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