Plant This Stunning Flower For A Chocolate-Scented Garden

As beautiful as the floral smells of roses, lilies, and hyacinths are, who doesn't sometimes wish their garden flowers smelled just a bit more like chocolate? You're in luck, as one of the prettiest North American native flowers has a distinctly chocolatey aroma and is a perfect addition to gardens. With the chocolate flower (Berlandiera lyrata), you can reap the benefits of growing a drought-tolerant native plant while enjoying the delicious scent of chocolate.

While there are a variety of ways to add a sweet chocolate smell to your garden, including with a delicious-smelling chocolate mint plant and the chocolate vine, the chocolate flower has some definite advantages over these, as it is not invasive. Unlike chocolate vine, which you'll almost always regret growing, and chocolate mint, which should only be grown in containers, chocolate flowers can be safely grown in the ground. Native to the southwestern United States and Mexico, growing chocolate flowers can be a great way to dabble in the gardening trend of growing drought-tolerant southern plants in more northern locations. Since chocolate flower is perennial from zone 10 down to at least zone 4 it can be grown in much of the U.S.

Caring for chocolate flowers

Chocolate flowers, also sometimes called chocolate daisies or lyreleaf greeneyes, can be easily grown from seeds. While they can be started indoors, they generally perform best with direct sowing. This can be done in autumn in mild climates and a few weeks before the last frost of spring in colder areas. Chocolate flowers thrive in full and partial sun locations and are quite drought-tolerant once established. If your chocolate flower becomes leggy, that is likely a sign you are overwatering or over-fertilizing it.  

Chocolate flowers grow best in alkaline soils with a pH over 8. They can handle a variety of soil types, including rocky, sandy, and clay-heavy, as long as the soil is not too wet. Chocolate flowers generally bloom all summer until the first frost. They often die back to their roots in cold climates, but then return in spring as temperatures begin warming up again. 

Using chocolate flowers in the garden

Chocolate flower plants rarely grow larger than one or two feet tall and wide, so they make excellent additions to the front of border gardens and are perfect for rock gardens. They can also make an excellent low-maintenance ground cover for dry and sunny areas. Chocolate flowers aren't just popular with people either; they're also a hit with pollinators, including native bees and butterflies.  

If the beautiful and fragrant flowers of the chocolate plant aren't interesting enough, chocolate flowers also produce distinctive seed heads, which is how they get the name greeneyes. As chocolate flowers reseed readily, deadhead them before they go to seed if you do not want additional plants. The Santa Fe Botanical Garden recommends planting chocolate flowers with other sun-loving and drought-tolerant North American native plants like Gaillardia and Perky Sue (Hymenoxys scaposa). They can also be combined with chocolate cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus) to create a chocolate-scented garden wonderland.