Philadelphus mexicanus ‘Double Flowering’ (Evergreen Double Flowering Mock Orange) – This is a climbing evergreen shrub that can clamber to 15-20 feet. If used as a groundcover the shrub will reach 3-5 feet tall and spread 15 feet. Very fragrant (they smell like Tuberose!) creamy double white flowers bloom in the late spring to summer and sometimes again in the fall. Plant in sun or part shade with regular watering in a relatively well-drained soil. It is hardy to at least 22° F. We long grew the single white Philadelphus mexicanus but this double white flowering form came to us in 1993 from the grassman John Greenlee. It had been planted in his Pomona garden by the late Dennis Shaw, an amazing landscape designer who worked at Marshall Olbrich and Lester Hawkins’ legendary Western Hills Nursery. We have retained the descriptive name ‘Double Flowering’ for this plant but note that it is likely the same as the plant that we have more recently seen being offered as Philadelphus mexicanus ‘Flore Plena’. Philadelphus mexicanus grows in the wild in Central and Southern Mexico and Guatemala. Long placed in the family Saxifragaceae, the genus is now considered to be in the Hydrangeaceae. The name Philadelphus was given to the genus in 1735 by Linneas in honour of Ptolemy Philadelphusm King of Egypt from 283 to 247 BC who was a patron of literature, science and art. Philadelphus was long placed in the family Saxifragaceae but the current treatment is to include it with our native Bush Anemone in the Philadelpheae tribe of the Hydrangeaceae. The information on this page is based on research conducted in our nursery library and from online sources as well as from observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery, in the nursery’s garden and in other gardens that we have observed it in. We also will incorporate comments received from others and always appreciate getting feedback of any kind from those who have additional information, particularly if this information is contrary to what we have written or includes additional cultural tips that might aid others in growing Philadelphus mexicanus ‘Dbl Flowering’.
- A new mock orange reblooms
- A reblooming cultivar
- The reliable and durable mock orange
- One caveat
- Philadelphus Varieties and Types List – Best Ten Mock Orange Bushes
- Best Ten Philadelphus Varieties – Mock Orange Bushes
A new mock orange reblooms
One of the truly outstanding late-spring or early-summer flowering deciduous shrubs is mock orange, Philadelphus virginalis. Of the many species available to gardeners, this is probably the most popular, due in no small part, I’m sure, to its very pleasing fragrance and attractive white flowers.
An ancient group of shrubs named by Linnaeus in honor of King Ptolemy Philadelphus, who lived way back in 300 BC, and first introduced to Europe along with lilacs in 1562, these classic and easy-to-grow Victorian-era darlings are making a dramatic comeback these days.
A reblooming cultivar
I’m a fickle gardener, I admit. Usually I’m passionately in love with whatever perennial or annual I’m looking at, at that moment. And though shrubs are also favorites, it’s been a long, long time since I’ve been excited about a new shrub introduction to the point of drooling.
But here I am salivating over a mock orange!
If you remember seeing mock orange shrubs in your grandmother’s garden, you know they were rangy plants that had no decorative value once they stopped blooming – so you might conclude that I’ve lost my horticultural mind!
But hear me out. The object of my current obsession is a newer introduction, a shrub officially known as Snow White Sensation (sometimes sold as Snow White Fantasy). Now I grow several older cultivars of mock orange for their scent, if not their beauty. However, Snow White Sensation (Snow White Fantasy) has knocked my garden clogs right out of the yard.
This is a beautiful, fast-growing shrub with gracefully arching branches. However, what makes her sensational are her two-inch, double snow-white flowers offered up in abundant clusters and smelling – well – like heaven.
And if she needed to strut her virtues even more, she sweetens the deal by blooming a second time!
The first flush occurs in late spring and then, come late summer, she does it again. Add attractive dark green foliage that stands up to our summer heat and drought tolerance once established, and is hardy to USDA Zone 4, this five-foot tall beauty gives the landscape three-season interest.
The reliable and durable mock orange
The majority of the shrubs – there are 65 species and countless hybrids – are large.eight- to 10-foot plants, which, when in bloom, perfume entire sections of the garden. The flowers are usually white, cup or bowl shaped, and can be either single, semidouble, or double.
Typically, the leaves are mid- to dark green in color; however, P. coronaries is the exception. Three noteworthy cultivars of it have different foliage: ‘Aureus’ and ‘Yellow Cab’ have golden yellow leaves, while ‘Variegatus’ sports cream-edged ones.
They like full sun, although they tolerate light shade and well-drained soil. As a bonus, mock orange has no serious pest or disease problems, though there is a bit of susceptibility to aphids and leaf miners, which is more of a nuisance than a threat.
Mock orange blooms on the previous year’s growth; therefore, prune immediately after it blooms. When it starts to look a bit overgrown and rangy, prune the oldest one-third of the branches down to ground level; following the same regime for the next two years. After three years, the shrub should, once again, be gorgeous.
One way to compensate for mock orange’s short bloom time and duller foliage – and an excellent way to bring color into the garden, if not to fool unsuspecting friends – is to train a small-flowered, long-blooming clematis vine to scramble through its branches.
Obviously, Snow White Sensation is not the only new girl in the garden in the world of mock orange. There are many others.
Some recent introductions have larger blossoms, others are shorter in size or more compact, making them perfect choices for small gardens, large containers, or planting at the front of the border.
Also, many of the newer introductions are fast growing and form a dense mound of gently cascading branches. They are also more heat-, cold-, and drought-tolerant.
Fragrance is, as you can imagine, the major selling point for purchasing a mock orange shrub. Unfortunately, not all cultivars are equally fragrant. Thus, one of the best times to buy mock orange is when it’s in bloom at the nursery – that way you can let your nose do the choosing.
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Betty Earl, the Intrepid Gardener, is one of more than a dozen gardening experts from various parts of the country who blog regularly at Diggin’ It. Her latest book is ‘Fairy Gardens: A Guide to Growing an Enchanted Miniature World.’ She writes a regular column for Chicagoland Gardening Magazine and The Kankakee Journal and numerous articles for Small Gardens Magazine, American Nurseryman, Nature’s Garden, and Midwest Living Magazine, as well as other national magazines. She is a garden scout for Better Homes and Gardens and a regional representative for The Garden Conservancy. To read more by Betty here at Diggin’ It, .
Philadelphus Varieties and Types List – Best Ten Mock Orange Bushes
The choice of Philadelphus variety is very important for ensuring that you have the right size shrub and habit of flowering in your garden border or bed. Get it wrong, and you either end up with a very vigorous giant of a shrub in a small area, or almost as bad, a smaller growing shrub trying in vain to fill the space that ‘you’ decreed it would fill.
Insofar as flower is concerned, all mock oranges have white flowers – some double, some single, some drooping others in erect clusters.
So, if you are going to plant a mock orange, and you should, get the variety right. Then you are well on the way to success with masses of fragrant white flowers in early summer.
As an owner of a garden centre in years gone by, I have learned that size is important. With Philadelphus varieties, choosing the right one for your own situation is essential. So this list of Mock Orange Bush varieties is in size order – starting with the largest. Be aware of the sizes of Philadelphus, both in height and potential spread.
Best Ten Philadelphus Varieties – Mock Orange Bushes
This mock orange is the ‘grand daddy’ of them all as far as size is concerned. Together with that attribute, it has a stunning display of pure white, fully double flowers – hence its name – and is very scented. Flowering time for Philadelphus virginal is early summer. Its height is around 3m with a spread of 2.5m. Allow plenty of room and prune as suggested.
Although as tall (almost) as the Philadelphus Virginal, it is more erect in habit but nonetheless has slightly arching branches when laden with its semi-double, white and very fragrant flowers. It flowers a little later than the top one, but only just. 3metres tall with an ultimate spread of 2 meters – sometimes more when in full bloom
This is my favourite mock orange with its large cup-shaped pure white flowers on slightly arched stems. Flowers are sometimes tinged pink with age. Another of the taller ones with a height of approx 2.5 metres and a similar spread
Philadelphus coronarius ‘Aurea’
You would buy this more for its golden foliage – especially the new leaves in early summer. This one is best in light shade, though will also grow – but with some scorching – in full sun. Flowers tend to look cream rather than white, but this is probably because of the lack of contrast with the yellow foliage. I would grow this just for its foliage – cutting it back hard each spring and thereby losing the flowers, but gaining larger brighter leaves. 2.4meters with an upright growth that restricts it to 1.5meters spread.
This is a medium size mock orange with masses of white single flowers on arching stems. Early summer for flowering, with height and spread of 2meters.
