Soothing scents for the sick!
November 29, 2011 6:55 PM   Subscribe

Please recommend strongly-scented cut flowers or potted plants for someone in a nursing home.

A friend had a stroke, and was moved a week or so ago to a nursing home. She's semi-conscious most of the time, but does recognize her husband and sons when she's more fully awake. She has some movement (thank goodness, no paralysis!), but it'll be a long recovery. I was thinking that while she might not be able to appreciate the sight of flowers or a plant, the scent might help mitigate the hospital-sterility of the nursing home, even in her semi-conscious state, and that's where you come in: recommendations, please! Would cut flowers or a potted plant be better? And specifically which flowers or plants would be good?
(As she is in that nursing home and not in an ICU anymore, plants and flowers are both permitted in her room.)

Thanks in advance!
posted by easily confused to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Both carnations and lilies can be fragrant.
Advise care though: some fragrances are not universally loved, even if they come from flowers.
posted by bebrave! at 7:04 PM on November 29, 2011

Jonquils and stocks are both really fragrant, but some people dislike them. I think freesias are a bit more subtle but sweet. All of these are fairly reasonably priced cut flower options.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 7:11 PM on November 29, 2011

Best answer: For cut flowers: stargazer lilies (which I find so overwhelmingly fragrant that I have to remove them from arrangements) and freesia (which also work as potted bulbs).

For live plants: Narcissus, especially the variety commonly known as paperwhites. You could buy a giant sack of bulbs in any hardware store for very little money and force them into bloom in waves, giving her months worth of fresh flowers. Also in the same vein of forced bulbs, hyacinth.

She might also enjoy non-floral scents: pine (tiz the season, get her a cut wreath) and potted herbs such as rosemary and basil.
posted by jamaro at 7:12 PM on November 29, 2011

People will recommend lilies, but be aware that they're common in funeral arrangements.
posted by runningwithscissors at 7:18 PM on November 29, 2011

Best answer: Hyacinths are nice and won't have the funeral associations....if you go the stargazer route only use one stem at a time as otherwise they can be a bit overpowering.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:25 PM on November 29, 2011

jasmine and gardenia smell wonderful and are frequently found as potted plants.
posted by hollyanderbody at 7:25 PM on November 29, 2011

Best answer: Jasmine? Hyacinth?

You may also try a soy-based lidded candle, unlit. Soy wax holds a lot of scent and you can usually just lift the lid off to scent a room.

Cinnamon basil is nice. So is lavender.

Gardener's Supply has some nice eucalyptus and lavender-scented neck and shoulder wraps. They are my go-to gift for older people.
posted by Ostara at 7:27 PM on November 29, 2011

Narcissus/paperwhites have the major advantage of being very verrrry strong and also much cheaper to maintain over time than cut flowers.
posted by at 7:34 PM on November 29, 2011

Best answer: I would do one of those little rosemary plants cut into a xmas tree shape.
posted by purpletangerine at 7:44 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hyacinths are my favorite flower and I can always smell them from across the room.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:49 PM on November 29, 2011

Best answer: Herbs!

Basil, lavender as Ostara mentioned, but even sage, oregano and thyme can be pleasant. I love the smell of scented perlargoniums, and they come in orange, lemon, mint, etc. I think your idea is wonderful, BTW.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:08 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Plants will last longer than cut flowers, of course, but you'll probably have more options with cut flowers. All the suggestions above are great, and most should be pretty easily obtained through a florist. My first choice for a potted plant would probably be hyacinth. Freesia might be another good option. A couple other nice scented plants that might be a little harder to find would be lily of the valley plant or a blooming stephanotis.

For cut flowers, carnations might be a really good option as they smell nice, are inexpensive, and last a long time. They don't have the strongest scent, but in a warm room they might be just the thing. Keep in mind that with cut flowers, the warmer the room is the stronger they will smell but the quicker they will expire. Cut hyacinth should be available. A gardenia bloom (or three) floating in a bowl of water smells really nice. Cut freesia should be available, but won't likely last a very long time. Some roses are strongly scented -- a florist should be able to get you scented lavender roses if you ask for them specifically, but they won't last very long either, especially in a warm room.
posted by Balonious Assault at 8:42 PM on November 29, 2011

Tuberoses. Gardenias.
posted by mollymayhem at 12:18 AM on November 30, 2011

Best answer: I would check with the healthcare facility to make sure they allow whatever you decide to go with. Several Places I've worked have banned lilies due to staff allergies.
posted by MadMadam at 2:51 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Good points about TOO strong of scents; after all, even in her semi-conscious state an overwhelming smell might cause her distress instead. Also good point about lillies and their funeral associations! From your suggestions, I'm leaning towards hyacinths, paperwhites or other forced bulbs, or some of the herbs.

For what it's worth, she's from Sarajevo, although she's been in the US for several years --- are there any particular scents you can think of that might have soothing/home-like connotations?
posted by easily confused at 4:27 AM on November 30, 2011

Best answer: Lavender, mint, rosemary. I love herb smells and flowers can be difficult to pick for other people what with allergy concerns. Have you thought about essential oils, make sure essential oils not fragrant oils as I know the cheaper oils can trigger people with perfume allergies.. You don't need a burner you could just put a few drops on a cloth and put it by her bedside and you wouldn't have to worry so much about allergies or vases and water.
posted by wwax at 7:19 AM on November 30, 2011

Sorry if this is a double post! Please check with the staff. Also, for the very reasons you think scent would be a good idea, it could also be torture. Soy candles make me puke. You can probably think of a popular scent that makes you yak up a hairball.

Perhaps you could work with her husband to bring in her own scented lotion to rub on her hands or some of her perfume or linen spray for her sheets or a throw pillow on the bed.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:27 AM on November 30, 2011

Best answer: I second the suggestion of star gazer lilies, which are beautiful, smell wonderful and are nothing like a funeral flower.

You may want to consider buying or making a pillow stuffed with dried herbs. Those tend to be decorative and very soothing to smell.
posted by bearwife at 11:24 AM on November 30, 2011

Best answer: I've ordered lavender from this farm many times for friends and family in hospital/nursing homes - their flowers, both fresh and dried, are top quality. It is a very comforting scent for many people, and is thought to aid in sleep and with tension, generally.
posted by judith at 8:37 PM on November 30, 2011

Response by poster: I've checked with the nursing home and her family: it looks like we're going with lavender or rosemary, dried in a pillow or potpourri dish. And while I'm looking for the dried herbs, maybe do some hyacinths or roses in the meantime.

(The really good news is she's more conscious this week, and was even talking to/recognizing people: it's like an early Christmas present!)

Thanks for the help!
posted by easily confused at 1:07 PM on December 3, 2011

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