By: Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer
It’s late spring and the neighborhood is filled with the sweet scent of mock orange blooms. You check your mock orange and it doesn’t have a single bloom, yet all others are covered with them. Sadly, you start to wonder, “Why is my mock orange not blooming?” Continue reading to learn why there are no flowers on mock orange.
Hardy in zones 4-8, mock orange shrubs bloom in late spring to early summer. When mock orange is pruned, it is important to future flower development. Like lilacs, mock orange should be pruned right after flowers fade. Pruning too late in the season can cut off next year’s buds. This will result in a mock orange not flowering the next year. Mock orange benefits from pruning once a year, after blooms fade. Be sure to also remove any dead, diseased or damaged branches for the overall health and good appearance of your mock orange shrub.
Improper fertilization can also be a reason why a mock orange bush does not bloom. Too much nitrogen from lawn fertilizers can cause a mock orange to grow large and bushy but not flower. Nitrogen promotes nice lush, green foliage on plants but inhibits blooms. When all the plant’s energy is put into the foliage, it cannot develop flowers. In areas where mock orange may receive too much lawn fertilizer, berm up the planting site of mock orange or plant a buffer of foliage plants between the lawn and the mock orange. These plants can absorb much of the nitrogen before it gets to the shrub. Also, use fertilizers high in phosphorusto assist in getting a mock orange to flower.
Mock orange also needs adequate light to bloom. When we plant our landscapes, they are young and small, but as they grow they can cast shade upon each other. If your mock orange is not receiving full sun, you will probably not get many, if any, blooms. If possible, trim away any plants shading the mock orange. In some cases, you may need to dig up and relocate your mock orange to an area where it will receive full sun.
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From: Austin, TX
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Pruning, Shrubs
Title: Improving blooming on mock orange
Answered by: Barbara Medford
Ordinarily, we make comments about the expertise of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is in plants native to North America. We find, however, that plants referred to as "mock orange" not only are native to North America, but Asia and parts of Europe. So, we'll just single out one that appears in our Native Plant Database, and use it as an example.
We will assume that possibly your shrub is Philadelphus microphyllus (littleleaf mock orange) which is native to the Southwest from Texas to California. It blooms with white flowers in March, April and May. The problem with flowering shrubs that are not flowering, native or not, is often too little sunshine or too much lawn fertilizer. Obviously, if you have it in full sun in Austin, that is not the problem. Lawn fertilizer, which possibly is being spread a little farther than the lawn, is high in nitrogen for green leaves (or blades) of grass. A plant you wish to flower but give too much nitrogen will get lazy and fail to bloom. A plant has just one goal in life and that is to reproduce itself. To make seed, it must make flowers, but if it doesn't feel just a little bit insecure about its future, it won't expend the considerable energy to create the flowers. Another suggestion is about the way you are pruning your mock orange bushes. The best time to prune most flowering shrubs is right after flowering. Cut back the outer stems that have flowered each cut should be made just above a strong outer facing bud or new shoot. Next year's blooms will appear from these buds.
So, you say, how can I prune it right after it blooms if it never blooms? We are now in the bloom season for your mock orange. Hopefully, unless it's bloated on nitrogen, it will make some bloom attempts so you can locate the spots to prune. If that still doesn't work, and you get no satisfactory blooming next year, we'd vote for dig it up.
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It is a good idea to plant your mock-orange in fall but you can also plant in spring if you’re able to water regularly the first year after planting.
Mock-orange is easy to propagate through cuttings, it is even the easiest way overall to produce new mock-orange trees.
When I was a kid, mom had a big Mock Orange in the back yard. When it was in bloom it would fill the yard with fragrance. It even grew in the shade, something I now have in abundance. For a number of years now, I have been attempting to recreate that fragrance. I have had no luck making cuttings of mom's Mock Orange, I am trying again this year. I bought a fancy - shmancy Mock Orange at a local nursery. FIrst it doesn't bloom in the shade, and second, after I moved it to relative sunny location, when it does bloom there are precious few flowers and no scent to speak of. Not what I was looking for. I was rooting around (grin) on this web site and noticed many species of Mock Orange. My question is, regardless of what the flower looks like, if I wanted the Mock Orange that was most aromatic, which would I buy. Ideas?
