Although the December garden has largely gone to sleep for the year there are ways to bring it to life. And one of those is to plant shrubs with scented flowers into pots and containers.

This means you can have a delightful scent by the front door or pathways leading to the house. Even if the area is paved!

There are a surprising number of winter flowering, scented shrubs to choose from that will grow well in containers. This is provided they’re regularly fed and watered, and pots kept off the ground to allow excess rain to drain.

Winter-flowering honeysuckle

winter flowering honeysuckle

Winter flowering honeysuckle is an easy-to-care-for deciduous shrub.

It pumps out delightful, highly scented, creamy-white flowers before the leaves appear from mid-December until March.

It will grow well in full sun or part shade. And if the branches become too large or straggly for the pot, they can be easily trimmed back.

Just ensure you prune immediately after flowering finishes otherwise you could result in next year’s flower buds being cut off!


Daphnes are renowned for their heady fragrance and compact shapes and, as a result, it’s tempting to grow in containers.  Many are deep-rooting, so choose a deep container with equal parts of John Innes No 3, sharp sand and multipurpose compost.  They also benefit from being given a foliar feed three times between April and September.

Most grow well in part shade and are best placed in a sheltered location.

However, D. mezereum and D. odora will cope well in a cold site.

Smaller alpine Daphne like Daphne arbuscula and D. petraea grow well in containers.

After planting keep well-watered for at least a year.

Once established they should only need watering during dry spells.

Daphne odora

Christmas Box

Sarcococca purple stem

Sarcococca fill the air with highly scented creamy-white flowers during the winter months and have evergreen, shiny, dark, small leaves.

They grow well in full or part shade. There are several different varieties to choose from.

Ranging from Sarcococca confusa to S. hookeriana var. digyna ‘Purple Stem’.

This has, as its name implies, dark purple flower stems and flowers with striking purple outer markings at the base of the petals.

Autumn and Winter-flowering Camellia

Less well known than their spring flowering cousins, the sasanqua camellia has single and semi-double petals, between spring and autumn.

These, although smaller than spring flowering C. japonica are often scented and more profuse.

They grow best in acid soil so make sure you buy ericaceous compost for the container. Plus, use rainwater to water.

Place containers in a bright, sunny, sheltered location and choose compact varieties.

Some great examples include white-flowered C. sasanqua ‘Gay Sue’ with a strong, musk scent or light pink flowered C. sasanqua ‘Mignonne’.

Camellia japonica

By planting these fragrant shrubs into your pots now, you will reap the rewards for years to come.

Learn how to make a winter container:

Or check out my Pinterest board for more ideas: