Tropical Style

Little Bushes with Lilac-Scented Flowers

Lilacs (Syringa) have a one-of-kind scent that many gardeners desire within their landscapes. They are simple to grow but suitable for just U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plant hardiness zones 3 through 7, making it hard for gardeners in warmer climates to enjoy lilacs’ appealing odor. Although lilac is a distinctive scent which could be hard to mimic, even a handful of non-lilac plants and shrubs have fragrances that resemble a number of the lilac. Fortunately, these plants grow well in warm, Mediterranean climates; so gardeners in mild areas need not miss out on this fragrant favorite.


The “Charles Rennie Mackintosh” increased variety (Rosa “Charles Rennie Mackintosh”) is a shrub rose known for blooms with hints of lilac and almond. Like other English roses, the “Charles Rennie Mackintosh” rises in USDA zones 5 through 10. This hardy rose bush should be implanted in a site that receives full sun and has well-drained dirt, where it will produce pink blooms consistently. The mature plants are approximately 31/2 feet tall and 3 feet wide, and they function nicely as border plants in addition to providing cut flowers for floral arrangements.

Fragrant Abelia

Fragrant abelia (Abelia mosanensis) is a semi-evergreen shrub perfect for USDA zones 5 through 9. Growing to a height of 5 to 6 feet, the fragrant abelia produces small, pink and white blooms which have the aroma of lilacs. The flowers grow on graceful, arching stems. After booming in summer and early autumn, the flowers drop off, leaving purplish-bronze leaves in their stead. Abelia needs to be pruned selectively for contour and desirable kind; the more branches cut during winter, the more receptive and arched the plant’s growth becomes. Plant abelia at a full-sun or partially shaded site with acidic soil that’s moist but well-drained.

Butterfly Bush

Hardy in USDA zones 6 through 9, the butterfly bush (Buddleia “Lochinch”) is reminiscent of lilac in appearance and fragrance. As its name suggests, this shrub brings butterflies to the garden with its lilac-shaped, pink, white, purple or blue flowersthat blossom in summer and spring. As long as butterfly bush is planted in full sun or very light colour, it tolerates a wide variety of soil conditions and takes little care besides occasional watering during prolonged dry spells. Although technically a deciduous shrub, butterfly bush stays deep in warm climates with mild winters.

Indoor Fragrance

Although not a shrub, the blooms of the Oncidium incurvum orchid (Orchidaceae) arrive in early summer, creating the scent of lilac and primrose whilst creating a combination of pink and white coloration. This native of Mexico and Guatemala is an epiphytic orchid, meaning in nature it rises high in tree branches. Its flowers bloom on long, cascading 3- to 4-foot long stems. Although discovered in tropical climates, the plant grows at high altitudes that offer a cool season as well as warm temperatures. Grown as a houseplant and at greenhouses at USDA zones 8 and 9, the Oncidium incurvum orchid lets you attract the fragrance of lilac inside. It needs a temperature of approximately 50 degrees Fahrenheit through the winter. The orchid can be left inside or temporarily moved to a shady outdoor place during warm months.

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