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Michelia Alba overrated ?

July 1, 2005

I had read many glowing reports about this plant so bought one few months ago. The plant is now about 2-3 feet high, doing well in a conservatory and has several flowers, but I find the scent disappointing.

It is pleasant - slightly citrus scented - but nothing special and you have to put your nose close to pick it up.

I have a few Lilium Regale flowers open at the moment and they, in contrast, have a magnificent perfume which fills the whole house in the evenings.

Has anyone else found this ?

Comments (11)

  • risingpower1

    I smelt it at chelsea, it smelt ok but couldn't smell it much from where it was and I'm not as in favour of the figo either as much as others, smells too strongly of pear drops not bananas. If you want scent a few I think you'd find more appealing are:

    Artabotrys hexapetalus and a few others like desmos chinensis from www.plantsman.com

    Jasminum sambac maid of orleans from the exoticplantsdirect.co.uk

    Rhododendron veitchianum, http://www.rhododendrons.com/www/list/rhododendron-species-all/1/alpha_V
    but they only have a specimen size @ £200

    Might be worth a visit to kew's palm house where they have a huge amount of fragrant plants to decide on others.

    However, I think some orchids have the strongest scents of all, like cycnoches chlorochilon and encyclia/prostetchea fragrans which really do fill a house, a lot stronger than any lily.


  • daxin

    Fragrance is very personal. For example, I can not stand Buddleia but it's considered by many as very fragrant. However, in terms of wafting power, it is all about the amount of blooms and the exact condition. Being a tropical shade tree, Michelia alba would not show its true stuff until it is at least 5-6 feet tall and during a warm, humid summer evening, with many many flowers blooming at the same time, it will forcefully let you know why it is such a legendary fragrant plant. (Make sure you are not getting a Michelia champaca, whose leaves are not shiny at all, whereas M. alba's are)

  • longriver

    We all have certain preference about their fragrant flowers. Fortunately there are so many fragrant flowers for us to grow. M. alba has its place favored by many. M alba will project me a feeling of warm summer, tropical garden and a memory of Taiwan in my youth years. Yes, there are so many fragrance are superior such as rose, certain Chinese fragrant Orchid and even two of my fragrant camellia seedlings( not released yet). Sometimes I value the fragrance for the special quality, balanced notes or for pleasant previous memory. Intensity will be only part of equation.

  • flowers_galore

    I think it needs hot humid weather to release its fragrance. M. figo has no smell for me at certain times and if the weather is ripe for it to realease its fragrance, i know there is a flower in bloom and go find it.
    My alba is in front yard and it blooms at least 3 -4 times a year and the whole cul de sac is fragrant to the point that, people stop to ask me what is it.
    hth, Radha.

  • davegtiuk

    Thanks all for your comments and suggestions.
    I think it is the right plant. It was bought from Burncoose Nursery in the UK and it has the shiny leaves as described.
    I will give it a few more years to increase in size and in the meantime track down some of the other interesting suggestions. Cheers.

  • CoolPlants

    Yea, to me it smells of Juicyfruit Gum. The yellow champaca is much more exotic, stimulating and erotic.

  • dho1655

    Heat & humidity definitely bring out the fragrance. My M. alba is in bloom right now & the wafting fragrance can be smelled from afar on a warm day but can hardly be detected on a cool day.

    Here's a story to illustrate my point:

    Once I took a M. alba plant on a crowded bus without air conditioning on a Hong Kong summer day which is notorious for its high humidity, all the passengers turned their heads & wanted to know what I got in my arms. For all of a sudden the stuffiness & the smell of many sweating bodies sardined together was swept away by this fragrance from heaven. The remarkable thing was there were only a couple of blossoms on the plant but that's all it took.

  • angelsmell

    I have to Michelia Alba's on my patio close togeather, when I open you patio door the fragrance fills my entire patio.... I love it, I always pick a flower and put it in a
    vase next to my bed.... it smells wonderful in my bedroom.
    It's very soothing to me. Mine blooms about 9 months out of the year.

  • charlene_in_iowa

    I am not trying to steal your thread, but does anyone know of a good mail order source for M alba? It seems the only places I find on the internet are for wholesale orders only. I am going to try one, as a house plant, for it's fragrance.

  • ermazi

    Michelia need P during its flowering,
    if it cannot get enough P, the smell of its flowers
    will be weeken. So using high P fertirizer such as
    10-30-10 may help.

  • Ron_B

    Phosphorus can also produce a toxicity in the soil, so be careful with high P fertilizers, which are commonly overapplied. You have to replace the soil to get rid of it.

    Michelia alba has been offered by

    Pacific Tree Farms, Chula Vista, CA
    Cistus Nursery, Portland, OR

    in recent years. I do not know current supply.

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