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Polianthes tuberosa (photo courtesy of Thomas J. Story)
Polianthes tuberosa (photo courtesy of Thomas J. Story)

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Zone
Zones 7-9, 14-24, H1, H2
Full Sun
Full
Regular Water
Moderate

Polianthes tuberosa

Tuberose

Perennials, Flowers

Native to Mexico. Grown for the heady, powerfully sweet fragrance of its flowers. Each rhizome (actually a modified rhizome with a bulb-like top and tuberous roots) produces a fountain of narrow, grassy leaves about 1 1/2 ft. tall. Flower spikes rise above the leaves, bearing loose whorls of tubular, glistening white flowers in summer or early fall. The tallest tuberose (to 3 1/2 ft.) is the form sometimes sold as ‘Mexican Single’. More widely sold is double-flowered ‘The Pearl’, to 2 1/2 ft. tall; it is a good garden variety, but single types provide longer-lasting cut flowers.

To bloom year after year, tuberoses need a long warm season (at least 4 months) before flowering. Where this can be provided outdoors, you can plant rhizomes directly in the ground; elsewhere, start them indoors in pots and plant outside after soil warms in spring. Set rhizomes 2 in. deep and 4–6 in. apart. If soil or water is alkaline, apply acid fertilizer when growth begins. When foliage starts to yellow in fall, stop watering. Dig plants, cut off dead foliage, let rhizomes dry for 2 weeks, and store in a cool, dry place until planting time. Tuberoses can also be grown in containers and moved to protection during cold weather.

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