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How to Grow: Mock Orange
Philadelphus x virginalis
virginal mock orange
full sun, part sun
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
late spring to early summer in different shades of white
Mature Height x Spread
6 to 10 feet x 8 to 10 feet
attracts beneficials, drought tolerant
This large shrub is a prized, late spring bloomer with its single or double petaled, white flowers. Its claim to fame is the sweet, orange-like scent of the flowers that bees and butterflies love as well. When in flower this fast growing shrub is outstanding, but is nondescript the rest of the growing season. The old fashioned varieties can be more fragrant than the modern types. The blooms make great cut flowers in bouquets indoors, scenting the whole house. In the garden its large size makes it a good addition to shrub borders, informal hedges and specimen plantings. It looks like a bridal wreath spirea in appearance, but with stiffer branches and less arching stems.
When, Where and How to Plant
Mock orange is hardy throughout New England. Grow mock orange plants purchased from a local garden center and plant from spring to early fall in well-drained soil amended with compost. It’s very adaptable to many types of soil conditions. Mock orange flowers best in full sun. Space plants 6 to 8 feet apart.
Keep young plants well watered. Established mock orange plants are drought tolerant. Mulch with wood chips or bark mulch to preserve soil moisture and keep weeds away. Fertilize in spring with a layer of compost and an organic plant food. Avoid over fertilizing or the shrub may be slow to flower.
Regional Advice and Care
Prune out dead, diseased and broken branches in spring. Prune to shape the shrub after flowering. Mock orange can get over grown and may need rejuvenation pruning periodically. To rejuvenate, prune the shrub back severely after flowering to stimulate new growth and to bring it in bounds. It may take a few years to grow back to its former shape. Mock orange has few severe insect or disease problems.
Companion Planting and Design
Since mock orange tends to be a large plant and looks best when allowed to grow to its full proportions, plant on the corner of a house or building where it can grown large and not block windows or views. Grow mock orange plants with forsythia, viburnums and lilacs in an informal hedgerow or an island planting in the lawn. Grow mock orange in the back of a perennial flower border. Plant smaller varieties. Plant lower growing perennial flowers in front of mock orange to hide the bottom of the shrub that tends to look bare with little foliage.
‘Virginal’ is an old fashioned, double variety that grows to 10 feet tall and the flowers have an intense fragrance. ‘Minnesota Snowflake’ is a popular double variety with less fragrance, but it only grows 6 feet tall. ‘Snow Dwarf’ is a compact version that grows only 3 feet tall. ”Starbright’ is a newer, tall variety with fragrant flowers and purple-bronze new leaves.
Excerpted from my book, New England Getting Started Garden Guide.