Why do plants smell more at night

At night in the scented garden

Three particularly good-smelling flowering plants for warm evenings currently exude their sweet aroma, but not all of them get the intense smell of angel's trumpet, lily and tobacco.

Some flowers sleep during the day and only wake up when the sun goes down. You can't tell by looking at them, but you can smell when they begin to loll around, so to speak. These flowers only give off their scent at night, and their sweet perfume is an invisible yet one of the most luxurious gifts of midsummer - if not for everyone.

The intense fragrance is not intended for us, but is intended to attract pollinator insects, but I personally steal a small part of their food from night owls. In the evenings I wander through the chirping, buzzing summer garden, pick one or the other blossom, put it in the vase and use it to scent the whole house. Then I happily sniff the scent of twilight and the night darkness, while outside the crickets chirp and the grasshoppers fiddle.

Three plants are to be highlighted as intensive fragrances: there is the angel's trumpet with its huge flower funnels. The South American nightshade plant is cultivated in this country as a container plant that needs to be overwintered in a cool but frost-free environment. In summer she stands outdoors in not too sunny places, drinks several watering cans on hot days and is hungry for fertilizer.

Whoever pays homage to her and cares for her accordingly will be presented with a lavish abundance of deliciously fragrant, giant trumpet blossoms at night. Depending on the variety, they are white, creamy yellow or pink. As a precaution, the plant is highly toxic. The seeds in particular contain alkaloids, which are closely related to the poisons of deadly nightshade and henbane.

The scent of the angel's trumpet, botanically Brugmansia, formerly assigned to the genus Datura, is said to cause nausea in some people. So far, however, I don't know anyone who has done this. Quite different with the second night fragrance of the season, the lily. Quite a few do not tolerate their smell well.

For example, you should never give the writer Tanja P. a bouquet of lilies, because she will immediately run away. One beautiful summer evening when she was asked to step onto a podium that had been lovingly decorated by the organizers with large quantities of lilies, she was forced to ask devotedly to have them removed, because she is one of those who get an immediate headache from the intense lily aroma and causes nausea.

For such cases, among the 115 species of lily and the 13,000 hybrid varieties that have arisen through breeding and selection to date, there are some that do not smell at all, such as the scarlet lily and the tiger lily. Besides the rose, the ornamental plant is the oldest ornamental plant in human history, which is not surprising in view of its elegance and conspicuousness.

The more than 3500 year old lily frescoes from the time of the Minoan culture are among the oldest depictions of flowers and document the appreciation that the lily has been accorded for thousands of years. Some houses from this period have been preserved, as well as wonderful paintings on their walls. They show lilies in lavish abundance and opulence. In the “Villa of the Lilies” on Crete they bloom white, in Akrotiri on Santorini they bloom red.

Lilies are grateful and easy-care garden creatures that like to stay in the same place for a long time and can get very old there without ever being replanted. Designing the garden with lilies is easy, because the conspicuousness of the plant always speaks for itself. However, lilies look best when they are planted in groups and surrounded by subtle accompanying plants. The flowers always look sensational in front of dark wooded areas, and the same applies to patio and balcony gardeners: Lilies can also be grown excellently for years in pots and planters.

A classic annual plant, on the other hand, is the tobacco plant. It is also a nightshade plant like the angel's trumpet, originates like it from South America and is better to cultivate in partial shade. Tobacco is best grown from seeds that are scattered in the flowerbed or in the flower pot.

There are varieties that grow over two meters high, others stay low. The tobacco scent is less intrusive than that of lily and brugmansia. I like to put the tobacco pots in front of windows and front doors, and when the cool night air blows through the house, it takes the scent with it.


Angel trumpet. The perennial tub plant, provided the planter is large enough, grows quickly and becomes huge. The ever-thirsty nightshade plant absolutely needs a stand that can be refilled on the mornings on hot days.

Lily. The onion plant with its millennia-old cultural history can be grown just as well in pots as it is outdoors. Those who are plagued by voles protect the onions with a buried wire basket.

Tobacco. The plant develops innumerable fine seeds, which the wind disperses. So don't be surprised if new tobacco plants appear in the following year. These can be implemented.

("Die Presse", print edition, July 22, 2018)