Choosing Plants for a Sensory Garden

A specially planted sensory garden heightens the experience of all of the senses, rather than concentrating primarily on sight.
From: DK Books - Family Garden
Poppy Seed Pods Produce Hundreds of Seeds

Poppy Seed Pods Produce Hundreds of Seeds

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Papaver somniferum, or opium poppy, is a hardy annual, flowering in summer and shedding its seeds again in autumn. Its flowers range in color from white to purple and any shade of red or pink in between. Poppies produce seeds prolifically.


A sensory garden should be filled with scent, so the visitor is aware of being in a well-planted place without even needing to touch the plants. As well as an overall pleasant fragrance, include plants with more piquant smells, such as mints and thyme. 


Many plants rustle when touched or are blown by the wind, or make knocking or swishing noises when brushing against themselves. To increase the sense of sound, add wooden sticks to bang together and wind chimes to blow in the breeze. 


There are lots of plants that are soft to the touch, but also many that invite you to stroke them because of shiny bark or papery seed heads. Children don’t usually need telling to reach out and touch the more tactile plants in a garden, but it is good to create a place where they can be encouraged to do so. Harvesting seeds allows children to get hold of and manipulate plants and feel their different textures. 

Choice of Plants 

Honeysuckle (Lonicera) spreads its honey scent all around, but you could also include plants that appeal specifically to children’s sense of smell, such as the delicious chocolate cosmos (C. atrosanguineus). Place it next to a mint for a juxtaposition of warm and cool fragrances. Plant tactile plants, such as papery Physalis alkekengi and fuzzy Stachys byzantina “Big Ears,” next to paths and scented plants on raised beds at nose level. 

  • Alchemilla mollis 
  • Briza media 
  • Lavandula stoechas 
  • Melissa officinalis 
  • Miscanthus oligostachyus 
  • Nandina domestica 
  • Nigella damascena 
  • Papaver somniferum 
  • Pennisetum alopecuroides 
  • Phlomis fruticosa 
  • Phyllostachys nigra 
  • Physalis alkekengi 
  • Platycodon grandiflorus 
  • Senecio cineraria 
  • Stachys byzantina “Big Ears” 
  • Stipa tenuissima 
  • Trachelospermum jasminoides Lonicera periclymenum

Next Up

Choosing Plants for Year-Round Color

Certain plants will inject color into the garden all year. They provide structure and a sense of permanence as everything else changes.

Seeds or Plants? What to Consider When Buying

HGTV explains that deciding what to buy is a question of how much time, money, and space you have, and which crops you have chosen to grow.

Choosing Terrarium Plants

Making a terrarium is even easier with this helpful guide to choosing terrarium plants.

Temperate Plants for a Tropical Look

Turn your garden into a faux jungle with big leaves and bold blooms.

Garden Plants and Flowers

Learn how to discover which plants underscore and help define a specific garden design style.

Plans for Creating a Fragrant Garden

Suggestions for plants to create your own fragrant border.

Xeriscaping Plants

Plan an eco-friendly garden with xeriscaping plants. These water-savvy wonders save money and time and deliver big on beauty.

Grow Sweetshrub in Your Garden

Add a fruity-spicy scent to your yard or garden when you plant this attractive, almost carefree shrub.

Garden Exposure: Choosing the Right Site for Your Plants

Learn more about how exposure and temperature will affect your plant choices with these tips.

Ideas for Designing With Plants

Use these simple guidelines to achieve the garden look that best suits your budget and lifestyle.