Many gardening articles have been written about wonderful, fragrant plants to include in your garden. Being somewhat of a contrarian, I would like to write about some of the many horrible-smelling plants out there. Many of these are beautiful and unusual, but you may want to plant them in an out-of-the-way spot so they can be admired from a distance.
I’ve already written an entire column on Bradford pears and their stinky awfulness, so I won’t revisit that topic.
Crown Imperial (Fritillaria imperialis) is a popular bulb plant with nodding flowers on top of a 2- or 3-foot stalk. Since it is so tall, it should be planted toward the back of the garden bed so the flowers can be admired from a distance. Although beautiful, the flowers emit an unpleasant odor that has been described as “skunky.”
Ginkgo biloba is a hardy tree that can thrive in both hot and cold climates. Their leaves turn brilliant yellow in the fall, and their unusual fan shape gives it an exotic look. These make an attractive addition to any landscape, but you should make sure that you have only male trees. The female trees produce fruit that make a slimy mess and smell like vomit. If you want to grow one of these ancient beauties, make sure it’s a male variety.
Society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) is a favorite landscape plant due to its hardiness and drought-tolerance. It bears light purple flowers on 2-foot stalks surrounded by strappy, light green leaves. When my kids were little, they used to love to present me with a hand-picked bouquet of these garlic-scented flowers. My son said he liked them because they smelled “like hamburgers.” Society garlic is a fine plant for the garden, but plant it away from the house.
Pipe vine or Dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia macrophylla) is a woody, climbing vine native to the eastern United States. It has attractive, heart-shaped leaves with an interesting vein pattern and flowers that are shaped like a curly Dutch pipe (of course). It is a host plant for the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, but it depends on flies for pollination. In order to attract those flies, the flowers smell somewhat like rotting meat. Grow this on a trellis away from any seating areas.
Sea holly (Eryngium sp.) is an unusual flowering plant that looks like a blue thistle. The spiky flowers make an interesting addition to floral arrangements due to their unique shape and slate blue color. These flowers have the unfortunate tendency to smell like dog poop, so don’t plant these too close to your entryway or your guests will be checking the bottoms of their shoes.
Some plant names are self-explanatory, so there’s not much more to say about the Corpse flower or Dead Horse arum.
You’ve been warned.
Looking for more gardening tips? Here’s how to contact the Master Gardener program in your area.
Los Angeles County
[email protected]; 626-586-1988;
[email protected]; 949-809-9760;
[email protected]; 951-683-6491 ext. 231;
San Bernardino County
[email protected]; 909-387-2182;