Hibiscus generally has no scent. Only a small percentage of hibiscus flowers are fragrant. Their scent is very mellow, associated with sweetness and tropical nature.
Hibiscus fragrans are one of the few (from hundreds) types of hibiscus flowers that have a scent. It has a floral tropical scent, but only in its seeds.
Have you ever wondered what does hibiscus smell like? We see this rare note in all types of perfumes from Guerlain to Beyonce perfumes. But what is hibiscus and does it have a smell?
What is Hibiscus?
Hibiscus is a type of flower comprising hundreds of species that grow in warm climates. Tropical and subtropical climates are preferred by this plant in almost all of its varieties.
Hibiscus flowers can be red, white, yellow, and all other possible color combinations. It’s mainly used as a decorative plant and a pollination plant as it attracts plenty of bees, butterflies, and pollinating wasps.
Hibiscus is a unique species with both annual and perennial flowering. It grows as a woody shrub or even as a small tree.
What does Hibiscus Smell Like?
Most types of hibiscus flowers have no scent at all, they smell like pure air. Rare types of hibiscus smell mildly sweet, tropical, floral, and tart-like, similar to the scent of hibiscus tea.
Almost all hibiscus flowers don’t have a smell of their own. These flowers are not fragrant and they can’t be distilled into a fragrant essential oil.
Hibiscus fragrans, Rose mallow, and Hibiscus Sabdariffa L are types of hibiscus flowers that are fragrant. While only mildly fragrant, they smell floral, tropical, tart-like, and a bit sweet.
Hibiscus fragrans – this type of flower is named after the Latin word ‘smell’. It has a very low fragrance, sometimes undetectable.
Rose mallow (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) – this hibiscus has a candled rose scent which is also sometimes undetectable. The smell of Rose mallow hibiscus intensifies as it turned into an essential oil.
Hibiscus tea scent – various dried hibiscus flowers are used in the popular hibiscus tea. It has a red color and it tastes and smells like a tart.
Roselle (Hibiscus Sabdariffa L) – sweet and sour smell.
Hibiscus smells floral
From these few examples above we can conclude that the (many) hibiscus flowers of the world aren’t fragrant. Those (few) that generally smell floral. This smell is so delicate that it rarely has any persistence or it even goes completely unnoticed.
Hibiscus smells tropical
The tropical nature of hibiscus is only an aroma in these fragrant types of hibiscus. But even here, this tropical accord is mellow. It’s believed the smell of hibiscus in perfumes is synthetically amplified to make for something tangible by comparison with the real scent.
Hibiscus smells tart-like
The tart-like taste and smell of hibiscus are often reported by those who’ve smelt tens of types of hibiscus flowers. These people agree that only a handful of them smell of something. This is most likely a tart aroma specific to blooming flowers than a potent aromatic fragrance.
Hibiscus smells sweet
The sweet smell of hibiscus hasn’t been confirmed in multiple species. Rose Mallow and Roselle are probably the only types of hibiscus that smell sweet.
Hibiscus has a very mild scent
Everybody agrees even fragrant hibiscus doesn’t smell like much. These flowers are generally not fragrant and most types of hibiscus flowers (over 180) smell like pure air. They rarely have any type of aroma even if they grow in tropical and subtropical climates.
Hibiscus and synthetic hibiscus have their benefits when it comes to health, aromatherapy, and smell.
- It relaxes you when served as tea
Hibiscus tea has a relaxing effect on people. This type of red tea is sometimes imaged as rose tea or something along these lines. This isn’t the case as even hibiscus tea barely has an intense aroma and an intense smell. However, people who drink it say they feel relaxed.
- It (can) make the house smell good when used as essential oil
Hibiscus essential oil makes the house smell good. It’s generally seen as a tropical essential oil which a certain pleasant tart-like smell but without any intensity.
Disclaimer – some people who use hibiscus essential oil say it has no smell and no other perceivable benefits. So all of these hibiscus benefits should be taken with a grain of salt.
- It makes you smell floral when worn in perfumes
Hibiscus tries to be floral in perfumes. It’s unclear if this is the case with natural hibiscus or if fragrance brands simply make a synthetic imagined hibiscus which makes people believe they are smelling hibiscus without actually smelling it. All types of hibiscus notes in perfumes seem different from one another, which can confirm this theory. A counter-argument would be that hibiscus is rarely used on its own as it’s mostly combined with other florals such as orchid (check out our rank of orchid perfumes worth having) and carnation.
The smell of hibiscus is elusive. Most of the time it’s not even there. From the hundreds of hibiscus flowers in the world, only a few are fragrant. Even these fragrant types of hibiscus are hard to differentiate from simple air smell as they can be slightly floral, slightly tropical, and a bit tart-like or candle-like with a certain waxiness to them.
Still, hibiscus is a note in perfumes. It’s a very interesting note to follow. For some, it’s the type of note that adds a level of sophistication when used in perfumes. For others, hibiscus is nothing more than a fictional note where perfumers make it up to be what they want it to be. What we know for sure is that we can smell many hibiscus flowers and get nothing.