All About Growing and Caring for the Mock Orange

For the most part, the mock orange ( Philadelphus coronarius) is deciduous with many stems and a spread that is as wide as it is high. Scientifically, it is classified as a shrub, but many people who have a mock orange in their yard will insist that it is a tree.

Mock orange shrubs are rich with aromatic flowers and sweet nectar that attracts butterflies.

The “mock” in the title means that this is not actually an orange tree. However it does bear a strikingly similar aroma of citrus zest. When many plants are referred to as “mock” or “false”, this usually means that this plant has similarities to another. Like the false cypress for example.

false cypress branch

Common Name –– Mock Orange Tree, Mock Orange Shrub, Mock Orange Bush
Plant Type –– Deciduous Shrub
Mature Size –– from 6 – 12-ft. high and 6 – 12-ft. wide
Sun Exposure –– Full sun / partial shade
Soil Type –– Well-drained soil
Flower Color –– White
Soil pH –– 6 to 8
Hardiness Zones –– 4 through 8
Bloom Time –– Spring
Native Areas –– Southeast Europe and Italy

How to Grow Mock Orange Shrubs

Mock orange plants put on a magnificent display during the spring, but then pretty much do nothing else for the rest of the year. They are simply not attractive enough to be considered specimen plants. Massed along the hedges they can create an effective privacy barrier and in the spring the cut flowers are terrific aromatics and gifts.

The fragrance is one of the major selling points for the mock orange, but not all cultivars are as fragrant as the rest. If you will be buying a mock orange for its fragrance, the best place to begin is in the nursery where all fragrances can be examined one by one. You can also take time to read the descriptions but sampling the smells is the only way to know for sure.

Remember that these flowers are more fragrant in the evenings than the mornings.

Light

These plants need full exposure to light or at least partial exposure for best results. Those plants placed in the sunlight will produce the most blossoms.

Soil

The mock orange plant thrives best in moist soil with excellent drainage. When planting your mock orange, dig dep and prepare to spread it roots outward.

Water

The mock orange is relatively drought tolerant but your will still want to avoid letting the soil dry out all the way. The root system of these plants is especially tough so some older plants can survive on less water.

Temperature and Humidity

The mock orange is hardy in the winter and don’t require any winter protection even when temperatures drop below freezing. Then they will blossom in the spring.

Fertilizer

Use regular compost, manure or bark hummus when planting the mock orange and then add some more compost in the spring. You should stay away from high-nitrogen fertilizers as these will cause leaf growth issues and even prevent full blossoming capacity.

Varieties of Mock Orange Shrubs

There are over 60 different varieties of the mock orange.

Aurea flower

Aurea is a compact mock orange cultivar with golden leaves, it grows between 8 to 10 feet high.

aurea

Variegatus is even shorter and will only reach a height of 6ft. As its name suggests it has a lovely variegated foliage of greens and white.

mock orange flower

Minnesota Snowflake (P. coronarius) is another popular variety of the mock orange and known for an especially pleasant fragrance from its blossoms. Of course, this will vary between each individual cultivar. The plants bear pretty green leaves and white flowers in the spring. The Minnesota snowflake will grow as tall as 8-ft X 8-ft.

Pruning

Mock oranges bloom on last year’s growth so make sur you are pruning your shrubs immediately after the blooming season. Prune off the outer facing buds from stems that have just finished flowering and cut away any badly formed or positioned stems as well.

As the shrub grows the long whip-like stems can become a little unkempt. This is when you can begin applying the 1/3 rule just as you would when pruning a lilac tree. Each year when doing the pruning, you will prune the 1/3 of stems that are the olds. Prune these all the way down to the roots and in a few years your mock orange shrub will look brand new.

Even if your mock orange tree has become wildly overgrown, you shouldn’t worry because a healthy tree will respond well even to a lot of pruning in the spring. Begin just before the flowering season begins and prune all the branches that need trimming down to the ground level. You may not enjoy a splendid blossom array that year, but the plant’s energy will begin moving into new branches and the next year should be even better.

Planting, Growing And Caring For Hostas

hosta bouquet

If you have a shady garden, hostas are a hardy perennial that could be perfect for you.

They are easy to grow and reliable while being long-lived. Hostas are also great because they come in a range of sizes, textures, and colors.

hosta flower bloom

They will also work in any kind of garden.

Hostas are most well-known for their foliage, but the plants will also have lovely flowers in the summer months. The flowers come in lavender, pink and white. They are also a favourite with Hummingbirds.

One issue is that snails, slugs, rabbits, and deer also love these plants. You will have to keep this in mind if you often have deer wandering through your garden.

