Sensory garden plants: the 10 best plants to grow in your garden

Sensory garden plants can delight our five senses. A backyard filled with these will have visual appeal, a beautiful scent, an enchanting sound as their leaves move in the breeze, and interesting textures. Plus, of course, some of these choices — including edible flowers and herbs — appeal to our sense of taste.

While all gardens have the potential to delight our five senses, sensory garden ideas very specifically focus on these elements in their design and in the selection of plants for the space, turning the dial on the view, the hearing, touch, smell and taste.

Here we’ve put together a guide to our favorite plant options for a sensory garden to help you with your design.

Sensory garden plants

Sensory garden plants in this selection include those that particularly appeal to one or more of the five senses. Use them to inform your flower bed ideas and be sure to choose a mix of plants with varying habits, such as those that climb a trellis or have a dominant presence in the border due to their height.

1. Curry plant (Helichrysum italicum)

Helichrysum italicum (curry plant)

(Image credit: Nahhan/GettyImages)

This compact evergreen shrub with silver-grey foliage and pale lemon pollen-laden flower clusters is beautifully fragrant on warm days and known to attract bees. It likes a sunny, sheltered location in well-drained soil and needs pruning to keep its shape.

Height: 3.9 to 9.6 inches (10 to 50 cm)

Spacing: 19.6 to 40 in (50 cm to 1 m)

2. Anethum graveolens (dill)

Anethum graveolens Dill)

(Image credit: Tasty Food and Photography/GettyImages)

With its feathery, aromatic blue-green leaves and flat umbels of bright yellow flowers, this plant has many different roles in the sensory garden, from adding a long-blooming glossy acid green color to creating a textural interest with its glittery blooms and tasty leaves for the kitchen. Happy in full sun where it will self-sow freely.

Height: 19.6 to 40 in (50 cm to 1 m)

Width: 3.9 to 19.6 inches (10 to 50 cm)

3. Chamomile

chamomile lawn

(Image credit: Jacky Parker Photograph/GettyImages)

Whether stomping it underfoot on summer lawns to release its crisp apple scent, planting it under seats to create a pleasant place to linger, or adding it to teas soothing, fragrant chamomile is one of our favorite sensory garden plants and one that can be used as part of a whole host of garden decorating ideas. The feathery leaves are very fragrant to the touch and the daisy-like flowers add a lovely detail.

Height: 11.8″ (30cm)

Spread: 17.7 in (45 cm)

4. Lamb’s Ears (Stachys byzantina)

Stachys Byzantina (Lamb's Ears)

(Image credit: Bernhard Ernst/Alamy)

A must-have in the sensory garden for its velvety foliage and a smart choice for a small garden, this evergreen perennial has very pleasant to the touch textured leaves that are so soft that this plant is also known as bunny ears. It also produces spikes of purple-pink flowers in summer. It likes well-drained soils in a sunny position.

Height: 3.9 to 19.6 inches (10 to 50 cm)

Spacing: 19.6 to 40 in (50 cm to 1 m)

5. Buddleia

Purple Buddleia Bush

(Image credit: Jacky Parker Photography/GettyImages)

This plant is known as butterfly bush for a reason. Attracting beautiful butterflies to your garden is easy with a buddleia that will bloom for months. Prune the buddleia to keep the flowers (and butterflies) coming. Choose a sunny, sheltered location for your plant, as butterflies love heat, but it really will grow anywhere.

Height: 8 to 10 feet (2.5 to 3 m)

Width: 8 to 10 feet (2.5 to 3 m)

6. Lavender

lavender 'Hidcoté'

(Image credit: Thompson & Morgan)

A sensory garden staple, add fragrance and color by using lavender in a sunny spot, either potted on its own or woven among other summer blooms. For impact, place it near doorways and paths to take full advantage of the scent as you pass, and watch the bees and butterflies swarm everywhere.

Height: 19.6 to 40 in (50 cm to 1 m)

Spacing: 19.6 to 40 in (50 cm to 1 m)

7. Orange Mock (Philadelphus)

Philadelphia mock orange

(Image credit: Olga Bungova/GettyImages)

The pure white blooms set against dark green foliage mean the mock orange shrub is a visual treat and has an intoxicating scent that also attracts butterflies. Philadelphus tolerate most soils in full sun or light shade.

Height: 10 to 12 feet (3 to 3.6 m)

Width: 10 to 12 feet (3 to 3.6 m)

8. Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

echinacea purpurea flowers

(Image credit: Martin Wahlborg/GettyImages)

Long-lived purple coneflowers have pink flowers with a distinctive orange cone in the center. They work well planted in galleries with ornamental grasses and other herbaceous perennials, and are popular with pollinators. Grow in rich, well-drained soil in full sun.

Height: 3.2 to 4.9 feet (1 to 1.5 m)

Width: 3.9 to 19.6 inches (10 to 50 cm)

9. Allium

purple alliums

(Image credit: Mint Images/GettyImages)

Introduce sensory garden plants with both color and shape with some of these magic globes. Balls of starry petals rise high on spiky stems to float above other blooms and add a strong vertical accent. Another advantage is that bees and butterflies flock to them.

Height: 1.6 to 3.2 feet (50 cm to 1 m)

Width: 3.9 to 19.6 inches (10 to 50 cm)

10. Bamboo

bamboo plant

(Image Credit: Keren Su China Span/Alamy Stock Photo)

Create a serene space for quiet reflection. Bamboo canes form an airy green screen that shifts and ripples in the breeze to add movement to your planting. The rustle of foliage can also help mask traffic and other background noises to improve the tranquility in your yard.

Height: 13 to 26 feet (4 to 8 m)

Width: 13 to 26 feet (4 to 8 m)

What plants do you put in a sensory garden?

Plants for a sensory garden can include flowers, foliage, bark, and stems, all of which can be visually appealing and provide textural interest. Velvety lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina), feathery plumes of ornamental grasses and fresh fern fronds are all good to browse, as are lavender drifts which also have the added benefit of releasing an intoxicating scent.

Other aromatic plants good for a sensory garden include roses, honeysuckle and jasmine, as well as aromatic herbs that you can pick and crush between your fingers to release their fragrance.

Choose sensory garden plants that produce a soothing sound as well as eye-catching movement when the wind blows, such as ornamental grasses and bamboo.

Another obvious way to stimulate the senses in your garden is to opt for bright, bold flowers in interesting shapes, such as purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and purple allium pom poms.

Choosing flowers that attract butterflies and attract bees to the garden adds another visual dimension as well as the soothing sound of lazy humming.

Which sensory garden plants are good for autism?

Sensory garden plants you might choose if a child has autism include sunflower, bamboo, silver sage and sweet pea, according to Living Autism, which provides assistance in finding services, advice and support. of autism.

In general, go for plants with different colors, textures, scents, and tastes, and also consider things like water features and wind chimes.