As the name suggests, this has an arching, almost weeping habit when laden with its pure white scented flowers. A little later flowering than most – normally in mid-summer – its height of around 1.5 is outdone by its arching spread of 2meters or more.
Small single pure white flowers which claim the title of most scented mock orange! Philadelphus Lemoinei makes up for its small flower size by producing many blooms, so just as showy – and perhaps more dainty than some. About 1.5metres height and spread. Early summer for flowers.
Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’
Again the arching growth on upright stems, full of single flowers, but this time different in that they have a centre of lightest purple – which does not detract from the overall white show. Scented of course, and early flowering – sometimes in late spring. It grows around 1.2metres high – but be aware of its arching habit which will see it as a 2.5meter wide mound. Quite stunning!
Philadelphus ‘Manteau d’ Hermine’
Fragrant – but slightly cream coloured flowers. The flowers are very double – in profusion. A dense bush, but only to around 1 metre tall with slightly more of a spread when in flower – early summer.
The bark is attractive on this mock orange, as are the slightly nodding pairs of flowers. Upright in growth and not arching, this is a dainty little Philadelphus weighing in at around 1meter for height and spread. The small leaves account for the name suffix of ‘microphyllus’!
Care and growing Philadelphus | How to Prune Philadelphus |
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. That is certainly true of three shrubs that offer the wonderful scent of orange flowers and thus have earned the common name mock orange. The fact that all three selections — Philadelphus species, Choisya ternata and Pittosporum tobira — are from different botanical families makes their association even more curious.
— Earl Nickel, [email protected]
A couple of Philadelphus hybrids lead the list, with the showy ‘Belle Etoile’ my favorite. An early bloomer, mid to late spring, it’s soon smothered in the distinctive white fragrant flowers. Not as tall as some species, it still can reach 6-8 feet, with arching branches offering those citrus-scented flowers for close inspection. A later blooming hybrid, ‘Avalanche,’ is equally stunning and earns its name by smothering the green foliage with a cavalcade of pure white blossoms.
There are two popular species in this genus, P. mexicanus and P. lewisii, the latter a California native named after, you guessed it, the explorer Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis & Clark). Found in the Sierra Nevada and all the way north to southern British Columbia, the straight species can get tall, to 12 feet, and shoots up quickly. The subspecies ‘Covelo’ is shorter, to 8 feet, but that doesn’t stop plants from flowering at a very young age.
If it’s a double flower that pleases your eye, Philadelphus mexicanus ‘Flore Plena’ is vigorous and soon produces masses of 2-inch-plus double-form flowers that are heavenly scented. Lastly, if you need a very compact species, the 3- foot tall P. microphyllus is more of an upright bush and produces an abundance of single white scented blooms.
Most Philadelphus like a bit of relief from the hottest part of the day, though in milder climates they can take full sun.
Mexican mock orange
Choisya ternata ‘Sundance,’ is also known as Mexican mock orange.Photo: Earl Nickel
Speaking of Mexico, Choisya ternata hails from south of the border, earning it the common name Mexican mock orange. This hardy, floriferous evergreen shrub is a late spring bloomer, with clusters of 1-inch pure white flowers that exude a strong citrus fragrance. The leaves are smaller and a shiny green, giving the flowers a verdant backdrop. Choisya is a multibranching upright shrub, easily reaching 6 feet tall and 8 feet wide. When the plants are happy, they have a second flowering period in the late summer. They’re at home in morning sun.
Want to add a bit more pizazz? Try the golden-leaved varieties ‘Sundance’ or ‘Golden Fingers.’ Both showcase bright golden foliage, the latter with longer, elliptical leaves. They both feature the same intoxicating white flowers and are a magnet for bees.
Japanese mock orange
Pittosporum ‘Creme de Mint,’ also known as Japanese mock orange.Photo: Monrovia Growers
Mention Pittosporum and most gardeners think of low key, practical workhorses. P. tobira ‘Crème de Mint’ is the exception. Known as Japanese mock orange, owing to its native land, this evergreen shrub tops out at a modest 3 feet tall and wide. Sporting lovely gray-green and cream variegated leaves, it bursts into bloom in summer, with flowers that offer a distinct variation on the citrusy fragrance. These tough plants can take full sun or some shade and are very drought tolerant once established. They make a great addition to any garden, especially to a location that calls for a compact shrub.