For years I had planted Mignonette, one of my favorite flowers, but then I couldn’t find a source for the seeds and it has not been grown in my garden for at least seven years now.

In vain, searching through racks of seeds in my local stores for either “Reseda odorata“, the proper Latin botanical name, or its commonly known Mignonette. No plant joy. I looked online a couple years ago and ordered some Reseda seeds, but they were not the fragrant type -probably Reseda alba, and that was so very disappointing. Because fragrance is what gives Reseda odorata the raison d’être in my garden.

One of the Most Fragrant Flowers

Mignonette is translated as “Little Darling”, so-called because of its beloved perfume.

reseda odorata
photo by Koizumi

Joyfully I found where to finally find Mignonette as I was reading the blog of a fellow garden writer, May Dreams Gardens. She listed a source for this seed, Select Seeds. From her article it appears it will be her first time trying this plant, after reading how other writers extolled the way it perfumes a garden.

After finding this source, I promptly ordered three packets for this years garden. I intend to have it in several places and in containers, as well.

For anyone who loves garden fragrance, this little plant is a treat.

The Look

reseda odorata

Mignonette

Flowers

Every description warns you to not be disappointed by the plants appearance. It sets up expectations that this is going to be a botanical ugly duckling. Reseda odorata is not particularly showy, it’s true, but it is a pleasant looking little raceme of cream accented with orange.

Scent

The notes of this flower are violet and fruity. Its essence is included in perfumes such as “Aqua Lily” by The Body Shop and “Private Collection” by Estée Lauder. The absolute scent is classed as “herbal”, with a spicy watercress . (1) Another source described the smell as ” intense, sweet, violet-like and fruity odor with a green nuance.” (2)

Foliage

The foliage is medium green with oblong, spatulate leaves. It has a loose informal look which is fine for cottage gardens, where it has often been traditionally grown.

Garden Guide: How to Grow Mignonette

Native to the general area of the Mediterranean, it was introduced to England around 1750.

Best sown in situ, after the danger of frost is past. Prepare the soil well for seeds (break up clumps, and rake fine).

  • Zone 10-11, grown as an annual in colder zones (half hardy).
  • Not choosy about soil, but likes good fertility. Enrich your soil with compost and fertilize the plants during the blooming season
  • Sow shallowly (the seeds need light to sprout) in cultivated soil, germinates in 5-10 days
  • Keep the plants watered, Mignonette likes moist, but well drained soil.
  • Best in soil ph of between 6.0 and 8.5
  • Full sun to part shade
  • 1-2′ tall to 9″ wide

Reseda odorata does not like transplanting. Direct seeding where it is to grow is the best practice. Although not choosy about soil, rich fertility should yield better plants, especially if planning seed collection.

Curtis’s Botanical Magazine recommended it to be grown in a “warm, dry border”.
Fun Facts

The name comes from resado: to calm, or heal. Romans used it to heal bruises and treat tumors; Pliny claimed aphrodisiac qualities for it.

Reseda odorata is cultivated commercially in Europe for the perfume industry.

It is a bee plant.

Fragrance remains in dried flowers for months, use in potpourri.

Josephine Bonaparte became infatuated with Reseda odorata after Napoleon brought some back from his Egyptian campaign. It was she who named it “mignonette d’Egypt”.

In Edwardian and Victorian times mignonette was a popular plant for flower gardens.

Save your own seed, select the best spikes from plants with the best scent.
Reseda Plant Links

Other Types of Reseda

reseda lutea

Reseda lutea

Other articles about flower fragrance:
Heliotrope
The Most Fragrant Flowers
Summer Fragrance