas indoors, too.