A modern reference to temperate woody plants, including updated content from this site and much new material, can be found at Trees and Shrubs Online.

Philadelphus coronarius L.

Mock Orange

Modern name

Philadelphus coronarius L.


P. pallidus Hayek ex Schneid.

A shrub up to 12 ft high, with erect stems, the year-old bark brown and peeling; young shoots ribbed. Leaves ovate to oval-lanceolate, broadly wedge-shaped or nearly rounded at the base, distantly toothed, 112 to 4 in. long, 58 to 2 in. wide; glabrous except for a few hairs on one or both surfaces and on the leaf-stalk, which is 16 to 13 in. long. Flowers yellowish white, heavily scented, about 1 in. across, produced in terminal racemes of five to nine blossoms. Petals oval, 38 in. wide; calyx-lobes downy at the margins, the tube and flower-stalk either glabrous or slightly downy; styles separated at the upper third.

Native of S.E. Europe and Asia Minor; cultivated in Britain since the 16th century, probably before. It flowers in early June. This is the best-known species of mock orange in gardens, but is not in the first rank. The fragrance of its flowers is pleasing out-of-doors, but may become too insistent if the plants are numerous or near sitting-room windows. The odour is too strong for the flowers to be enjoyed in a cut state indoors. Over three hundred years ago Gerard, the herbalist, wrote:

‘They have a pleasant sweete smell, but in my judgment troubling and molesting the head in very strange manner. I once gathered the flowers and laid them in my chamber window, which smelled more strongly after they had lain together a few howers, but with such a pontick and unacquainted savor that they awaked me from sleepe, so that I could not take rest till I had cast them out of my chamber.’

cv. ‘Aureus’ (‘Foliis Aureis’). – Leaves bright yellow, and very effective in spring, becoming duller after midsummer.

cv. ‘Nanus’ (‘Duplex’). – This ‘is of humble growth, seldom rising above three feet high; the leaves are shorter … and approach near to an oval form; they are but little indented on their edges. The flowers come out singly from the side of the branches, and have a double or treble row of petals … this sort flowers very rarely, so is not much esteemed’ (Miller, Gard. Dict., ed. 1768). In the earlier editions of his Dictionary, Miller also mentioned a form of normal growth which produced a mixture of single and double flowers, but mostly single. ‘Deutziiflorus’, of more recent origin, is also a double-flowered variety of dwarf habit, but it flowers more freely.

cv. ’ Variegatus’. – Leaves with an irregular border of creamy white.

P. ‘Salicifolius’. – A plant of uncertain status, usually considered as a variant of P. coronarius, distinct in its leaves, which are 2 to 4 in. long, 12 to 34 in. wide, sparsely toothed. Dr Hu points out that its flowers are abnormal but show that the plant does not belong to P. coronarius.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

Hu accepts P. caucasicus Koehne as a species distinct from P. coronarius, but it is questionable whether it deserves this rank; indeed it is not clear what constant character there is to separate it from the variable P. coronarius. This Caucasian and Armenian philadelphus is in cultivation from a collection by Roy Lancaster in 1979 above Novy Afon on the northern Black Sea coast.

According to Hu, P. coronarius ‘Aureus’ belongs to P. caucasicus on the grounds that it differs in the key-character of a pubescent floral disk against glabrous in P. coronarius.



Other species in the genus