14 Easy-to-Grow, Fragrant Tropical Flowering Plants

Updated on May 14, 2020
punacoast profile image

The author lives in a quiet rural community in lower Puna on the Big Island. He's an avid gardener, traveler, and photographer.

Clockwise from top: Passion Flower, Angel's Trumpet, Plumeria.
Clockwise from top: Passion Flower, Angel's Trumpet, Plumeria. | Source

Tropical flowers are known for their vibrant colors. Many of them also have an irresistible fragrance.

Here are 14 good-smelling trees, shrubs, and vines from the tropics and subtropics. Try growing them and add an exotic touch to your garden. And when they are in bloom, your olfactory sensors will thank you!

These plants are low maintenance and easy to grow. However, as with many tropical species, they do need plenty of light, heat, and moisture to thrive. If you live in temperate climates, grow these plants in containers so you could move them indoors for protection during cold winter months.


Pink Plumeria (Plumeria rubra)
Pink Plumeria (Plumeria rubra) | Source


Also called frangipani, plumeria is unquestionably the most beautiful tropical flowering tree. Plumeria flowers come in a dazzling range of colors. Their timeless beauty and exotic scent evoke images of idyllic island getaways with white sandy beach and turquoise water. The alluring fragrance becomes more pervasive in the evening, perfuming the night air—to the delight of nocturnal creatures near and far! Plumeria does well in large pots, prefers full sun, well-drained soil. It can be grown easily from cuttings. Some plumeria cultivars shed all their leaves before going into full bloom.

Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata)
Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata) | Source

Ylang Ylang

Ylang ylang is native to the rainforests of tropical Asia. Its droopy, greenish-yellow flowers bloom year-round and exude an exquisite floral scent, hence it is also called the perfume tree or incense tree. The oil extracted from the petals is widely used in the aromatherapy and fragrance industry (particularly the famous Chanel No.5 perfume). In hot and humid climates, ylang ylang may reach 30–40 feet high and make an excellent shade tree in the garden. Young plants propagated from cuttings grow quickly and will bloom within a year or two.

Coffee in Bloom (Coffea arabica)
Coffee in Bloom (Coffea arabica) | Source


Interestingly, coffee belongs to the gardenia family and can be grown in the garden as an ornamental plant or indoors as an attractive houseplant. It produces masses of brilliant white blossoms with pleasant jasmine-citrus scent. The lingering perfume and sweet nectar attract insects of all kinds! Pollinated flowers will set fruits or “berries” in a few weeks. Each fruit contains two seeds or “beans” which are harvested and processed into coffee. Coffee is usually grown as a commercial crop on farms and plantations. It loves acidic, well-drained soil, and thrives in high humidity.

Oleander (Nerium oleander)
Oleander (Nerium oleander) | Source


This hardy tropical plant has been widely cultivated and is now available in hundreds of varieties. The showy flowers—from pure white to deep magenta—are exceptionally fragrant, with a strong rose geranium scent. Originated from the Mediterranean region, oleander does well in places with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Drought-tolerant and hassle-free, it makes excellent potted plants on decks and patios, or hedges around the yard for privacy.

Note: All parts of oleander are considered poisonous to humans and pets!

Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia sp.)
Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia sp.) | Source

Angel’s Trumpet

Angel’s trumpet likes partial shade and will do well in containers, provided it gets plenty of moisture. The large, dangling blossoms come in several colors, including creamy white, pastel pink, golden yellow, or apricot orange. Some hybrids produce fascinating double blossoms or variegated leaves. At sunset, the flowers release their captivating, lush perfume to attract pollinators. A fast grower, it needs occasional pruning to stay in desired shape and height. As with oleander, angel’s trumpet is considered poisonous. Plant with caution!


Crinum Lily (Crinum asiaticum)
Crinum Lily (Crinum asiaticum) | Source

Crinum Lily

Also known as Giant Spider Lily, this tropical plant is super easy to grow! From a small bulb, it will grow quickly into a 5–6 feet tall shrub, with long graceful leaves and enormous flower stalks. The blossoms are usually white, but some cultivars produce pink or purple flowers. Their fresh, delicious fragrance attracts hordes of bees and butterflies! Crinum lily is a popular landscaping plant in many South Pacific islands, often seen along the beaches or around the pools at hotels and resorts. Extremely adaptable and salt-tolerant, it will grow in any type of soils. Abundant watering will make it bloom repeatedly.

Samoan Gardenia (Tabernaemontana pachysiphon)
Samoan Gardenia (Tabernaemontana pachysiphon) | Source

Samoan Gardenia

Native to Africa and widely cultivated in tropical Polynesia, this evergreen shrub is slow growing but blooms year-round. The creamy white, sea-star shaped blossoms have a strong musty, spicy fragrance—a mix of vanilla, clove, and cinnamon. The irresistible scent can be smelled during the day and at night. In some Polynesian cultures, the milky sap extracted from the leaves and stems is used as an herbal remedy. Contrary to its name, Samoan gardenia belongs to the milkweed family and is not related to gardenia species. It does well in pots, prefers full sun and can tolerate poor, dry soil.

Puakenikeni (Fagraea berteroana)
Puakenikeni (Fagraea berteroana) | Source


Puakenikeni is indigenous to the South Pacific region. The pretty blossoms have a long-lasting, intoxicating fragrance. As they mature, the flowers magically change color from creamy white to yellow to orange—while retaining their terrific perfume. The small round fruits also turn bright orange when ripe (not edible). This shrub grows best in full sun, acidic soil, and high humidity. If planted in the garden, give it plenty of room, as it could grow into a small tree! In many Pacific islands, including Tahiti, Fiji, Tonga, and Hawaii, puakenikeni is a favorite flower for making lei necklaces.

