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"Gardenias on a Stick" - Polianthes tuberosa - Tuberose

Today I received a box of 50 of the single-flowering variety of Polianthes tuberosa, also known as Tuberose. These come in two popular garden varieties: Single Flowering and Double Tuberose "The Pearl."

Tuberose Flower

Many gardeners believe these to have been native to Mexico, however they are native to Malaysia and the Phillipine islands. They're known by names such as Xinxiao in Singapore ("that on which the moth rests"), Sedep Malam in Malaysia ("Night Fragrant Flower" - belonging to the Javanese Goddess of the Southern Ocean), Rajnigandha in India ("Night Fragrant"), as Azucena in Cuba ("Madonna Lily"; Amaryllis) and by many other names across many cultures throughout the world.

The Pearl Tuberose
Double-Flowered variety of Tuberose known as 'The Pearl' - while not as strongly scented, 'The Pearl' makes an excellent cut flower

Tuberose are known for their strong, intoxicating fragrance that increases in strength at night and can perfume an entire yard. Here are some quick facts about this plant:

Height: 
18-36" (45-91 cm)
Spacing:
8" apart
Hardiness: 
Zone 8a-10a
Light Requirement:
Full Sun
Flower Color:
White
Blooming Period:
Late Summer through Fall
Foliage:
Grassy; Evergreen in Frost Free Climates
Watering Needs:
Water Regularly
Soil pH:
~5.6-7.8
Fertilization:
5-10-10 When Planting; Fertilize before and during bloom period for best flowering
Propagation Method:
Dividing Tubers/Corms and Offsets

It cannot be emphasized enough to choose carefully where you purchase your bulbs, and Tuberoses are no exception. Ideal bulbs will have several bulblets growing in a clump around the parent bulb. They will look a lot like a whole garlic bulb. Beware of nurseries and sellers online who are selling Tuberoses or any type of bulb and do not have accurate descriptions or photos of their bulbs, or do not describe the size and type of the bulb promised to you. A good source for tuberose bulbs is Tennessee Tuberoses or finding Tuberoses on eBay.

Tuberose Bulb

Notice the clumping of all the side bulbs around the parent plant. This is an extremely healthy bulb that will flower very reliably if given proper care. It has been said that the repeat blooming habit of Tuberose is due to the creation of these side bulblets throughout the growing season.

Tuberose Sprout
A Tuberose bulbs' first signs of growth emerging from the soil

Tuberoses produce fountains of grassy foliage and clusters of snow-white flowers on stems up to 3 feet from late summer through fall. Blooms open upward along the flower stalks for several weeks. They are among the most fragrant flowers in the garden and, except for double cultivars, are excellent as cut flowers, lasting over a week in a vase if cared for. They are very popular for weddings.

Tuberose Bloom

If you garden in zone 8 or higher (winter temperatures do not drop below 15-20 °F / -9.4 to -6.6 °C for long periods), Tuberoses can be safely left in the ground. Otherwise, it is recommended to dig them after the first frosts and store them over winter in a frost free place.

LIFTING AND STORING: Work around sides of a clump of bulbs with a fork, lift the clump out, clip off the remaining foliage and remove all soil if you can. Avoid hosing it off.

DRYING: Leave in shade for a few days or spread them out on newspapers in a garage or basement until they seem dry. Depending on the size of the clump, this could take longer. If bulbs are stored damp, they will rot. Store in baskets or cardboard boxes so they get air. If possible, storage with dry peat or coco bark around them is good. Check on them about once per week to be sure none are rotting. Tuberoses like storage temps of 70-75 degrees - but at least keep them where the area is completely dry and the temperature is above freezing.

REPLANTING: After the last frost in Spring, plant the tubers back in the garden about 8 inches apart. Fertilize and water Tuberose throughout the summer if possible. Bulbs can be separated for greatly increased planting for the following year.

Tuberoses have been a garden favorite and celebrated around the world for centuries, and are welcome in any garden situation with proper care and handling!

3 comments:

  1. THANK YOU so much! I have been hunting the internet to see how a REAL tuberose bulb should look like! I happened to be in my local nursery yesterday [here in Portugal] and saw some for sale. I was picking out the very small individual looking 'bulblets' as the owner was standing there. It was obvious that there were more towards the back of the deep box - so thinking they might be fresher there I pulled out ... a huge one rather like your photo - with lots of the little ones! I asked her is THIS was still 'one bulb' and she said yes. So I routed around and found another two - so I have three big bulbs with lots of little ones on the sides ! I am SO looking forward to these beauties coming up and perfuming the air!

    Thanks once again for the great info and very good photos!

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  2. I live in Victoria BC Canada and would love to try to grow these here. Where can I buy them?

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    1. I'm not sure given your location, but I am sure bare root / raw bulbs can be bought and shipped to you. Shouldn't be too much of a headache since there's no soil needed, which is what usually requires a phytosanitary certificate across country borders. :)

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