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Tuberose Smells So Sweet

The fragrance of the tuberose is popular with most people who’ve taken the time to stop and smell it.

A sweet-smelling tuberose blossom.

The fragrance of the tuberose (polianthes tuberosa) is popular with most people who’ve taken the time to stop and smell it.

Stems of the tuberose’s lovely white blossoms can frequently be purchased at this time of the year at farmers’ markets. However, it is possible to grow your own at home.

Predictably, given its name, it is a tuber and is a member of the Amaryllis genus and a native of Mexico, so grow these plants as annuals if you live where there are cold winters.

Like the blossoms of nicotiana, the flowering  tobacco , the fragrance is most noticeable in the evenings. There is a large double-flowered tuberose ‘The Pearl’, and there are many single varieties. All have tall stems with few leaves so they are best grown among other plants that will provide foliage to hide their awkward naked stems. But they will do well in any site that has full to part sun.

If you want them to flower early, start them indoors in pots by early April and plant at two week intervals to obtain a succession of bloom over a long period. Set the pots outdoors after all danger of frost is past. You can sink the entire pot into the earth so you can easily lift them when you take them indoors in the fall.

Set the tubers at least two inches deep in clusters of three or more in rich soil. A long growing season is needed to produce large roots of blooming size so most home growers seem to prefer to buy new tubers each year from catalogs. Since the plants get two feet tall and spindly, they need staking as well as good neighbors that will provide camouflage.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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