Yellow Ginger Lily (Hydechium flavescens)
Yellow Ginger Lily (Hydechium flavescens) | Source

Hedychium Gingers

Also known as ginger lily, these tropical perennials produce delicate white, yellow, or coral-pink flowers that resemble butterflies! The blossoms have a heady but pleasant sweet scent. The lovely fragrance is used in many tropical-themed cosmetic and beauty products. Grown easily from rhizomes, they prefer shady areas with wet, humus-rich soil. In Hawaii, these gingers are considered invasive because they spread uncontrollably in the rainforests. In temperate zones, they will do well as potted plants, just use extra-large containers to ensure the most luxuriant growth! Unlike their cousin the ordinary ginger, the roots of hedychium gingers are not edible.

Night-Blooming Jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum)
Night-Blooming Jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum) | Source

Night-Blooming Jasmine

People either love or hate this plant! The cloying fragrance of the flowers is so intense, especially at night, that it may cause an allergic reaction (sneezing fit) or asthma attack in some people! Night-blooming jasmine is, however, not real jasmine. It belongs to the nightshade family and is related to eggplants and tomatoes! A fast-growing shrub, it can become leggy, regular trimming will keep it in bushier shape. The plant goes into full bloom during the hot summer months, with masses of greenish-white or yellow tubular flowers covering the entire shrub. Their overpowering scent can be smelled hundreds of feet away.


Blue-Purple Passion Flower (Passiflora sp.)
Blue-Purple Passion Flower (Passiflora sp.) | Source


Passionfruit flowers are exotic looking and possess an equally mesmerizing scent! Most notable is the flower of passionfruit liliko’i with a pungent floral aroma. Or the spectacular blue-purple passionflower with its hauntingly seductive perfume. These hardy vines are prolific climbers and will become invasive if left undisturbed. Young plants sprout quickly from seeds. They grow well in pots but will need trellis or bamboo poles for support. The flowers attract bees and nocturnal moths for pollination. An added benefit: Passionfruit vine produces edible fruits with a juicy, tangy-sweet flavor.

Climbing Jasmine (Jasminum sambac)
Climbing Jasmine (Jasminum sambac) | Source

Climbing Jasmine

Native to tropical Asia, jasmine has hundreds of different varieties. Some behave like a vine, growing 10–15 feet long and happily trailing up an arbor or garden fence! Prized for their enchanting, hypnotic fragrance, jasmine flowers are popular (often as garlands) at religious ceremonies or wedding celebrations in many Southeast Asian cultures. Climbing jasmine likes moist, humus-rich soil. In temperate zones, the plant may die back or go dormant during cold winter months and regrow when warm weather returns. It will thrive in pots (and bloom profusely!) with regular fertilizing and watering.

Hoya Vine (Hoya sp.)
Hoya Vine (Hoya sp.) | Source

Hoya Vine

Also known as wax plant, hoya is a perennial tropical vine native to south India. A vigorous climber—by twining and sending out little roots along the main vine to attach itself to whatever it can reach—hoya could potentially become an invasive weed, especially in warm-climate places. The extremely fragrant flowers (smell like orange blossoms) bloom in ball-like clusters. Some cultivars produce gorgeous flowers in lilac, crimson red, or chocolate brown! Hoya makes an attractive, easy-care house plant (particularly in hanging basket), provided it gets sufficient light and moisture.

Climbing Ylang Ylang (Artabotrys hexapetalus)
Climbing Ylang Ylang (Artabotrys hexapetalus) | Source

Climbing Ylang Ylang

This plant is in the same family as the ylang ylang tree but reincarnates in the form of a vine! The flowers have a rich, fruity fragrance—a hint of pineapple, guava, and jackfruit. This unique scent gets stronger as the flowers mature, changing color from pale green to lemon yellow. Often hidden by the thick layer of leaves, the inconspicuous flowers are difficult to spot. It is the incredible smell that gives them away! Ylang ylang vine grows well in either partial shade or direct sun, prefers well-drained soil and high humidity. It can be propagated from woody stem cuttings or seeds.

The Positive Effects of Pleasant Floral Scents

*Reduces stress and anxiety

*Stimulates relaxation and tranquility

*Improves mood and emotional wellbeing

*Brings back cherished memories

*Boosts mental productivity and creativity

*Promotes social and romantic relationships

The heavenly scented plumeria symbolizes grace, devotion, and immortality.
The heavenly scented plumeria symbolizes grace, devotion, and immortality. | Source

The photos in this article were taken at the author’s garden located in the lower Puna district (USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 12b) on the Big Island of Hawaii.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Viet Doan


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • punacoast profile imageAUTHOR

      Viet Doan 

      2 months ago from Big Island, Hawaii

      So grateful for your lovely comments Liz, Mary and Linda! These days, whenever fear and anxiety get to me, I go for a walk in my garden, taking a sniff of this or that flower, and voila, instantly feel better! Take care my friends, please stay safe and healthy.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      2 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Your photos and the flowers are beautiful! Your garden sounds like a wonderful place to explore.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      2 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      Beautiful flowers. I posted many of your pictures on Pinterest. I have Ginger Lily in my garden and planted them near the entrance because of its sweet smell.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      2 months ago from UK

      These are beautiful. Guaranteed to brighten up lockdown. This is a really bright and upbeat article.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, dengarden.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)