Heaven scent [mock orange]

I have several strategically placed mock orange plants around my yard, thanks to my mom. She has a ‘way’ with plants… snap off a branch, stick it in the ground – and viola, a new starter plant for ‘sharing’. Well, almost that simple!

Mock orange, or “mockorange”, is classified as Philadelphus. Mock orange is a deciduous flowering shrub, although you’ll occasionally hear people refer to “mock orange trees.” Mock orange shrubs exude a citrusy fragrance (the quality varies according to cultivar). The plants bear light green leaves and produce white flowers in late spring/early summer. Fragrance is a major selling point for mock orange. Unfortunately, not all cultivars of mock orange are equally fragrant. So, the best time to buy mock orange is when it’s in bloom at the nursery — and sample the fragrance for yourself!

Planting Zones for Mock Orange Shrubs:

Grow mock orange plants in planting zones 4-8.

Sun and Soil Requirements for Mock Orange Shrubs:

Plant mock orange in full sun to part shade and in a well-drained, loamy soil. Mock oranges generally blossom more profusely if planted in full sun and are reasonably drought tolerant once established.

Uses for Mock Orange Plants:

Mock oranges make for effective specimen plants in spring. Massed along a border, they can form a loose privacy hedge for summer. The blossoms of mock orange plants are often used as cut flowers. Plant near a patio or window where you’re sure to enjoy its fragrance!

Origin of the Name, “Mock Orange,” or “Mockorange”:

As the “mock” in its name suggests, mock orange is not a true orange. But, the citrusy smell of its blossoms was enough to invite comparison, thus accounting for the origin of the shrub’s common name. But common plant names are notorious for being potentially misleading, which is why scientific plant names are preferred… so, be sure the nursery tag reads, Philadelphus.

Wildlife Attracted by Mock Orange Plants:

Nectar-rich, mock orange make good butterfly plants.

Pruning Mock Orange Shrubs:

There’s three kinds of pruning for established ( >2 years) mock orange plants:

1)Yearly pruning

2)Rejuvenating mildly overgrown plants

3)Drastic rejuvenation pruning

Yearly pruning needs to take into account that mock orange blooms on the prior year’s growth. Therefore, to avoid missing out on flowering next year, prune immediately after the blooming period. On stems that have just finished flowering, prune off growth above where you see outer-facing buds. Also prune off any dead, badly-positioned or ill-formed branches, while you have the pruners handy.

As your mock orange matures, you’ll probably decide that it’s becoming mildly overgrown. It’s time to apply the one-third rule, as you would when pruning lilacs. Each year, as you’re doing your yearly pruning, prune the oldest one-third of the branches down to ground level. After 3 years of such pruning, the shrub should look healthier.

If you’ve totally neglected/abandoned your mock orange and it becomes wildly overgrown, all is not lost! If the shrub is healthy, it will respond well to drastic rejuvenation pruning. Again, you’ll prune in spring — but, this time, before new growth begins. Prune all the branches right down to the ground. You won’t enjoy blossoms that year, but all the plant’s energy will be channeled into the healthy new branches that will soon be rocketing out of your soil.

Happy gardening!

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3 thoughts on “Heaven scent [mock orange]

  1. When we lived in Indiana we had a mock orange bush by the house, so when we moved here one of the first shrubs I bought was a mock orange. I have had a very hard time getting it to bloom. I got a few blooms two years ago, but have struggled to get it to bloom. I hope I have pruned it right this spring so next year will smell a little better.

  2. Pingback: Heaven scent [mock orange] | Pressing Flowers Blog

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