Planting

In the spring, you should buy your hostas as potted plants or dormant and bare-root divisions. When planting, you need to set the plants with their crown even with the soil. The growing tips should be visible at the surface of the soil.

If you have purchased potted plants, you will need to plant them at the same soil level as they had in the pot. The soil will then need to be gently dampened. Water the soil until it is moist.

Care

After planting or when you first see growth, you should apply a well-balanced fertilizer. Ideally, this should be a slow release fertilizer. The soil will also need to be kept moist, but do not overwater and allow the soil to become wet. To retain moisture, you should place mulch around the plant.

After the flowers have bloomed you should remove the flower stalks. This will encourage new growth. You also need to clean up around the plants and remove any brown leaves in the fall. This helps to control slugs and disease. Dividing and transplanting are best left to until the early spring when leaves start to come through.

Transplanting And Dividing

You do not have to divide the plants for their health. If the plant has less space, it will simply grow at a slower rate. However, if you want a neater appearance, you can divide your hostas.

You should leave this for the early spring. This will also be the best time to transplant the divided plants or move the plant to a new area. When dividing the plant, you should leave as much of the root attached as possible to each crown. The new plants will need to be planted at the same soil level as previously and watered until established.

Diseases And Pests

If you see any irregular holes on the edges of the leaves or an entire leave has been chewed off, nocturnal slugs are generally to blame. You will need to look for any slime trails leading to your plant. These trails may also be present on the other leaves of the plant.

Deer love hostas and you will need to discourage them from eating your plant.

deer in field of green

To do this, you should use fencing or a sprinkler. You can also get deer repellents from your local garden center if you do not want to use fences.

If there are clean-cut chew mars on the stems and leaves of your young plants, a rabbit could be to blame. To determine if they are the cause, you need to look for dropped leaves and rabbit droppings.

Additional Insights

Young leaves on your plant are edible. In Japan, the leaves are fried in tempura, but they can also be eaten raw. The flavor will be similar to asparagus or lettuce.

The Rules of Thumb for Ornamental Grasses

pink-muhly-ornamental-grass-blowing-in-wind

I get a lot of questions about ornamental grasses, but two come up more than any others. These are, “when should my grass be cut back,” and “when and how should my ornamental grass be divided?” I’ll cover these and other points in the following post.

Public interest in growing and cultivating ornamental grasses has increased dramatically in the last few years, probably because they are so versatile.

They can be planted anywhere and can be used to add colour, depth and dimensions to any garden setting. Along with the increased popularity of ornamental grasses has come a steady stream of questions about caring for them.

ornamental grass used as a water fall backdrop

Two questions we are commonly asked include “Does ornamental grass need to be cut back and when?” and “How should I divide my ornamental grass and when?”. In the following article we will supply you with some essential rules of thumb for addressing these very points.

There are different classifications of grasses to be aware of when discussing these topics. Grasses can be cool evergreen, warm season or cool season. Cool season will do most of their growing during the cooler months like the spring before temperatures get higher than 75°F (23.8°C) and then again in the fall after temperatures have dropped once more. They will keep good colour if they are maintained well during the summer, but they won’t do much growth in higher temperatures.

Warm-season grasses won’t begin growing until the temperatures get warmer in late spring or early summer. All of their flowering and growth will occur in the summer when the temperatures get warmer again. In the winter you will see these grasses turn shades of brown.

Evergreen grasses are not actually grass per say. Instead, they are special plants that have an appearance of grass, like sedges or carex, but these aren’t grass.

The Rules of Thumb for Ornamental Grasses

I find that using a few rules of thumb adds great simplicity to what would otherwise be a lengthy scientific explanation, which could be hard to remember. I actually found the detail of ornamental grasses to b quite complex myself until I was able to simplify the information into a few rules of thumb that I have found pertain to most ornamental grasses.

Ornamental Grass Rule of Thumb No. 1 –– Warm season grasses should be cut back in fall or by mid to late spring.

Warm season grasses take on brownish hues when the temperatures drop in the winter. This is the perfect time to take care of any trimming jobs you’d like to do. If you have a fall routine for gardening or live in a place where fire is a risk, you can cut them till they are no more than a few inches tall.

If fire is not a big problem in your area you may choose to leave your ornamental grasses as they are with their seed heads as a winter spectacle. When these have been frosted over in the first chill of winter you will have a beautiful sight to enjoy. Then you can do the trimming in spring before they begin to grow gain. Cut them till they are just a couple of inches.

Not all ornamental grasses are a pretty sight in the winter, so keep the not-so-attractive ones trimmed down.