I have wild mock orange around my house but they do not have the fragrance that I remember. However, years ago, I had a Mexican Orange that had a much stronger smell and I have not found one since.
I take that back. I did find one but it was good to hardiness zone 6 and I now live in zone 5. When I had one before, I was in zone 8.
So, I don't know about Maryland. That might be the killer there.
I was blessed with my first blooms this year - I can't say I was knocked over by the fragrance but after a few more opened up and did catch a pleasant scent - photo below. I've planted, a different variety, in my back yard but won't have blooms till next year probably. My first Mock Orange was what ever Bluestone sells. The 2nd was from Buggy Crazy and was called Philadelphus lewisii http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/520/
This message was edited Jun 29, 2009 4:56 PM
I purchased a very small mock orange "slip" I guess would be the term from an online nursery that was going out of business and the cultivar's name was "Innocence". If you google it you will find that many nurseries claim it is one ot the most fragrant if not the most fragrant mock orange cultivar. It is indeed very fragrant--my main problem with it seems to be that the deer enjoy eating the new growth and the buds. Otherwise, it is doing very well.
I wonder if your parents' mock orange was originally in sun and but as the area matured became more shaded? Just wondering.
Thank you all for your response, and very interesting. I have several cuttings of mom's Mock Orange and so far so good. BUt I must say in the past I have had little to no luck. But I am thing something else this time, notably a pot with a acrylic bottle overturned and taped down. A little gibberellic acid and we'll see.
You are correct. When mom first owned the land it was farmland and it was open and sunny. Now mother nature is taking over and the Mock Orange is in the shade. I'll keep trying. Let me know if you hear anything further about fragrant Mock Orange species.
Yup that's the one that Bluestone has - they have it listed as: "PHILADELPHUS INNOCENCE (x. lemoinei)" - that's the one I have pictured above.
Chantell, what is it's hardiness zone? I really love them but may have to stay with the wild ones. They are the Idaho state flower only called Syringa.
Here's the plantfile page http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/80959 although some times the DG file errs on the side of caution with regard to hardiness.
Those are really nice. I have never seen a variegated one before. I am going to try to get a picture of my wild one to show you.
Hmmm now I'm questioning the ID on mine. I don't believe it has variegated coloring.
I should know better than to let Chantell lead me off like this. I won't settle with just the single blooms of the Innocence, they also have a fragrant double, virginalis. I also spotted a single Kerria jaonica. Two weeks ago I brought home a fragrant Olive tree because of this form.
We have Mockorange and last year I rooted several along with Figo, Kerria and others. Our Mockorange has no fragrence and why should anyone grow such a plant when there are others that smell so nice. We are getting a timer set up on our misting system so I can get a higher % of cuttings to root. If all works well I would like to work out some trades with some of you on this form. I could send rooted plants of something you want for several cuttings of something I want. Why should we limit our gardens to plants that are only pleasing to the eye.
I have a mock orange Belle Etoile that I consider Choice. (I even named my first cologne after it) . She's not quite big enough to take cuttings from but maybe next year!
"I should know better than to let Chantell ". Now what praytell does that mean. I don't lead. I simply pass on my opinion of scents I enjoy. Sadly both of my Sweet Olives died. I just bought a big ole one at our Lowes. as I'm determined to figure out what they like and keep at least one alive.
Oh mercy Dabney. another one. I already have two. this forum will be the death of me yet. LOL
Well, I went to take a picture of my mock orange today and the batteries were dead in the camera. Also, I noticed the plant was past it's prime of blooming so I am not going to subject you all to an ugly plant. LOL, no, just not as nice as it was.
Alnwick Gardens has a wonderful shrub of I think 'Belle Etoile'. It smells like bubblegum.
That is a very pretty picture! I detect a lot of 'grape' from that one.
OT but kenboy how are your Sweet olives doing you purchased? I'm trying to keep one alive. just one and I'll be happy.
Chantelle, did you start your olive from seed? I have seeds but have never tried them. I gave some to my daughter a couple of months ago and I think she has started them. That will be fun. I told her to put one in for me. She has patience if they take a long time. I don't.
Me? Seeds? Surely you jest! LOL I'm horrible at keeping up w/them. sad but true. How neat your DD will for you though!!
