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MOCK ORANGE (PHILADELPHUS) SHRUB


The Mock Orange (Philadelphus) shrub originates from a variety of regions around the world including Central and North America, parts of Asia and South-eastern Europe. They are deciduous (loose their leaves in winter) and produce their flowers for about five weeks in mid June to late August depending on local conditions. They are frequently planted by councils in parks and on estates for the simple reason that they look beautiful in flower but require almost no attention.

BEST CONDITIONS TO GROW PHILADELPHUS (MOCK ORANGE)


Mock Orange grow well on a wide variety of soils from heavy clay to light well-drained soils. They put down deep roots so are rarely affected by drought. They do prefer a full sun or partial shade position if they are to produce the best flowers.

If you are planting a new one it will need watering over the first summer but that's about it! They are very frost hardy and withstand windy conditions well. This makes them sound like ideal shrubs for almost all of the UK and this is definitely the case.

Mock Orange (Philadelphus) in full flower
Mock Orange (Philadelphus) in full flower


FLOWERING AND FOLIAGE


The flowers are produced freely and cover most of the shrub when in full flower. The most commonly planted varieties have pure white flowers.

The foliage is mid to dark green (see picture below) and unremarkable, this hardy shrub is grown primarily for its flowers.

Leaf of Mock Orange (Philadelphus)
Leaves of Mock Orange.
Click picture to see more clearly

They are readily available as potted plants from many garden centres and they grow well in medium to large sized containers.

Mock Orange (Philadelphus) growing in a pot

Keep them watered well as with most pot plants, feed three times a year with blood fish and bone for a perfect potted shrub. In August gather up the stems and cut off the top third of the growth - pruning them really is that easy.

HOW TO PRUNE MOCK ORANGE (PHILADELPHUS)


The time to prune a Mock Orange is in August soon after it has finished flowering. Much could be made of the techniques to use when pruning this shrub but in reality a hedge trimmer or a pair of secateurs can simply be used to keep it in shape. That is what council gardeners do and it works perfectly. The shrub grows vigorously so they are normally cut down to 1m / 3ft high which will result in a shrub about 1.6m / 5ft high the next year when it flowers.
 

Close up of the Mock Orange flower

DIFFERENT VARIETIES OF MOCK ORANGE (PHILADELPHUS)


There are endless varieties of Mock Orange and four of them have been awarded an AGM by the RHS but in truth all of the common varieties make excellent plants for the small to medium sized garden.

Varieties which can readily be found include Belle Etoile (white flowers), Virginal (white flowers) and Aureus which has variegated foliage. The Botanic Gardens at Cambridge are an excellent place to see Mock Orange in their natural habitat. Click here to visit their site. As far as we are aware there is no designated national Collection of Mock Oranges in the UK.

PESTS OF MOCK ORANGE


This shrub is one of the most disease resistant ones around. However they do have one weakness, especially when grown in containers, that is black fly. They appear in late May to early June, just at the time that the flowers are beginning to appear. See the picture below where they appear on several of the stems.

Black fly on Mock Orange (Philadelphus)

Generally, the black fly gather on the ends of stems and this makes them relatively easy to wash away with a gentle blast of water. Alternatively, systemic sprays can be used to kill them, follow the instructions carefully especially about the time of day day to apply the spray. Spraying in the evening limits, but does not entirely remove, the collateral damage to beneficial insects such as bees.

MOCK ORANGE SUMMARY


Below we list the key strengths and weaknesses of the Mock Orange.
 
HARDY 5 star hardiness rating(to -18°C)
   
CLAY SOIL Yes 
SANDY SOIL  Yes 
   
DRY SOIL No
   
SHADE  No, partial, full sun
   
EVERGREEN  No
   
EASY CARE 5 easy care rating
SMALL GARDENS  Yes
   
POT / CONTAINER Yes
   
FLOWERING  5 star flowering rating
   
FLOWER TIME June to July

Other "easy-care" shrubs in this series include Choisya, Hebes, Skimmia, Lilacs, Potentilla and Rose of Sharon (hibiscus syriacus).