Ornamental Grass Rule of Thumb No.2 –– Cool season grasses must be cut back in the early spring

As the warm season grasses are turning brown, the cool season grasses will still stay green and bright over the winter. Leave their foliage as it is till the harsh winter cool has passed and spring arrives. Only remove about two thirds the length of the plant in place. It is important to be gentle and precise when trimming cool season grass as they can be damaged by mistreatment.
Now you have a basic idea of when ornamental grasses should be cut back. The next question is how to do this. Begin by grabbing a good pair of thick leather gardening gloves. Some of these ornamental grasses have very sharp edges and protection is vital. Smaller plants will only need a small pair of shears to trim away about 2/3 of the cool season grasses. For those that have grown especially long, it might be assist to grab all the leaves in a bundle and snip them all in one clean shot. This may not be possible with all plants as some have leaves that are shorter than others.

If you have a larger clump of well-established grasses you may need something a little more powerful. An electric or gas powered weed eater with a blade rather than the usual string is a good option. If necessary you can use a chainsaw but always use proper protection and try to tie up the grasses to get as much as you can in on slice. Many times a simple pair of hedge trimmers will be more than enough.

Dividing ornamental grasses is an important way to keep your grasses alive and growing without having to buy more. Dividing your grass can keep them alive and growing as opposed to going to simply dying out. Grass will begin to die out at their centre but a timely dividing will keep them rejuvenate the entire clump.

Ornamental Grass Rule of Thumb No. 3 –– Spring to mid-summer is the best time to divide warm season grasses

Ornamental grasses need to be properly growing when they are divided but before the grass has begun to flower. If you were to divide while the plant is still dormant it won’t grow proper roots to keep it strong and healthy. Warm season grass wakes up in the spring and is most active during the hotter summer months. Warm season grasses will bloom in mid-summer.

Ornamental Grass Rule of Thumb No. 4 –– Cool season grasses should be divided in the spring or early fall

The spring and fall are the active growing times for cool season grasses. They can also be transplanted at either time of the year but there is some reason to do this during the spring. If you try and transplant in the fall you run the risk of winter chills. I had a couple of coral bells out of the ground for transplanting and were struck by an early frost –– they didn’t survive and I was sad.

Ornamental Grass Rule of Thumb No. 5 –– Evergreen grasses and other grass-like plants should be divided in the spring.

Evergreen plants aren’t like other plants and never really go dormant. But, when you divide an evergreen grass it is essentially inflicting a wound on the plant. This injury can affect the plant’s capacity to survive through the harsh winter.

How exactly do you divide a grass?

The process is very simple and a lot like dividing a perennial. First you must dig the grass up and then cut the clump into as many portions as you can but each must have some roots to sustain their life. Use the sharp edge of a trowel, a knife, pruning shears to dissect the clump of roots.

Make sure you plant the grasses again once you have finished before their roots become damaged through exposure to sunlight and air. You may even want to cover them until you do especially if the day is sunny.

Finally, they are not called “blades” of grass for nothing and a grass cut can slice deep and ugly (it’s happened to me and it hurts), protect your tender fingers with proper gloves.

Growing Bamboo and Propagation

kyoto-bamboo

The Propagation Of Lucky Bamboo Plants

If your lucky bamboo is in a state of good health, you will notice that its shape will change rather quickly.

New shoots will grow straight instead of being coiled and intertwined as it was in the beginning.

While you may have once found it attractive, the result will be a plant that does not have the proper balance.

The good this is that lucky bamboo can be propagated easily.

Taking Cuttings

Taking healthy cuttings is the first step toward fixing the problem I typically do this after trimming the mother plant. Ideally, the cutting should have a minimum of one leaf joint; more is better. Trim any excess leaves that are covering the growth node. It is possible for lucky bamboo to be rooted bare or a hormone can be used. Normally, a hormone is not required since this type of plant roots readily. If you have tried a few times and things have not gone well, a hormone can be really helpful.

Rooting In Water

This is the preferred method of completing the process. Take all of your trimmings including any leaf joints, and place them in distilled water. You should notice reddish roots emerging from near the stalk’s bottom. It is important that you keep the water fresh and clean. After new roots have grown, you can place the plant in a vase with soil or decorative stones.

Rooting In Soil

It is also possible for lucky bamboo to root in soil. Gently push the trimmed stalk into a pot of soil. It is necessary for at least one root node to be placed beneath the surface level. Place the plant in a warm, moist environment if you want it to thrive.

When you are rooting lucky bamboo, you must keep in mind that new plants will not have the same look and growth patterns as the parent. It will be an attractive, solid plant with straight stems and green leaves, but it will not have the appearance of a lucky bamboo that was shaped and grown by a professional.

Here’s a cute video about how fast Bamboo grows …