Add beauty, aroma to yard

Stand next to the old-fashioned mock orange shrub when it’s blooming, close your eyes and you would think that you are standing in the middle of an orange grove.

Originally, our mock orange shrub (Philadelphus spp.) was outside our dining room, and the scent filled the whole house.

We had to have our basement wall dug out and rebuilt. I got a few unhappy looks from the backhoe operator when I informed him that he couldn’t just rip it out of the ground, but needed to dig it up and relocate it. My insistence is why this shrub still is going strong today.

Fall is a good time to plant a shrub like this, as next spring you’ll see the blooms. It is hardy in Zones 4 to 6. It prefers full sun to partial shade in moist well-drained soil.

When planting, dig the hole deeper and wider than the root ball and add some compost. Water it well before planting and mulch it to conserve moisture. Keep watering until the plant is well established.

Annual pruning will keep it healthy and maintain its shape. The shrub blooms on last year’s growth, so pruning needs to be done soon after blooming in early summer. Prune off the growth just above the outer facing buds on stems that have finished flowering in May or June.

Don’t prune after July to ensure blooms the next spring. You should wait a year before pruning on a newly planted shrub. This is the time also to cut out any deadwood back to the ground and any crowded or crossing branches to open the center of your shrub to increase sunlight and air flow for optimum plant health.

In time, your shrub may become woody and less productive. If this happens you can give the whole shrub a hard rejuvenation pruning by cutting it all back to 6 to 12 inches from the ground. This should be done in winter or early spring while the plant is dormant. You won’t get any blooms that spring, but the plant will grow back healthier and provide blooms the following year.

The suckers produced by the plant provide for an easy way to propagate. When the shrub is dormant (fall or winter), use a sharp shovel and make a clean cut to separate the sucker from the parent plant. Dig up the sucker and replant.

You can also take softwood stem cuttings in the spring after it blooms until mid-June. Using a sharp knife, cut 4-inch sections with two to three sets of leaves from the stem tip, right below the last leaf node (leaf nodes are the bulges in the stem from which leaves grow). Pinch the top set of leaves to encourage branching, dip the end of the cutting in rooting hormone and place the cutting into a well-watered potting medium.

Cover this with plastic wrap that is held off leaves with toothpicks. Keep moist and out of direct sunlight. In three to four weeks, you should see new growth. Take off the plastic and repot into one- to two-gallon pots filled with potting soil.

To learn more about this shrub, go to http://go.osu.edu/mockorange

Here are species and cultivars to select:

• P. coronaruis — this is also known as sweet mock orange;

• P. lemoinei — this is compact at 3 to 4 feet and has double flowers;

• P. x virginalis — this is a hybrid cultivated from P. lemoinei.

Baytos is an Ohio State University Mahoning County Extension Master Gardener volunteer.


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