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What Do Orchids Smell Like?

Have you ever wondered what orchids smell like? Or have you ever dreamed of walking through fields of orchids in your home, being surrounded by the soft, tropical fragrance of exotic orchids? Did you ever find yourself in the situation where you bought an orchid online, excitedly waiting to stick your nose into its majestic blossoms … but … there is just … nothing?

Did this ever happen to you, even though you did your research on what different orchid species smell like? It has happened to the best of us orchid lovers.

Let us be clear about what orchids really smell like, which orchids have the best fragrance, and which stinky orchids to avoid.

Orchids come in all shapes and sizes and range from purely white petals to flowers with an explosion of colors. Just as their looks vary, so do their scents. Some orchids smell like vanilla and chocolate, but some smell so rancid and overpowering, you rather want to avoid them.

6 Reasons Why Your Orchid Does Not Smell:

  1. Young Orchids Do Not Smell

Reason number one why your orchid does not smell: It’s a first-time bloomer. Did you buy the plant at a very young age, or did you even propagate the orchid yourself? You have been eagerly waiting for its first bloom and strong scents. Now your orchid is crowned with its first flower, but the wonderful fragrance is missing. 

Do not worry! This is absolutely normal. Young orchids might have no fragrance at all. It will develop with the next round of flowers – so just be patient and keep on gardening.

  1. The Orchid is Getting Comfortable in Its Environment

Have you just relocated the orchid and it does not have a scent? Orchids are very sensitive plants, and they might be adjusting to their new environment. Have you ever noticed that new flowers that opened in your home are a little bit paler than flowers that opened at the store? This acclimation period can affect the fragrance of the plant as well. If you continue to provide the right care to your orchids as described below, your orchid will easily adjust to its new home.

  1. The orchid is unhealthy and stressed

The fragrance is also reflected in the health of the orchid. If the plant is stressed due to improper care, the orchid might stop smelling so wonderfully. Make sure to pay attention to the proper care suitable for your orchid. Make sure that your orchid is happy and healthy, by putting it into the right environment. Also, make sure that it has enough foliage and roots, as well as enough water. Learn about the proper care of your orchid.

Make sure that the plant is in the most suitable environment. Does the orchid get the humidity it needs? Does it get enough light or even too much light? Only a healthy, thriving Orchid will reach its potential and also generate a gorgeous scent.

Keep in mind that a change of environment can also stress an orchid. If you brought home your new plant from the nursery, it is likely that it is going through an acclimation period. The plant might take some time to get used to its new environment. You might notice some paler leaves – and the orchid’s scent might also be affected.

  1. The time of day

Believe it or not – it might just not be the right time of day that you are smelling your orchid. Because some orchids are night owls and some of them are actually early birds – just like us humans. It is a fact that some orchids release their fragrance in the early morning hours and some in the evening. This can be specific to their species.

For example, the Brassavola nodosa does not have the name “Queen of the night” for nothing.

It seems strange at first that orchids only release their pleasant smell during a specific time of day, right? But it does make sense when you think about how mother nature works and what an intricate system it is.

  1. The age of the blossoms

Just like the lifetime of an orchid’s blossom is limited, so is its scent. When the bloom gets old and will fall off in a few days, it is also likely that it will cease to smell.

You can expect the orchid to lose its fragrance about a week before the flowers will fall. But don’t you worry. For the next round of flowering, the orchid’s flowers will have the same powerful fragrance that you were used to.

  1. It’s in the genetics

So you have done all your research, you know exactly what kind of species of orchid you have, you know it’s supposed to have a lovely scent, you are an expert in its care, you keep it happy and healthy, and yet … there is no scent.

It might just be in the genetics of the orchid. It is possible that this is due to its variability in species. Even though your particular species might be known to be very fragrant, it is possible that your individual specimen is not. That is because of the variability of hybrids – and there might be simply no scent at all, unfortunately.

Do Orchids Smell Like Vanilla?

Vanilla is a pure, warm, soft fragrance that reminds many of baking. Some orchids surely carry a vanilla fragrance. For good reason! Did you know that the vanilla bean is actually harvested from an orchid plant? More specifically, the vanilla bean comes from the family of the genus vanilla.

The history of the vanilla bean reaches back a long time. The first peoples to cultivate it were the Totonacs and then the Aztecs in Mexico. Fun fact: Real vanilla bean is the second most expensive spice, right after saffron.

Can you grow a vanilla plant at home?

While you can certainly grow a vanilla bean orchid indoors, it will be difficult – if not impossible – to grow vanilla beans, also called vanilla pots, at home.

You shall be warned that the vanilla bean is not meant for orchid beginners, as you need to carefully balance humidity, irrigation, and pruning.

In exchange for your hard work, you will only be able to enjoy the flowers of the vanilla orchid for one day – as they die quickly. Common issues that you could run into are yellowing leaves and rotting roots. Only if you ensure the right care of the plant, you may or may not harvest vanilla beans after nine months.


