How to Grow Mock Orange

mock orange shrub

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

In This Article

Mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius) is a deciduous shrub (it loses its leaves in the fall) that has a dense, rounded growth habit. It sports oval, serrated, dark green leaves. And it features showy, cup-shaped, four-petaled flowers in the late spring and early summer that stretch roughly 1 to 2 inches across. These flowers are very fragrant with a sweet scent, which is the primary reason many gardeners grow this shrub. The flowers are said to resemble orange blossoms, which is how the shrub got its common name of mock orange. They are rich with nectar that attracts butterflies and other pollinators. Mock orange shrubs have a fairly quick growth rate and can gain around 2 feet per year. They are best planted in the early fall but also can be planted in the spring.

Botanical Name Philadelphus coronarius
Common Names Mock orange, mock orange shrub, sweet mock orange, English dogwood
Plant Type Shrub
Mature Size 10–12 ft. tall and wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Loamy, moist, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, neutral
Bloom Time Spring, summer
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zones 4–8 (USDA)
Native Areas Europe
mock orange shrub
The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova
mock orange shrub
The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova
mock orange shrub closeup
The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Mock Orange Care

Mock orange shrubs are at their most attractive in the spring. Unfortunately, they do not have much to offer during other times of the year and are not ornamental enough to qualify as specimen plants. But they can be planted in groups to form a loose privacy hedge for summer, and their blossoms are often used as cut flowers. Just make sure their planting site has good drainage, as being waterlogged is not something these shrubs can tolerate.

Maintenance is generally very simple for mock orange shrubs. They don’t often have issues with pests or diseases. And established shrubs will only need watering during periods of drought. Plan both to fertilize and prune your shrub annually. 

Light

These shrubs can grow in full sun to partial shade, meaning at least roughly four hours of direct sunlight on most days. They will generally bloom more profusely when planted in full sun.

Soil

Mock orange shrubs like organically rich soil. They can tolerate a wide range of soil types—including sandy, clay, and loamy soils—as long as they have good drainage. Moreover, they do best with an acidic to neutral soil pH.

Water

These shrubs prefer moist but not soggy soil. They do have some drought tolerance once they’re established, but don’t let the soil completely dry out on them. Water mature shrubs during periods of drought, and water young shrubs to keep the soil lightly moist.

Temperature and Humidity

Mock orange shrubs are hardy to the cold weather within their growing zones and typically don’t need winter protection. They will appreciate some extra water and protection from harsh afternoon sun in excessive heat. Humidity typically isn’t an issue for these plants.

Fertilizer

Use compost, bark humus, or manure when planting mock orange. Then, for annual feedings in the late spring, add a layer of compost around the shrub, working it into the soil. Do not use a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. It can significantly increase leaf growth, which can hinder or even stop blossom growth.

Mock Orange Varieties

The fragrance is a major selling point for mock orange shrubs, but not all varieties are equally fragrant. Therefore, a good time to buy is when the shrub is in bloom at the nursery, so you can smell before you buy. Note that the flowers are most fragrant in the evening. There are many varieties of mock orange shrubs, including:

  • 'Aurea': This variety is more compact than the main species plant, growing around 5 to 6 feet tall and wide, and it sports gold foliage in the spring.
  • 'Blizzard': Particularly tolerant to cold weather, this variety only reaches around 5 feet high by 3 feet wide.
  • 'Miniature Snowflake': This dwarf variety only grows to around 3 feet tall by 2 feet wide but produces especially fragrant double flowers (having extra petals). 
  • 'Snowbelle': Fragrant double flowers adorn this variety which only grows to around 4 feet tall and wide.
  • 'Variegatus': This shrub reaches a maximum height of 6 feet and sports white and greenvariegated foliage.

Pruning

Mock orange shrubs bloom on the prior year's growth. Therefore, to avoid missing out on flowers for the next year, prune the shrubs immediately after they're done blooming. On stems that have just finished flowering, prune off growth above where you see outer-facing buds. Also, prune off any dead, damaged, or poorly shaped branches.

As mock orange shrubs mature, they can become somewhat overgrown. At that point, you can cut the oldest one-third of the branches down to ground level at the time of your annual pruning. After three years of such pruning, the shrub should look healthier. For severely overgrown shrubs, prune all the branches to the ground in the spring. You won't enjoy blooms that year. But this rejuvenation pruning will soon have healthy new branches popping up from the shrub's base.

Article Sources
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  1. Why Plants Fail to Flower or Fruit. Clemson University Cooperative Extension.