Mock Orange Bush Guide: How To Plant, Grow, Identify, Prune Mock Oranges

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | March 28, 2024

Man watering a mock orange bush after learning how to identify types of mock oranges, how to grow mock orange trees and how to prune mock orange branches for more blooms.

Fragrant and bearing white four-petaled flowers, the Mock Orange bush is an indigenous plant of the Americas, Canada, and Europe and can be grown and pruned to fit all sizes and styles of landscapes.

Its flexibility and ability to adapt to whatever design of landscape you may have, makes the Mock Orange plant as an invaluable addition that can liven up your garden whether it’s grown as a hedge, a bush, or a fully formed tree.

Mock Orange Bush Guide: So What Is a Mock Orange Tree?

Well, for starters, the plant does not grow oranges or any citrus fruits but gets its name from the flowers themselves, which actually smell like oranges.

It is deciduous, so the dark green leaves are shed in the fall, but at the start of spring, the small white flowers bloom and emit the deceptive smell normally associated with a real orange tree with real oranges.

Mock orange

(Philadelphus coronarius)

Mock Orange image in an oval frame on green background.
  • Family: Hydrangeaceae
  • Genus: Philadelphus
  • Leaf: The oval leaves are dark green and taper to a point
  • Bark: Reddish brown color
  • Seed: Small and found in the capsules on the plant
  • Blossoms: One to two-inch white flowers with four petals that bloom in early spring
  • Fruit: Encased in brown capsules that are no more than half an inch long
  • Native Habitat: Europe, USA, and Canada
  • Height: Between 2 to 12 feet tall
  • Canopy: Can reach widths of 12 feet
  • Type: Deciduous
  • Native Growing Zone: Grows well on rocky slopes, hillsides, and even alongside streams

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Ranking

Least Concern


Image Credit: Hans14

If you love the smell but don’t particularly want to grow any oranges, these types of trees will tick all your green boxes.

Its growth habit is thick and rounded, and it can be grown as a compact two-foot shrub or as a 10- to 12-foot tree, so you really can’t go wrong with a Mock Orange plant.

Growing a Mock Orange From a Seed, Cutting, or Seedling (How To Plant and Grow)

One of the easiest methods of propagating a Mock Orange plant is to purchase a seedling from a local nursery that is already in a container and ready to go.

On arrival back at your home, you have the option of whether to transplant it into your garden or transplant it into another container.4 To do so is fairly straightforward and involves filling a larger container with potting soil.

  • First, make a hole large enough to accommodate the roots of your seedling, and then bury it at the same depth as it was in the previous pot.
  • Tamp down the soil gently around it to avoid compaction, water it well, and place it in a sunlit location.

Now, although not seemingly as easy, stem cuttings are actually the most common method of propagating a Mock Orange tree.

If, as with most experienced gardeners, you decide to use cuttings as the growing method of choice, they should be taken from the new growth from the shrubs as early as in the spring, just after the blooming season finishes.

  • To do so, slice a 4-inch piece at an angle starting at the base of the stem, just under a leaf node. Once that is done, to prepare the freshly cut branch, apply a rooting hormone to the cut ends.
  • Use the same potting soil you would use for a seedling and a similar-sized container, and poke a hole in the center with a pencil.
  • Poke a hole in the soilless planting media, place the cutting into its designated hole, and press the medium firmly around it.
  • Just add water, and then put a clear plastic bag over the pot. This will keep them moist and warm and prevent premature evaporation.
  • Place the pot in a warm spot, but out of direct sunlight.
  • After around three or four weeks, carefully pull on a leaf or examine the roots in the drainage hole to verify that the cuttings are rooted.
  • In around two months, you will be able to remove the plastic bag as the root ball will be big enough and ready to be transferred either to a larger container or transplanted in your backyard.
  • When transplanting outside, dig a hole that is twice as broad and twice as deep as the root ball and break up the dirt around the hole, working in some compost as you do so.
  • Set the plant’s new home at the same depth as its old one as it was in the container to ease the stress of moving locations. Then don’t forget to press down on the dirt to eliminate any air pockets and backfill the hole.
  • If you’re planting several at the same time, leave a six to eight-foot space between them as they tend to grow a bit on the wide side.

Another method of propagation is from seeds,5 but before they start to germinate, they need to be cold-stratified.

  • Gather the seeds from the capsules, even if you have to break them open, and keep them in an outside container during the winter to get this process taken care of. If that’s too long for you, store them in a plastic bag filled with peat in your fridge for a week before planting to break the dormancy period
  • Again, start with a fair-sized container, but this time fill it with perlite or vermiculite.
  • Plant two seeds just below the surface in the pot, being sure to barely cover the seeds with planting material so the seeds will not have to push through a mountain of dirt to see the light of day.
  • The seeds will start to sprout in around two weeks if you keep them damp and in a warm spot, just like with the cuttings.
  • Again, it will take about two months before the seeds become seedlings that are big enough and that are ready to be transplanted into a new spot or pot.

