Stephanotis flowers are celebrated for both their beauty and their fragrance. They come in the shape of a tropical twining vine, brandishing a series of showy, rich-hued shiny foliage, and complemented by a series of snowy flowers.
The flowers showcase a number of narrow, tubular, waxy horns, which each measure around two inches in length.
Each bloom boasts a crown of five lobes and stamens that look a little like minuscule ears. This is where this plant gets its name – stephanos means ‘crown’ in Greek and ‘otis’ means ear. These very flowers are the reason they’re used in an abundance of traditional wedding bouquets.
Stephanotis floribunda, also known as Madagascar jasmine (although it is not a member of the jasmine family) is one of five to 10 species recognised within the genus of twining vine shrubs.
The leaves are oval shaped and leathery, and grow alongside the plant’s woody tendrils. They can reach an impressive 20 feet in height in the wild.
Basic care and cultivation notes
While it is difficult to provide the perfect conditions for this plant, it is possible to get great results if you’re willing to follow a few handy tips and tricks:
- Shade from direct sunlight in the summer months and grow in a well-lit environment during the winter months. The same goes when growing in a greenhouse – you should lightly shade the glass to prevent the plant from scorching.
- The perfect summer temperature is 70°F (c. 21°C). Winter on the other hand is slightly different and the ideal temperature for this plant is a temperatures of between 55°F and 60°F (c. 13°C-16°C). Despite this, they are able to withstand lows of 50°F (c. 10°C).
- Stephanotis requires high humidity levels and containerised plants should be placed on a gravel tray in summer. To create this set-up, choose a tray that is wider than the container and fill with gravel or expanded clay granules. It’s also important to keep the water level below the surface of the container.
- In warm summers, lightly spray the foliage with water in the morning to keep your stephanotis hydrated.
- Water sparingly during the winter months, as the plant seldom grows at this time. Be sure to allow the compost to dry in-between watering.
- When growing season arrives, you can up the plant’s water intake. This occurs between the months of April and October. It is however important not to let the compost dry out completely.
- Between April and October, feed every two weeks, using a proprietary, high-potassium, liquid houseplant food.
Compost and re-potting
Stephanotis thrives when given a well-drained, humus-rich compost, such as John Innes No 2. The plant itself should be potted on a yearly basis, in the month of April. Once the plant reaches a height of 20cm to 22.5cm, you will need to transfer it to a larger vessel.
Stephanotis plants tend to require re-potting in the months of March or April, but only every three years. If you wish to grow a larger plant, it’s wise to place in a greenhouse in a bed measuring around three foot.
Stephanotis plants can face several common problems which you’ll need to look out for. However with some basic management you should be able to ensure prime growth and upkeep. Among the common issues are:
- Not flowering – The usual cause is a lack of humidity or light. Another common cause is not providing the plant with a winter rest period.
- Flowers dropping – If you’ve moved the plant, you may notice that the flowers drop before they’ve even opened. This is because the move will put the plant into shock, whilst a change in light or temperature will also affect the blooms. Over and under watering can also affect the plant’s growth.
- Leaves turning yellow – This again is caused by over watering but it can occur naturally. A sudden drop in temperature can also cause this.
Environment and caring of the plant indoors
Stephanotis plants require a set environment in order to thrive, which includes an adequate amount of rain, warm winters and high humidity. Although you can grow this plant outdoors all year round, many will transfer this plant indoors for at least some part of the year, particularly in the harsh winter months.
Indoor care can be tricky, as these plants can go into shock if their environment is drastically altered. For best results, transfer to a greenhouse and pay strict attention to this plant’s needs. In order to provide the ideal environment for Stephanotis, you should begin by sourcing the correct soil.
For best results, use a rich loamy soil with great moisture retention rates. Despite this, it’s important to never allow the soil to become saturates as this can leave the plant with soggy roots. If the leaves begin to curl and the plant begins to die, it’s likely it’s had too much water.
When growing this plant indoors, use a trellis. When inside, Stephanotis floribunda rarely grows to its supreme height, yet despite this it still requires support or something to climb.
In order to ensure the plant stays healthy when inside, use a half strength fertiliser solution and apply it twice a month during the growing season. In addition to this, mist the plants on a regular basis in order to provide the illusion of humidity. In their natural habitat, they prefer a humidity level of 40% to 80%.
Due to their need for constant moisture and warmth, Stephanotis plants tend to be subject to a number of pests, these include the likes of mealybugs and scale. It’s important to treat these as quickly as possible and make this check-up part of your plant’s routine maintenance procedure.
Summer temperatures are preferred by Stephanotis flowers providing the averages measure between 70-80°F. (c. 21-26°C). They also enjoy cooler evenings of around 55-60°F (c. 13-16°C). Since their natural habitat is a tropical one, they prefer medium to bright light.
For best results, avoid placing these plants in direct sunlight, as they will burn.
Winter Indoor Care of Stephanotis Flowers
Stephanotis are exceptionally challenging in the winter months, as they enjoy a much cooler temperature of around 55°F. (c. 13°C). If the temperature increases, the plant will perish. Likewise, if the temperatures falls to anything below 50°F. (c. 10°C), it will have a detrimental effect, hindering the plant’s survival.
In the UK, it’s therefore wise to move the plant indoors for winter, although as previously mentioned, you should take great care when doing this.
During the winter months, this plant requires less water. In fact, its intake drops dramatically. Irrespective of this, it’s still important to give the plant an intermittent misting. You won’t need to apply a fertiliser during the winter months.
If the plant has been brought up in the perfect environment, with the correct conditions, it will generate fruits that are pear or egg shaped in style, measuring around four inches in length. This indigestible fruit takes a series of months to ripen and will ultimately split and turn brown.
The pod can then be dissected to showcase a multitude of flat seeds, complete with white feathery hairs attached.
These look a little like milkweed, a relative of this plant. These seeds can be planted though propagation, although stem cuttings tend to be more successful and as such, are a more popular way of propagating this plant.
Despite being a little bit of a gardening challenge, Stephanotis floribunda is certainly worth the effort! It’s the perfect addition to outdoor spaces and indoor spaces, due to its beauty and fragrance. Follow the above tips and you’ll be able to enjoy this plant all year round!
If you’ve tried your hand at growing Stephanotis and have any more tips that you think work, we’d love to hear from you so we can share them with our readers!