By Dr Seema Sud

Fragrance is predominant in Indian flowers as compared to flowers in the West.The Western flowers have beautiful colours and structure but  have only a  faint fragrance whereas the fragrance of most Indian flowers is pronounced,strong, intoxicating and soothing .

Every garden should have some fragrant flowers/ trees/ shrubs and creepers.A garden without fragrance is like a body without a soul.

Fragrant flowers are rooted in Indian tradition,culture and heritage.

Fragrant flowers are universally used in gardens,homes, weddings,religious ceremonies,offerings to deities and by women in venis and gajras,almost daily. 

Our literature is full of description of fragrant flowers and trees.1500 years ago, Kalidasa has in his epics- Kumarsambhavam,Abhigyan Shakuntalam and Meghdootam- immortalized the esthetic and emotional beauty of fragrance in flowers.Jayshankar Prasad is another good example in Hindi literature.

Fragrant flowers have also got useful medicinal and Aurvedic healing properties.

Moghal rulers realised the value of fragrance and Noorjehan encouraged the perfumery industry – attars–  to capture and preserve the fragrance of flowers in bottles. Perfumed jal was also used in cooking.

In the time available, I have selected just a few examples of uncommon fragrant flowers/trees/ shrubs .


Native of India. 

    Tree….Ht..30 ft..Girth..25 ft

Symbol of Love and Wisdom. In Hindu mythology, Kadam was a favourite of Lord Krishna.Kalidasa has mentioned Kadamb in Meghdootam.


Found in Western Ghats and hotter parts of India.It is said that 2000years ago, there was a vast forest of Kadamba trees in Vrindavan.

Leaves are simple; flowers are light orange, small and dense in a round ball  like inflorescence. Fragrance..sweet smelling.They appear like a solid, hairy, orangish balls. Seeds are in small capsules, packed closely together – containing approx 8000 seeds. 

SEEDS have the medicinal value in curing digestic tract problems like ulcers, diarrhoea, fever and vomiting.

A postal stamp was issued to commemorate this ancient Indian tree.

Flowering season..monsoon.

FRUITS are orange,acidic and fleshy, cherished by animals.

Propagation by seeds

2. MAULSHRI.. Tree,also known as Bakul

It is known as a flower of patience.


A slow growing tree,found widely in almost all parts of India.


A lovely green tree with small shiny thick leaves; a prized ornamental tree which gives a dense shade.

Flowering season: March to July.During these months it spreads a very delicate aroma in the atmosphere. Flowers are tiny, star shaped and cream in colour. They open in the night and in the mornings flowers fall on the ground ,making a carpet.People love to collect them because they retain their fragrance for several days.

They are offered in the temples throughout the country.

Fruits are edible.

Medicinal value: Various parts of the tree have medicinal properties mostly used for oral hygiene.According to Ayurveda the flowers are acrid and cooling.It is taken to kill intestinal worms.Flowers are used for preparing a lotion which is used in wounds and ulcers.They are also powdered and consumed in various preparations as brain tonic.

Dry flower dhuni is used for reliving as asthma.

3 Golden champa – tree- flower of divine smile and a sacred flower of India.It is also known as tree of Shiva. 

English name..michelia champaca.. Hindi.. Swarna Champa

A native tree of India.Grown outside the temples.


A large evergreen tree,60 ft in HT and Width..40 ft.It has very beautiful yellowish white fragrant flowers . The fragrance has a diffusive warmth with a tinge of spiciness, sweetness and floral essence which is very rare in botanical world.The fragrance is so toxicating that it can take a person into a meditative world.The fragrance can be felt from a hundred feet away.

From olden days this flower has been used in religious ceremonies throughout India. 

Champa flowers are used to make the most expensive perfume in the world, called Joy.

4. Indian Cork Tree:

Other names..neem chameli, akaash chameli, millingtonia.

It is cultivated in most parts of India.


It is a tall and straight tree with very few branches so it looks very ornamental. It is fast growing but the wood is brittle and can grow upto 45 ft.It can be easily damaged in storms.

Flowering..from April to June and November to December.

It gives a profusion of silvery white flowers with a delightful fragrance. It has bell shaped calyx with a long tube of petals.The flowers are shortlived.They open at night and in the mornings there is a carpet of flowers on the ground.

The tree doesn’t give fruit very easily.

It is cultivated throughout India for ornamental purposes.

The bark gives an inferior quality of cork.

Propagation: through suckers.The tree is surrounded by suckers which can be taken out for replanting.

5. KEWRA : A spiritual perfume.

– Ketaki in Sanskrit; Common name..screwpine

– very small tree 

It is found wild in Southern India and Andamans.

Description:A small slender and branching tree with very flexible trunk, supported by brace roots. It has rosettes of long pointed, stiff and spiny leaves.

Flowering season: Summer.

It has a very long, pale yellow and a very fragrant flower.Fragrance is somewhat similar to that of a rose flower but more fruity.It is used as perfume, oil and Kewra jal. Kewra jal is used for cooking. Even when the flower is dried, it has a most powerful and delightful fragrance.

It provides relief to insomniacs.

6.Raat ki Raani : Shrub. Flower of Air.

Other names: Night blooming jasmine, Cestrum nocturnum.

HT 4 mts.. 


Evergreen shrub. Likes lots and lots of water during the growing season.

New shoots have flowers on almost every leaf during early and late summer. They are whitish green, open at night ad emit an overpowering fragrance.This plant loves sun and goes dormant in winter but the soil has to be kept moist. Fruits are poisonous.

Propagation: Cutting- in late winter or spring. Seeds and air layering.

It is a gorgeous plant with charming blooms. Every garden should have this plant.

7. Gandhraj:Shrub: Radiating Purity.

Gardenia, Din-ka- raja.

Beautiful shrub with very fragrant flowers.

Ht .. 6-8 ft spread.. 6-8 feet.


Leaves are glossy and leathery.

Flowering season ..mid spring to early summer..Mid March to end May.

Flowers are white, highly scented but when turning old, they become creamy yellow.

One flower will fill the entire room with fragrance.

8.Henna : Shrub: Energy turned towards the Divine.

HT 8ft in 5 years

Description: It is a desert plant , needs lot of sun and prefers hot climate with long droughts.

When the soil dries up give lot of water once or twice a week. 

Can be used as hedges.

Propagation; By seeds.

Henna flowers in a cluster emit a strong fragrance.White in colour and used in perfumes since 1500 BC. Prophet Mohammad’s favourite scent.

Leaves are used for colouring hair, for tattoo and for cooling burning skins.

  1. Please correct the description of Kewda/Ketaki. It is found not in South India, but whole of East Coast of India starting from West Bengal. In fact, the Kewda found in Odisha’s Chhatrapur area, is the best & contain maximum Essence Oil.

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