Mock Orange Growing Zone: Best Growing Conditions for Mock Orange

In the United States, growing zones for Mock Orange, where to grow them will depend slightly on the type of cultivar that you have. The ideal planting zones are four to eight, but there are some cultivars that do just as well in zone three.

When it comes to the growing conditions, moist, well-drained soil is where this plant likes to set down roots, and adding compost, bark humus, or manure are helpful soil amendments that will increase nutrient availability and promote the health of the shrub.

Surprisingly, this species may also thrive when its roots are seated in very dry soils, loose sand, or even heavy clay conditions.

Until the shrub is well established, the watering needs for Mock Orange plants require regular watering, and spreading mulch around the plant will help to retain moisture for longer periods, but just make sure it doesn’t become too damp.

Once matured, Mock Orange shrubs are easy to maintain and as long as they are in an area where they will receive four to six hours of sunlight a day, they are very low-key and low-maintenance plants.

In hardiness zones where the summers are blazing hot, however,2 it’s advisable that afternoon shade be provided for some welcome relief from the extreme heat so your new favorite plant doesn’t become easily stressed due to sudden periods of dehydration.

Best Companion Plants For Growing Mock Orange

Because of their flexibility and adaptability, some of the best companion plants for Mock Orange trees are Mock Orange shrubs.

They can complement and contrast against each other easily with variegated leaves, a mixture of different heights and widths, and flower shapes and colors to create a stunning section in your garden dedicated solely to Mock Orange plants.

Other plants with striking white and silver foliage, such as Dichondra, licorice plant, annual Euphorbia, or Bacopa, and Aronias, witch hazel, and snowberries, can also thrive in the same conditions if you want even more variety, with all of them requiring very little care and undue attention.

How To Identify Mock Orange Trees (ID Your Tree)

A traditional blooming shrub, the Mock Orange (Philadelphus) is both graceful and eye-catching, and its fragrant, pure white flowers will quickly make it a firm favorite in your garden.1

Graphics showing how to identify Mock Orange with text and images of Mock Orange leaves, Mock Orange flower, Mock Orange bark, and Mock Orange fruit in circle frames, along with the US map showing the growing zones of the plant.

(Bark Image: Salicyna15 and Fruit Image: Salicyna16)

The flowers, nestled among 1-3-inch leaves with slightly serrated edges, are only about an inch wide and grow in groups of three to eleven. They have an aroma somewhat similar to that of orange blossoms, which is particularly noticeable early in the morning or late into the evening.

The plants may reach a height of 2 to 12 feet, and they have a luscious, unstructured canopy that often needs to be pruned to keep its arching foliage looking trim and neat.

Although there are no oranges on these plants, there are small fruits that are about ½ inch long in brown capsules with four cells.

All these features, along with the reddish brown bark that peels easily, are clear identifying clues that enable you to instantly recognize a Mock Orange plant, whether it’s grown to 12 feet tall or in a container on your patio.

When To Prune Mock Orange Hedges (Fast-Growing Privacy Shrubs)

One of the planting tips for Mock Orange hedges is knowing when to prune them.

Remember that this is a fast-growing plant and can quickly grow into an unsightly mess if you don’t keep on top of its trimming needs.

When planting a Mock Orange hedge, choose a spot that gets full sun or some shade. How much sunlight does Mock Orange need each day will directly affect how well it grows and how good it looks.

On average, Mock Orange plants require between four to six hours of sunlight a day to maintain their fast-growing trait.

This trait is the reason why they make excellent screens for privacy and also the reason why you should prune your constantly-growing hedge once a year rather than just at the beginning, and risk letting it grow out of control.3

It is recommended that you take out the shears towards the end of the summer when it has finished flowering. This is the optimal period, and you should clip any new branches that you see by about a quarter or more to maintain the attractive appearance of your Mock Orange hedge.

6 Mock Orange Varieties

There are about 60 species of Mock Orange plants to choose from that grow better in some planting zones than others, with different traits and features that may suit your landscape better. Here are six to choose from.

1. Philadelphus ‘Belle Étoile’

  • Hardiness Zone: 5-9
  • Height: 5 feet

Impressive blooms with lovely red stamens in the middle and an ample saucer shape that opens out into a cluster of up to nine fragrant flowers. Very low-maintenance and looks stunning in the rear of a mixed flowerbed.

Closeup of Mock Orange 'Belle Étoile' showing white flowers with yellow center.