When I first got my Olive tree, it was spindly and root bound. I set the pot where I wanted to plant it and forgot about it for a few days. By the time I found it, it had lost more leaves and looked stressed. I planted it where it would get filtered sunlight, because full sunny areas are hard to come by in my yard. It perked up as soon as I planted it and sent out new growth and one small bloom. It has seen several day of 100+ temps and seems to be just fine. I have not over watered it, only because there is too many other plants that need it. Picture was taken this morning.
Thanks for the update KB! Me thinks I will get mine IN the ground ASAP then. Might even be able to split it up into 2-3 plants - I would love it if it would do well in ground vs pot - for sure.
What is the hardiness zone for them? I am sure that almost anything would do better in the ground vs pots. Will it be ok in your zone Chantell? I see KB is in Texas.
How do you split it into several plants?
Although my zone is 7A I am blessed with a south facing yard and a brick front - I've surprised even myself with things that have survived when planted in that area. I'll probably give this one a go and see how she does. As for the splitting - I picked the pot (a 3 gal size) that had 3 separate sturdy "trunks" in it.
Good for you Chantell. Good luck with splitting the plant. Let us know how it does.
Ahhh thanx! If she doesn't want to let go of her "sisters" I won't force it. rather keep the plant then hurt it. bound and determined to get one of these going for me!!
This is the olive right?? Hope so. Jeanette
Sorry J. yes referring to a Sweet Olive. I'm causing confusion. ugh.
No you're not. I just wanted to make sure I was still on the right plant. LOL
LOL - thanks for the "save". You have a wonderful day as well. in my birth state that I've not seen since I was 1, I believe. sad, isn't it?
Sorry, I am new to this. But what kind of olives are you growing from seeds and why? I don't remember an olive tree being especially pretty. I don't remember what the flowers look like. . or is this just a personal challenge.
I did try growing Mock Orange from seed. The seed germinated OK b ut one thing for sure, it doesn't breed true! Flowers varied from ok to insignificant and none of it was fragrant.
Tucci - here is the link for the ones listed in plantfiles: http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/b/Oleaceae/Osmanthus/fragrans/cultivar/0/ As for "why?" - I'd say 99% of my plants are not grown for visual reasons but b/c I enjoy their fragrance. If they're pretty - that's secondary to me. just my personal preference.
As for the Mock Orange. I've not found them to be heavily scented. but this year's my first experience with blooms.
Chantell, I'll bet you could grow the Mexican Orange. I had that in Seattle and it was so fragrant. I had it outside my kitchen door and every time I went out it really smelled nice. I wish I could grow it now but I am zone 5.
Also, it is an attractive plant.
Jeanette - is this the plant you're talking about? http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/1842/ I'd never heard of it - till you mentioned it.
Sure looks like it. Especially the leaves. They are a very distinctive "floret" kind. If that is the word I am looking for. However, the reviews are weird for it. One says it doesn't have any fragrance, one says it smells like honey, and of all things, the "neutral" one says it smells like orange and even the leaves smell like orange.
So, I would say that if I really wanted one, which I would if they would grow here, I would look on a nursery like "The Big Dipper"s website. They are a nursery outside Seattle. Only in your own area.
Very wise suggestion. nothing more disappointing then expecting a plant to have a great fragrance and then . nadda. I have one of my tropicals in bloom right now that has absolutely NO scent that I can detect. I know fragrance is subjective. but NONE vs some. well, Houston. we have a problem. LOL
Chantell - Thank you for getting back to me on the Sweet Olive. That is fascinating. I am tempted to try my luck with Sweet Olive even though I live in Maryland, might be a little too cool in winter. I assume from your email tag you must live in the middle of Virginia, is that correct? What do you do to get the Sweet Olive through the winter? I noticed that the genus and species is Osmanthus fragrans, which is the same genus as the false holly. Osmanthus heterophyllus ( False Holly ) are sold around here, and I noticed today one is described as fragrant. I didn't ask but I assume since they are sold locally they make it through the winter. Thoughts? THis is great!
Tucci, don't assume they will make it thru the winter there. Check the plantfiles for the hardiness zone. Chantell probably takes it in in the winter. I think they only go down to zone 8. Could be wrong, but I would check before I bought one.
