Tuberose

Not Many Flowers, But Enough To Give Me Hope

I’ve been buying one or two stems of Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa) at the Union Square Farmer’s Market for the last couple of years.  I love its fragrance, very sweet and unique.  The scent brought me back to my childhood when my grandmother grew them in her garden.  The memory of  walking in the garden when they were in full bloom will always stay with me.  The long stems with pure white flowers that opened up, one or two at a time, like a small version of Gladiolus.  I was allowed to cut them just to make an offering, nothing else.  I guess it was because it was mainly used in a funeral  arrangement over there at that time.   The name in the local language means ‘to hide a smell’.  The locals probably used the flowers in the temple during a funeral ceremony before embalming existed, hence the name.   When you put a lot of Tuberose together, you won’t smell anything else but the sweetness of the flowers.  It’s like being in a room full of Oriental Lilies or Hyacinths, if you’re not sure how strong Tuberose is.

Anyway, I was warned by the farmer who sold me the Tuberose flowers about the difficulty of growing it in this latitude.  He said I can grow them but they won’t flower because the hot season is not long enough for the plant to develop flower buds.  He added that in the Northern part of the US it’s grown successfully only in a greenhouse.  His answer discouraged me from trying to grow them for a few years.

What have I got to loose?  I can’t get Gardenia and Ginger Lily to flower but I still grow them.  Hopefully one of these years they will give me a break and flower.   I decided to try growing tuberose this year with three small bulbs.   They have taken their sweet time to come up from under the soil but, to my surprise, one of them bloomed.  There are just two flowers on the long stem but they are enough to give me hope.

The unopened buds have a pink tint at the tips
The unopened buds have a pink tint at the tips
Fully opened.  Pure white with strong sweet fragrant
Fully opened. Pure white with strong sweet fragrant

4 thoughts on “Tuberose

  1. So happy to see your success with the Tuberose! I’m going to have to track this down to test the fragrance–not sure I’ve ever smelled them. Yours are just beautiful.

    1. Thank you. I’m hoping they grow back next spring. I got them from the ‘van Bourgondien’ catalog and was really happy to see one of them bloom. You should be able to grow them since you grow gardenia and lantana now. Mine will always have to stay in the pot unfortunately.

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