(Image: I, Epibase9)

Closeup of Philadelphus 'Erectus' showing thin stems with green leaves and white flowers facing towards the ground.

(Image: peganum10)

2. Philadelphus ‘Erectus’

  • Hardiness Zone: 5
  • Height: 4 feet

These tiny, solitary blossoms may only be as big as three centimeters with a somewhat milky hue, but they bloom in clusters of up to five, and the wonderful aroma more than compensates for the small size of the flowers.

3. Philadelphus ‘Virginal’

  • Hardiness Zone: 4-8
  • Height: 8 feet

Blessed with huge two-inch pure white petals,6 this Mock Orange has been a secret favorite for decades and a stunning specimen because of its double, super-scented blooms that line the branches.

Closeup of Philadelphus 'Virginal' showing green leaves with tiny spikes along the edges and small blossoms with white petals.

(Image: Cephas11)

Closeup of Philadelphus ‘Aureus’ showing a cluster of white flowers with yellow centers attached to a stem with greenish yellow leaves.

(Image: Andy Morffew12)

4. Philadelphus ‘Aureus’

  • Hardiness Zone: 4-7
  • Height: 5 feet

An abundance of tiny, fragrant white flowers bloom against a backdrop of vibrant yellow leaves that gradually accept a yellowish tinge as the season progresses. Although it grows more slowly than others, the vibrant leaves of ‘Aureus’ will be a lovely addition to your garden as a nice focal point.

5. Philadelphus ‘Illuminati Tower’

  • Hardiness Zone: 4-7
  • Height: 4 feet

Somewhat of a newcomer, this cultivar has a compact yet towering frame with cup-shaped blooms that are pure white and emit a gentler fragrance that will suffuse the interior of your home rather than overpower it.

6. Philadelphus ‘Variegatus’

  • Hardiness Zone: 4-7
  • Height: 4 feet

The clusters of tiny, fragrant, white blooms are eye-catching but fade into the background against the large variegated leaves that are dark green in the center and edged with a smooth pale yellow coloring.

Common Pests of the Mock Orange and the Natural Pest Control for Mock Orange

Mock Orange plants are not severely plagued by pests. Three that are occasionally pesky are aphids, spider mites, and leaf miners.

Aphids and spider mites target the tender shoots, while the leaf miners prefer to feed on the leaves from the inside out.

The aphids and spider mites can be treated with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil, but the miners that have tunneled their way into the very core of your precious plants require the introduction of beneficial bugs that will hunt them down and devour them no matter where they hide.

How To Stop Mock Orange Disease

Imbued with a naturally high degree of resistance to diseases, Mock Orange plants can nevertheless be infected with brown spots, gray mold, bacterial blight, and powdery mildew.7

Closeup of a Mock Orange tree showing glossy green leaves with powdery mildew.

(Image: Scot Nelson13)

Mock Orange disease prevention starts with cleaning all your pruning equipment before and after use, never leaving decaying organic matter lying around, and adhering to proper watering methods so the leaves do not remain damp for a long period of time when mold will be able to get a firm grip.

Be careful not to cause or leave any accidental wounds open on the branches because a weakened tree is more susceptible to catching an infection that would not normally be a problem.

To Grow as a Mock Orange Tree, a Mock Orange Shrub, or as Tall Bushes

When it comes to plants that are both beautiful and strong, the Mock Orange is head and shoulders above the rest as it can survive in conditions that would normally kill off hedge plants or other shrubs.

Irrespective of which form your Mock Orange plant will ultimately take, it will revolve around your needs, tastes, and wants, and, of course, the space you have available around your home.

As a tiny bush in a container, as a dense privacy screen, or as a tall tree, the fragrant flowers will grow the same and emit the same heady aromas that will pervade your outdoor space from dawn till dusk.

Watering a tree will be the same as watering a shrub, so it won’t demand any more of your time.

How long it takes to grow Mock Orange to your required height will vary on which height you desire and when to plant Mock Orange for the best yield will vary on landscape goals. This is because they can be planted early in the fall or in the spring to complement other flora in your garden.

In terms of hardiness and disease resistance, this Philadelphus cultivar is one of the most resilient to grow in an urban environment. In these concrete jungles, where pollution and extended dry spells are commonplace, it still manages to thrive.

For this reason, Mock Oranges are perfect as hedging plants in city gardens to screen out a busy city or as ornamental features to create your very own oasis.

Fast Growing Shrubs: Privacy Bushes

To grow a tree such as this to maturity can take as little as a year, as the plant grows about two feet per year, which is pretty fast.

For small gardens or if they are to be used as shrubs along pathways as ornamental features, how long does it take for a tree to grow won’t impede your landscaping designs or remodeling project in the slightest.