BTW, a lot of nurseries sell things that cannot take the winters where they are. I think they should be honest and put a fairly large sign saying so on the plant.
Hmmm good question. I think there is one Sweet Olive supposedly hardier then some of the others but I'm not sure HOW hardy. other then the "generic" ones that we find at our big box stores. I did buy one of those locally and plan on planting it in the ground. My front faces south. plus I have a brick front so have a bit of a micro-climate going on. The others were brought in for the winter (sadly didn't make it. so I'm giving one another shot. ugh) Here is the site that has the hardier Sweet Olive Osmanthus fragrans 'Aurantiacus'. btw - great folks and amazing sized plants. Nurseries Caroliniana http://www.nurcar.com/cagtalogue/html/NurCarCatalogueStart.htm
I would love to buy Osmanthus fragrans 'Aurantiacus' but I do have a question first. I have tried to bring tender plants in for the winter before. Most recently a gardenia. THe problem is that in my experience they tend to host White Flies and similar insects. Of course White Flies are fairly easy to get rid of, but (and this is a big but) the White Flies also attack my wife's Ming Tree. It is an ancient rather large plant with a history as long was my marriage, in my case that is a long time indeed. THe Ming is sacrosanct in my house. So my question about these various Osmanthus cultivars that people bring in for the winter, do they tend to develop insect or disease problems during the winter months while cooped up inside with the rest of us. (I have to say though, that I know myself well enough to know that I will be buying O. fragrans at my first opportunity.)
My experience (please remember this was my first year with over wintering of the Sweet Olives) is that THEY were not insect prone - although the brugs that I brought in were and I believe they were the culprits. These plants were purchased in Dec. so were in the house first. I will say, with mine, that there were no bug upon arrival - no white fly, no spider mites, no aphids.
Read, more elaboration about it is given here. Also asked, do mock orange grow quickly?
Then if you do get flowers, prune immediately after flowering, removing the stems the flowers were on and any obvious old or dead material. Mock-oranges can take a pretty heavy pruning, seeing as they grow fairly quickly. A yearly pruning after flowering will help keep the shrub healthy and vigorous.
Furthermore, is Philadelphus fast growing? Philadelphus is an easy to grow shrub which flowers in late spring and early summer. Philadelphus has very attractive flowers and wonderful scent which is why it is also known as The Mock Orange Shrub. Philadelphus is happy to grow in most conditions with a preference for sun or partial sun.
Also Know, how long does it take for mock orange to grow?
They are deciduous (loose their leaves in winter) and produce their flowers for about five weeks in mid June to late August depending on local conditions. They are frequently planted by councils in parks and on estates for the simple reason that they look beautiful in flower but require almost no attention.
Why is it called mock orange?
They are named "mock-orange" in reference to their flowers, which in wild species look somewhat similar to those of oranges and lemons (Citrus) at first glance, and smell of orange flowers and jasmine (Jasminum).
The enchanting citrus-like, fresh fragrance from the mock orange is often the initial attraction to adding this plant to a garden. And a frequently asked question is which mock orange has the strongest smell. While most species and varieties have a strong scent, there are a few more potent than others.
At the top of the list is the P. coronarius or ‘Sweet Mock Orange,’ which has a rich, intense fragrance. It is said to be the most fragrant of all the species. It is a large shrub and grows up to 3.5 metres and just as wide at full maturity, so it may not be suitable for all gardens. The smaller P. microphyllus or ‘Littleleaf Mock Orange’ is also heavily scented and grows to only about .75 metres. There are also a few cultivated hybrids with strongly scented blossoms, such as the P. ‘Avalanche’ and P. ‘Belle Etoile’. Keep these names in mind and check at your local garden store to see what varieties of mock orange are available in your area.
Philadelphus lewisii has a very strong orange blossom scent. It may be an irritant to people with sensitive noses. The mock orange is classified in the Pollen Library as being a mild allergen. Significant difficulties do not occur, but the plant's pollen and scent can be responsible for mild hay fever reactions. Mock orange is toxic to cats. Other domestic animals and humans will not have problems, but the feline members of the family should be kept away from Philadephus lewisii.