En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
1 rating

Friday - May 04, 2012

From: Kennewick, WA
Region: Northwest
Topic: Butterfly Gardens
Title: Creating a garden based on fragrance
Answered by: Anne Ruggles


I would like to know which Fragrant Flowers are easy to grow and hearty for the climate i live in. Eastern part of washington state. Desert like in summer, warm summers.


Understanding why plants produce fragrance will help you to select the right ones. Scent is a signal used by plants to advertise to pollinators (primarily insects) that they have pollen or nectar available. The smell of the flower alerts pollinators that the plant is ready to be pollinated, and when the animals arrive to collect pollen and/or nectar, pollen gets transferred, facilitating plant reproduction. The scent (an energetically expensive compound for the plant to make) functions as both a long-and short-distance attractant. The type of pollinator (bee, beetle, fly, butterfly or moth) that it wants to attract will determine the time of day and year the plant is most fragrant and the type of fragrance that it will produce.  Scientific American has a very nice article about fragrance in plants.

We are going to direct you to several sources for determining what plants to choose.

The Washington Native Plant Society (WNPS) is an excellent place to start. They have developed plant lists by county.

The Columbia Basin Chapter of the WNPS has developed a brochure describing growing native plants in Washington. This brochure includes plant descriptions - including those that are fragrant: "The Natural Way to Grow: Gardening with Native Plants of Eastern Washington."  The Columbia Basin Chapter of the Native Plant Society serves both the Tri-Cities and Walla Walla areas and should be a good source of information for you. In addition to their web site you can contact them (Marita Lih mplih@charter.net) and ask for their recommendations for plants that are fragrant and will grow well there.

The Fragrance Garden is adjacent to the Tennant Lake Interpretive Center in Ferndale, WA. This is an award winning Fragrance Garden with over 200 plants. It is located in the Whatcom Wildlife Area - Tennant Lake Park in western Washington, but they may have information about fragrant plants in your part of the state. Contact them at:    (360) 384-4723

The Seattle Garden Club has a fragrance garden that is a part of the University of Washington Botanical Gardens. They, too, may have information about fragrant species in your part of Washington.

 Main Phone: 206-543-8616
Email: uwbg@u.washington.edu
Facebook: www.facebook.com/UWBotanicGardens

The Xerces Society is also a good source of information about managing your yard for butterflies and flies (insects that are attracted to fragrant plants). They produce several publications that you can download that may be useful in your planning.

Sources of native seed for your area are:

BFI Native Seeds in Moses Lake, WA

Derby Canyon Natives, Peshastin, WA   The folks at Derby Canyon Natives have compiled plant lists for attractingh butterflies and hummingbirds. These consist of plants that should do well where you live.

For most plants, you can go to the Wildflower Center website to find out more information about the plant. Click on the "Explore Plants" tab then enter either the scientific or common name of the plant in which you are interested and click "go." You will be taken to a page that gives you a description, habitat requirements, value to wildlife, links to images, etc. For instance, click here to find out more about Orange Honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa).







From the Image Gallery

Purple sage
Salvia dorrii

Purple sage
Salvia dorrii

Lewis' mock orange
Philadelphus lewisii

Lewis' mock orange
Philadelphus lewisii

Alpine mountainbalm
Monardella odoratissima

Showy milkweed
Asclepias speciosa

Orange honeysuckle
Lonicera ciliosa

More Butterfly Gardens Questions

Want to Amend Soil Without Harming Earthworms in Dallas Area
March 16, 2011 - I have a totally odd question. I live in the Dallas area in the blackland soil. I am removing sod from part of my back yard and will replant with nectar and host plants for butterflies. The soil is...
view the full question and answer

Information on Betonyleaf thoroughwort
September 04, 2008 - I purchased Conoclinium betonicifolium (Betonyleaf thoroughwort) at the spring 2008 LBJ WC plant sale. I've not been able to find much information on the plant in the typical places, including the...
view the full question and answer

Butterfly plants from Austin TX
December 17, 2012 - I have a butterfly garden in the front part of the house facing the south side. However it is also mostly under a few Oak trees that cast shadow over half of the front yard starting early afternoon. ...
view the full question and answer

Butterfly and Pollinator Plants for Indianapolis Garden
June 23, 2015 - I live in Indianapolis, IN and would like to have a native garden. I'd be especially interested in plants that help butterflies and bumble bees. There's a fairly dry area on the west side of the hou...
view the full question and answer

Questions about milkweed seeds
March 28, 2013 - Dear folks, I am trying to locate Nan Hampton from Los Fresnos, Texas who asked about Asclepias texana seeds and other Asclepias seeds on Dec. 10, 2008. I would like to know if she found any and has...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center