A native of the southern regions of North America through Mexico, the attractive white flowers of this shrub not only produce a distinct orange scent but are similar in appearance to the blossoms found on the orange plant.
The botanical name for the Mexican orange is Choisya ternata. The genus was named after a Swiss botanist, Jacques Denys Choisy. Most commonly known as the Mexican orange, this species is also called the Mexican orange blossom, Mexican orange flower, and mock orange.
|Botanical Name||Choisya ternata|
|Common Name||Mexican orange|
|Mature Size||6 to 8 feet in height and width|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun to partial shade|
|Soil Type||Fertile, well-drained|
|Soil pH||Slightly acidic|
How to Grow Mexican Orange Plants
The dense bushy growth of the Mexican orange, coupled with the glossy foliage, makes it a popular ornamental plant. Use it as a focal plant in a garden bed or as a hedge plant, border, or a foundation plant.
Mexican orange is an evergreen, with foliage that remains dark green during all seasons. The leaves are arranged in a palmate fashion with three leaflets. When crushed, the leaves produce a pleasant fragrance that some compare to basil, while others describe it as citrusy. The ‘Sundance’ cultivar has golden-colored foliage.
White star-shaped flowers appear in 3- to 6-inch-long corymbs during the spring and often again in the autumn. Butterflies and honeybees are particularly fond of the flowers and abundant nectar produced by this shrub. The orange-scented flowers turn into a fruit that is neither showy nor edible, composed of a leathery capsule with two to six sections.
Mexican orange is susceptible to a few pests, including glasshouse red spider mites and snails.
A full sun to partial shade location is recommended for Mexican orange, but it will grow in full shade as well.
Soil should be rich, well-draining, and slightly acidic.
Keep moist when first planted, watering deeply to help the shrub establish its root system. Once established, watering should still be deep, but less frequent.
Temperature and Humidity
The preferred USDA zones for Mexican orange are 7–10. It will tolerate a light frost to as much as 27 degrees as long as it has sufficient shelter. This species does not do well with the high nighttime temperatures that sometimes occurs during summer. It should be planted where it will be sheltered from strong winds.
Fertilize in the spring with compost or well-rotted manure. New plants will require extra phosphorus to develop a strong root system.
Little pruning is required but can be performed to maintain the desired shape and size. Occasionally the shrub will experience dieback of many leaves, and in those cases, it should be cut back. Mexican orange will tolerate being cut back to the ground, if necessary. Some gardeners choose to prune the plant back after flowering to achieve a more formal appearance.
Growing Mexican Orange Plants in Containers
Another great option is to grow this shrub in a container that can be moved to more sheltered locations in cooler climates. When grown in pots, this species may be attacked by Pythium root rot, but is otherwise disease-free. Mexican orange flowers grown in containers will need more frequent watering; plant them in pots with sufficient drainage to keep the roots from rotting.
Propagating Mexican Orange Plants
Mexican orange can be grown from seed or propagated from semi-hardwood cuttings.