Plants for a sensory garden

Are there special plants for sensory gardens?

 You can include almost any plant that you would grow in a normal garden in a sensory garden. The difference is this.

  • The main purpose of a sensory garden as well as growing plants for their decorative or culinary qualities is to create an environment that stimulates the senses.
  • Stimulation of our senses, sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound is brought about by the plants and materials we choose to use. 

In this part of my article I have listed sensory garden plants we can use to create a sensory environment and will discuss materials on my sensory garden design page.


So let's think about the senses we would like to develop and choose plants for their different types of scent, texture, sound, taste. Their visual effect and effect on those senses.

What are the senses plants can stimulate

  • Sensory plants for Touch – Select plants that are interesting to touch from the list below.
  • Sensory plants for Sight – Sight is mainly colour, movement and shape
  • Sensory plants for Sound – mainly comes from wind in the trees and breezes blowing grasses.
  • Sensory plants for Smell- Use plants that have scented leaves as well as perfumed flowers.
  • Sensory plants for Texture-Hairy leaves and corky stems. 

Note: Some scented plants can also be planted to stimulate other senses like seeing, touch, sound and taste, so the list of sensory plants on this page may include the same plants in more than one category.

Plants for scent

When you select your sensory garden plants for smell, also choose some for the different ways they release scent;

  • Scents that fill the air and can be smelt without touching the plant like Mock orange, Philadelphia, some roses, Honeysuckle, and the Curry plant.
  • Plants you will need to get up close to smell, Violet, primrose and some Narcissus.
  • Plants you will need to pinch or crush in your hand to smell, like Peppermint, Apple mint, Lemon thyme most culinary herbs, Camomile and scented Geranium.
  • Plants that give off scent when crushed under foot. Chamomile, Sweet Woodruff, Creeping Thyme, Woolly Thyme

List of Sensory Plants, Flowers, Shrubs and Trees.

List of Sensory garden plants for scent

Fragrant Trees and Shrubs for sensory gardens.
Buddleia the Butterfly Bush, Citrus, Daphne, Frangipani, Gardenia, Jasmine, Lilac, Mock Orange, Rose.

Fragrant Vines
Clematis, Climbing Rose, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Passionflower, Sweet pea, Wisteria.

Fragrant Flowering Plants

Basil, Beebalm, Chamomile, Heliotrope, Hyacinth, Lavender, Lemonbalm, Lily, Lily-of-the-Valley, Mint, Peony, Pinks, Sage, Scented Geranium, Stock, Thyme, Violet. 

Fragrant Ground Cover plants
Chamomile, Sweet Woodruff, Creeping Thyme, Woolly Thyme. 


List of plants for sensory effect.

Sensory plants for touch – Make a list of the plants that are interesting to touch, maybe choose plants such as Euonymus Alatus for its corky bark, Betula Jaquemontii for the main stem, Stachys silver carpet for its leavesCape Jasmine, Cockscomb, Feather grass, Gay-feather, Globe Amaranth, Hare's Tale Grass, Lamb's ears, Lily, Love-lies-bleeding, Mullein, Obedient Plant, Poppy, Pussy willow, Rose mallow, Squirrel-tail grass, Statice, Woolly thyme, Wormwood.

Sensory plants for sight – Sight is mainly colour, movement and shape of foliage and flowers, try to include plants like Eucalytus Gunii or salix trees which provide both colour and movement.

Sensory plants for sound – mainly comes from wind blowing through the stem and leaves, so plants like bamboos and most large leafed plants work well in a sensory garden. Also, try Animated Oats, Balloon flower, Bamboo, Chinese lantern plant, Honesty or Money Plant, Pampas grass, Pearl Grass. 
Trees for sound include Birch, Pine and Poplar.

Sensory plants for smell and touch,  include plants with scented leaves such as Rosmarinus and herbs such as lemon balm or mint and lavender.
Ground cover plants to be walked on. These areas and plants are often forgotten, but make a big difference to the finished garden.
  • Fragrant Ground Cover plants Use these plants for covering corners, path kerbs, ground cover and any bit of ground that is difficult to plant. Chamomile, Sweet Woodruff, Creeping Thyme, Woolly Thyme. Chamomile can be planted near to path edges and under benches where it will give off a lovely "apple" scent when trod on. 
  • Plants for pathways. These are plants and shrubs that will tolerate medium to heavy foot traffic and can be planted in crevices, cracks and gaps in paving and alongside walkways.  I have listed a few here plants for pathways


Not forgetting  a very important sensory organ, our tongue.

Plants for taste 
Safe fruits and vegetables include pumpkins, tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, carrots, strawberries. Herbs, like mint, dill, and parsley can be good for flavouring many types of food as well as providing colour and texture in a sensory garden design.

Lists of easy to grow fruit and vegetables here growing your own. Try this  Wildflower lawn  

And a few of my favourites I use when building sensory gardens.

Scents without touching the plant  Mock orange, Philadelphus, some roses, Honeysuckle, and the Curry plant.


Sensory plants to get up close to smell the scent   Violet, primrose and some Narcissus.


Ones to pinch or crush in your hand    Peppermint, Apple mint, Lemon thyme most culinary herbs, Camomile and scented Geranium.


Pathways, Plant fragrant plants like rosemary, lavender, honeysuckle, sweet alyssum, lemon balm, mint, and sweet peas along paths and entrances where they can be fully appreciated. Plants to be planted in paths

planting tips

I don't want to complicate things here, but as well as selecting plants for their sensory effect it's a good idea, essential in fact, to select plants that will thrive in the type of soil in your garden and conditions like sun and shade .

Trial and error will work but to save time, money and avoid disappointment read the articles I have written and linked above.




  • Some plants like to be walked all over, some crushed just now and then, some don't. 
  • Some plants like life in the sun and sand, some prefer shade, some won't.
  • Some plants thrive in clay, some grow better in loam.
  • Do a bit of homework to make your sensory plants feel at home.