What Are The Most Fragrant Orchids

Some orchids smell not at all. Ohers will make your house and clothes smell like orchids for weeks. What are the most fragrant orchids? Attention! Some of these orchids will leave your house smelling like cat toilet…


  • Longiflorum Orchid

The Longiflorum orchid is a beautiful, very exotic-looking houseplant. But its exotics are not the reason you will not find it at anybody’s home. Its fragrance is so strong, that it is simply not suitable to admire at home.


  • The Lady Slippers Orchid

Another exotic orchid with a strong fragrance is the Lady Slippers Orchid. This one, though, has a pleasant, floral scent that might remind you of red roses. The scent of the Lady slippers orchid is so strong that when touched, the smell stays on your hands for several hours!


  • Trichopilia orchids

The gods are divided over this one. The trichopilia orchid looks in fact very innocent, with its fragile white flowers with pink sprinkles. But do not get too close, as some say it smells like cat urine – others say it smells like chocolate. What a difference in perception!

Do White Orchids Have a Scent?

White orchids in particular have a delightful scent. Don’t you think there is something pristine about the beauty of white orchids? Their immaculate and pure petals let them shine without the distraction of colors. For some, white orchids are a symbol of beauty and perfection. Many of the white orchids make up in fragrance what they lack in color. In nature, white orchids attract pollinators with their alluring fragrance. That is why white or light-colored orchids attract insects during the night. They smell stronger after the sun has set, to attract nocturnal moths.

Would you like to crown your home with a majestic white orchid? Check out this exquisite collection made by the American Orchid Society.

Which Orchid Varieties Have The Most Pleasant Fragrance?

You have already learned a lot about what affects the smell of the orchid. Now it is time to take you on a guided tour through the most enchanting, magically smelling orchids out there:

Oncidium Sharry Baby smells like a cherry chocolate pie

The Oncidium Sharry Baby has a mouthwatering, delicious scent of milk chocolate and vanilla. Its strong chocolate scent earned it the nickname of chocolate orchid. It might fill your home with the scent of freshly baked brownies. No need to get artificial room scents when you can fill your home with the smell of Sharry Baby and its chocolate factory. The Sharry Baby gives off the strongest scent in the early hours of the morning. 

Cynocles Wine Delight looks and smells like a full-bodied wine

The Cynocles Wine Delight stands out with its deep red and purple petals. If it does not grab attention by its fragrance, it will definitely stand out with its looks. Its deep red blossoms resemble a spicy, cherry-like wine. Just like red wine – you might have a love-or hate-relationship with this one, but it surely is worth a try.

Rhynchorides Bangkok Sunset takes you on a vacation

The Rhynchorides Bangkok Sunset is the embodiment of a holiday on the island of Thailand. Imagine yourself on the beach, sipping on a pineapple and mango smoothie, watching the sun go down. Its beautiful flowers with bright yellow petals and a pick center have a unique scent of light florals, comparable to violets and lilies.

Sedirea Japonica resembles lush Japanese forests

The Sedirea Japonica is native to the forests of Japan, China, and Korea. People say that it smells like a fresh fruit bowl from the grocery store. Similarly, the scent has been compared to lemons and the sweet fragrance of lemon cake.

Brassavola Little Stars plays the main character in her soap opera

She is also known under the name lady of the night. She is a beautiful hybrid of Mexican Brasolava nodosa and Jamiacan subulifolia. This orchid’s fragrance is not flowery or sweet. With her scent being strongest during the night, she diffuses base notes of a clean, fresh, almost soapy fragrance. The Little Stars’ smell will travel through your entire home.

Phalaenopsis Bellina with small flowers packed with lots of fragrance

The beautiful flowers of the Phalaenopsis Bellina might be small, but mighty. Originally from Borneo, it only produces one, maybe two flowers per flower spike. But the few blossoms the orchid produces are loaded with fragrance. You can smell the notes of peach purée and sweet nectar. The flower of the Phalaenopsis Bellina will bring you joy for around a whole month, with its fragrance being the most dominant during the daytime.

Oncidium Katrin Zoch

Do not be tricked by the delicate appearance of the Oncidium Katrin Zoch. The Katrin Zoch stands out with its delicate yellow center, coated with a deep purple dress. Despite its extravagant looks, it is actually easy to take care of. It will reward you with plenty of flowers and a wonderful, sweet, rich, thick scent of sugar candy.

Your sense of smell is personal

When you buy an orchid online, even though you have done your research before – it might still surprise you when the orchid arrives at your home, and you get to experience it in person for the first time.

Keep one thing in mind; People have different perceptions of scents. Your own sense of smell is based on your own experience and is unique to you. Notes that some people might detect with some orchids might not apply to what you perceive. And that is totally fine, and also fun.By the way; Did you ever get close to a Trichopilia orchid? We are curious to know what you think it smells like. Cats or chocolate? Definitely let us know in the comments.

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