What is Stephanotis?

J.M. Densing

Stephanotis is a dark green vine with white flowers that is evergreen and has a tendency to climb. Vines can grow quite tall with support like a trellis. Its common name is Madagascar jasmine, and its scent is often compared to the fragrance of jasmine; another nickname is Hawaiian bridal veil. It grows best in a tropical climate, and can be grown indoors or in greenhouses in cooler areas. The flowers are frequently used for bridal bouquets, and other floral arrangements.

Stephanotis grow best in a warm and humid tropical climate.
Stephanotis grow best in a warm and humid tropical climate.

The Stephanotis vine can easily reach a height of about 10 to 20 feet (3 to 6 m), and usually branches out in several directions. The leaves appear most often in pairs pointing in opposite directions. The leaves have an oval shape, and are thick skinned, leathery, and dark green. The flowers are white, with five thick, sturdy looking petals arranged in a star-like formation. Often appearing to be perfect, they look as though they could be made of wax.

The native area of the Stephanotis vine ranges from Malaya to Madagascar. It is believed to have originated in Madagascar. It prefers a very warm, humid, tropical climate, with temperatures no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius). It is grown by gardeners all over the world, usually indoors in colder areas.

When grown by gardeners, Stephanotis is frequently grown in pots and trained to grow on a trellis, or in baskets. They can be trained to grow up the trellis easily since they will grow toward sunlight and can be gently attached to a trellis. They need to be attached loosely, with a tie that is removable to allow room for growth, and the areas of attachment should be checked every few months.

In areas where there is no frost, Stephanotis grows well outdoors. It can be grown on a trellis or climbing up a tree trunk and it usually will flower from May to September. It needs moist, well drained soil and full sun. Six to eight hours of sunlight a day is ideal. It can be fertilized sparingly in spring and summer, but not in the fall.

When grown indoors, Stephanotis should be placed in a sunny spot where it receives sunlight in the morning hours. It should be watered frequently enough to keep the soil moist, and fertilized every two to three weeks in the spring and summer. During fall and winter months it should be watered only once a week, keeping it a little drier and letting it rest. This practice helps the next season's flowers.

Stephanotis seeds grow in a large pod and are rarely produced. It is much easier to cultivate them by using cuttings. They are extremely popular as wedding flowers, and for special occasions such as proms. They are enjoyed and admired for their beautiful appearance and lovely scent.

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