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Wednesday - August 26, 2009

From: arlington heights, IL
Region: Select Region
Topic: Pruning, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Fragrant foundation plants for sunny, dry area in Illinois
Answered by: Janice Kvale


We need suggestions of what to plant on the south side of our house heave sun and rather dry soil. We just took out old dead bushes. Would prefer something that flowers and smells nice that would grow about 3-4 feet high.


Searching fragrant perennial shrubs and herbaceous plants for those compatible with full sun, dry soil, at 3-4 feet high yielded the list below. You may want to compromise on the fragrance or the size to increase the options. Note that fragrance may come from the flowers of a plant or the leaves/needles. 

Ribes aureum (golden currant) is a deciduous 3-6 ft. shrub adaptable to most sites. Yellow blossoms turn orange as they age and yield a spicy fragrance and berries that are red, yellow, or black. Hummingbirds and butterflies find the blossoms attractive. Familiar native roses at 2-5 ft. may be to your liking. All are deciduous, forming dense mounds with white to pink blossoms maturing to colorful red hips. While Rosa acicularis (prickly rose) is thorny, Rosa blanda (smooth rose) is less prickly. (Images available on Google.) Though  Rosa carolina (Carolina rose) is prickly and stands only 1-3 ft. tall, it is a common landscape choice and has lovely 2 in. pink blossoms. 

You may consider pruning a shrub that threatens to be taller than you wish. With that in mind, these taller fragrant shrubs are mentioned. Lindera benzoin (northern spicebush) is known as "forsythia of the north" for its early tiny yellow fragrant blossoms. This fast-growing deciduous shrub ranges between 6-12 ft. high, offers red berries in late summer and yellow fall foliage. Rhus aromatica (fragrant sumac) is a sprawling, fast-growing foundation shrub ranging between 3-8 ft. tall. Spring brings yellowish fragrant catkins before the aromatic foliage appears. There will be fall leaf colors and dark red berries providing food for winter birds.

Lacking the fragrance you desire, but ranging between 3-4 ft tall are Amelanchier stolonifera (running serviceberry) (images available on Google) and Dasiphora fruticosa ssp. floribunda (shrubby cinquefoil), a popular landscape plant.

Some perennial herbaceous plants may fit in your space. Take a look at Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot), Pycnanthemum incanum (hoary mountainmint), Artemisia frigida (prairie sagewort), and Juniperus communis (common juniper) . All have minty or spicy smelling foliage.

A list of shrubs native to Illinois may be helpful for you to browse on your own. Using plants native to your area will provide natural beauty with easier maintenance and increased pest resistance. Consult your nursery purveyor also for native plant suggestions for your site. Suppliers for Illinois may be found at this site

Ribes aureum

Rosa acicularis

Rosa carolina

Lindera benzoin

Rhus aromatica

Dasiphora fruticosa ssp. floribunda

Monarda fistulosa

Pycnanthemum incanum

Artemisia frigida

Juniperus communis



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