If your intention is to grow them a little taller to be used as privacy bushes along your boundary line, then they are a perfect choice as the leaves grow tightly together to block out prying eyes.

With a little planning so you know how far apart to plant Mock Orange, even when the leaves are gone and the flowers have fallen to the ground, the interwoven branches of several plants planted close together will still offer a degree of privacy between you and your neighbor.

Mock Orange Facts

Apart from the orange aroma that Mock Orange emits, there are other facts and uses that both humans and animals take advantage of regularly.

  • Different wildlife species benefit from its presence, as it offers both food and shelter. Elk and deer use it as a shelter in harsh winters, while squirrels and quail eat the seeds.
  • The tree pollination process is aided by hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies, who zoom, nip, and flutter in for the nectar and the pollen from the flowers.
  • Indigenous people used the wood for making arrow shafts, combs, bows, and cradles.
  • The flowers and bruised leaves created a foamy froth that was used as soap to clean and wash clothes.

The adaptability and beauty of this plant make it a hot commodity among landscapers and gardeners.

And no matter what level your gardening green fingers are at, a Mock Orange is easy to grow and highly prized for its aesthetic value and alluring aroma.

Frequently Asked Questions About Mock Orange

What Is the Best Season When To Prune Mock Orange Bushes?

The prime period to prune Mock Orange bushes is in late summer after the flowers have ceased blooming.

What Size Are Mock Orange Leaves?

The leaves,8 which are alternate, grow between 6 to 12 cm long.

What Color Are Mock Orange Flowers?

All the flowers are white, but the central antlers can be yellow or slightly green.

How Are Mock Orange Seeds Extracted?

You can either wait for the capsules to turn brown and crack open naturally before extracting the seeds or crush the capsules when they have dried to get at them.

Is the Mock Orange Fruit Edible?

Despite not being suitable for human consumption, a variety of animals frequently eat the fruits.

What Is the Mock Orange Growth Rate?

On average, two feet is the rate at which this species grows per year.


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2Collins-Smith, S. M. (2022, March 4). What Is My Plant Hardiness Zone? Mississippi State University Extension. Retrieved December 22, 2023, from <>

3Rose, L., & Bradley, L. (2021, July 22). What Can I Plant for Privacy? NC State | Extension Gardener. Retrieved December 22, 2023, from <>

4Brabham, B. (2022, January). Using Transplants in the Garden. WVU Extension. Retrieved December 22, 2023, from <>

5Blazich, F., & LeBude, A. (2022). 13. Propagation. In North Carolina Extension Gardener Handbook. NC State Extension. Retrieved December 22, 2023, from <>

6University of California. (2021, November 17). What makes a petal a petal? UC MUSEUM OF PALEONTOLOGY | Understanding Evolution. Retrieved December 22, 2023, from <>

7Newman, S., & Pottorff, L. (2016, February 22). Powdery Mildews. Colorado State University Extension. Retrieved December 22, 2023, from <>

8Nelson, R. C. (2012). The Description of Leaves. University of Rochester. Retrieved December 22, 2023, from <>

9Philadelphus Belle Étoile1a.UME Photo by I, Epibase. (2007, July 15) / CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED | Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported. Resized. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved December 22, 2023, from <Étoile1a.UME.jpg>

10Philadelphus x lemoinei Erectus Photo by peganum. (2016, June 8) / CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED | Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. Resized. Flickr. Retrieved December 22, 2023, from <>

11Philadelphus × virginalis JRVdH 01 Photo by Cephas. (2022, July 16) / CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED | Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International. Resized. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved February 19, 2024, from <×_virginalis_JRVdH_01.jpg>

12Philadelphus coronarius L. ‘Aureus’ Photo by Andy Morffew. (2020, May 15) / CC BY 2.0 DEED | Attribution 2.0 Generic. Resized. Flickr. Retrieved December 22, 2023, from <>

13Mock orange: Powdery mildew Photo by Scot Nelson. (2017, April 25) / CC BY 2.0 DEED | Attribution 2.0 Generic. Resized. Flickr. Retrieved January 5, 2024, from <>

14Mock orange, Jasmin, Blossoms Photo by Hans. (2016, May 1) / Pixabay Content License. Cropped and remixed with text, shape, and background elements. Pixabay. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from <>

15Philadelphus coronarius 2018-07-07 3650 Photo by Salicyna. (2018, July 7) / CC BY 4.0 DEED | Attribution 4.0 International. Cropped and remixed with other images, text, shape, and background elements. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from <>

16Philadelphus coronarius 2021-09-01 9653 Photo by Salicyna. (2021, September 1) / CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED | Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International. Cropped and remixed with other images, text, shape, and background elements. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from <>