Friday, November 15, 2013
Stephanotis, also called the Wedding Flower or Madagascar Jasmine, is another of my favorite useful and tough plants. Of course, it is useful because of its fragrant, waxy white flowers that go so well in wedding bouquets and leis but the hardy plant is also wonderful in hiding all those ugly chain link fences we have in Hawaii.
The Stephanotis vine likes to grow in a sunny place with good soil drainage. They just love chain link fences although they tend to favor the top of the fence so you may have to position and pinch the the young tendrils to encourage them to cover the fence well. Giving the plant some fertiliser and water will give you a lot more flowers but the plant is a tough survivor once established. It can tolerate salty ocean breezes. The young plant does seem to take time to get established, so just keep watering after planting it with a bit of fertiliser and soon tendrils will start reaching up and it will take off.
Stephanotis can be propagated from cuttings but I grow my plants from seed. I pick one of the large seed pods ( they look rather like a mango) when it is starting to turn from green to a yellow-brown and put it up on the kitchen window ledge until it fully ripens and cracks open. Actually , it is a good idea to put a rubber band loosely around the pod so that the seeds cannot float off when you are not watching as each seed has a fluffy propeller like a dandelion seed so that it can be carried by the wind.
I always love my first look into the Stephanotis pod when it opens up. It is one of the marvels of nature to see how the seeds and their unopened fluff is packed so beautifully into the pod. One pod gives hundreds of seeds and they easily sprout into hardy seedlings. These I transplant into plastic cups to get them rooted well before planting out when they start getting a tendril reaching up.
The Stephanotis flushes into flower in the spring and summer so it is good timing for bridal bouquets and graduation leis. In bouquets, a floral pick or a bit of coconut leaf mid-rib can be used to position
the flowers. The flowers string beautifully into leis or on knotted ribbon streamers.