Tuesday, October 23, 2012

TIARE (Gardenia taitensis)

I realized that I needed to grow a Tiare bush (also known as Tahitian Gardenia) in my garden when my daughter was needing Tiare flowers to put in her hair on her wedding day.  We ended up finding them in a Tahitian friend's garden.

I knew, from earlier experience, that getting Tiare plants growing from cuttings is very hit and miss.  Maybe only one in twenty cuttings would grow roots for me.  I also knew of a Tiare bush that had big golf ball sized, seed filled, fruit on it, so thought I would have a go at growing Tiare from seed.  I gathered a couple of yellowish colored fruits and left them for a few weeks on the windowsill to ripen up to a squishy orange.  There are many seeds in the fruit and so I got a whole tray full of seedlings from the experiment.  As I transplanted them and re potted them, I found them to be quite hardy and forgiving of lack of care when I was away.  I planted one of the babies in my garden where it is now a very healthy bush supplying me with lots of flowers despite being in a place where it gets our salt winds.  It does get well watered though from the down pipe run off from the neighbor's roof.

The Tiare bush can grow as high as 12 feet high but most people keep them trimmed down lower for easy flower picking.  They have wonderful large glossy green leaves that show off the pure white flowers.  Leaves do tend to turn yellow and drop off if they do not get enough water though.  The flowers are very fragrant.  In Tahiti, where it is the national flower, the flowers are used to perfume coconut oil to make body oils.  The flowers look so beautiful tucked up in a woman's hair or strung into a lei.  All the hotel resorts in French Polynesia greet their guests with Tiare leis.  A Tiare flower was even given to me as I went through immigration on arrival in Tahiti.  (Hawaii immigration take note!)  The Tiare flowers are also put to use to freshen the air in restrooms throughout the islands.   Party or hotel hosts have an attractive small arrangement of Tiare by the sinks to greet guests using the toilets.

Many new comers to Hawaii get excited about being able to now grow tropical flowers.  The first one they all seem to want to grow is the Gardenia.  If they are growing it our part of the island they will find that over several months their new plant just dies.  The leaves will turn yellow and get covered in sooty mold and aphids.  This is because Gardenias need rich soil to grow and in our town the soil is mainly composed of coral sand....high in calcium and low in iron.  However, this is just the sort of soil that  the Tiare is happy to grow in.  They will also tolerate salt winds too although I am not sure I would put it right on the beach.  It does need plenty of water to be healthy and produce lots of leaves and flowers.  So if you have sandy soils you can still grow Gardenias.....only it is the Tahitian Gardenia.

The Tahitian Tiare is well known throughout the Pacific Islands but some of the islands have their own form of Tiare. eg. the Cook Islands.  Even here in Hawaii, we have the Na'u which is a Hawaiian species of Tiare.  Only now is it starting to show up in nurseries and gardens as it is being brought back from the brink of extinction.  It is thought by some that the Hawaiian and Tahitian Tiares were all canoe plants taken out to the Pacific Islands by the Polynesians.  A lot of attention is shown to canoe plants like Taro and Breadfruit but I am willing to guess that those Polynesian women going out on the voyaging canoes were wanting to take their favorite lei flowers as well.

The usual form of Tiare flower has seven petals and this is the form shown on Tahiti print fabrics etc. but it can actually have anywhere between five to nine petals.  While I was traveling in French Polynesia last year I found myself counting Tiare petals everywhere I went.  I found that on Tahiti island the flower was usually seven petaled but up on Bora Bora most of the Tiare had six petals.  A few years ago I gave my daughter three of the young Tiare bushes I had grown from seed.  They now make a nice show in front of her house.  Of these three shrubs, all give seven petaled flowers but one will sometime throw out an eight or nine petal flower and another will sometimes give a six petal flower.  The third shrub is absolutely loaded with  Tiare fruits although the other two never have any.  I am thrilled to know I have a source of future Tiare seeds as Tiare fruits are hard to find although I have never been able to figure out why.  I think that the three plants all being grown from seed has helped them all be a bit alternative.....on the other hand the one in my garden, that was from the same lot, is completely normal.

I hope I have sold you on another one of my favorite hardy and useful plants to have in the garden.  I love my Tiare bush that is growing next to where I park my car.  As I head out to a baby birthday luau or a wedding reception, I will pluck a Tiare flower to tuck behind my ear to feel a little more festive for the occasion.



  1. Hello Ms. Stellamarina I was wondering if you are looking sell any of the Tiare fruits because I have searching for a way to grow the "Gardenia Tahitensis" from scratch. please contact me at Kissmet45@gmail.com if your interested. thank you so very in advance.

  2. Sorry Loudwige Sterling. Any seeds have to go through agriculture inspection to leave the island and the inspection office is an hours drive away so I do not get into the seed sending business. I am sure there are people selling them on ebay or you could try davesgarden.com

  3. I just moved to Oahu (still living in a hotel). I was looking forward to growing gardenias and jasmine plants year round outside. I love the way Monoi oil smells and I sooo want to find someone who is selling a Tahitian gardenia bush but I can't find it!!!! I've been looking in the big box store nurseries and a few local nurseries and even craigslist but no one seems to have it. I am tempted to ask the hotel manager if I can take some clippings from bushes I've seen around the hotel and root them in water...but if cuttings are likely to fail I would much rather have a bush....please help!!!

    BTW, I'm going to inspect the bushes more closely tomorrow to check for fruit because I feel they would more likely let me take that vs clippings. Didn't notice any before.

    1. So I went on a stroll around the hotel to look for fruit and didn't see any. I remembered seeing other gardenia bushes else where on Ford Island and I thought I would check those out. And there they were, little fruits on quite a few bushes. So for those of you reading this, if you have base access go check out the USS Oklahoma memorial and while you are there be sure to check out the lovely Tahitian gardenia hedge near the playground across the street.

  4. Hi Unkown....welcome to living on Oahu. Yes, Tiare is quite popular in landscapes so you know somebody is growing the plants even if you are not seeing them at the stores. If you are having a hard time finding plants on Oahu, the best thing is to go driving around all the back roads of Waimanalo. There are dozens of nurseries there that cover whatever you are looking for. Many are open to the public. Aloha

  5. I made a cut into my tiare plant wedged in a piece of bamboo and secured a plastic bag filled with mix with a slit facing the cut. The was in Jan.
    March 10, 2916 and roots are now showing in and out of plastic bag.
    I cut below the roots and planted it. It's doing great
    I wanted to show the photos but no luck

  6. Hi Alii.....very good work and interesting to hear that it worked well. Thanks for adding to the info on growing Tiare.

  7. Hello Bonjour - Please do you have a method or procedure for sprouting tiare seeds. Thank you for your reply .

  8. Bonjour Tupa, No I really do not go high tech. I just empty the seeds from a ripe fruit on to a small pot of potting soil. I think I usually soak the seeds in water for several hours first too. The pot just sits outside on the table with other plants.....I just have to make sure that I do not blast the babies away with the hose when watering.

  9. Hi, I'm in Darwin, Australia and am very lucky to have 3 mature plants. I am keen to grow more from seed but I am not having much luck. I have left the pods on the bush and eventually they crack open - this is when I have planted them. You mention picking them yellow and then letting it go orange - I'm thinking this is where I am going wrong. The other issue may be pollenation, and maybe the pods I have haven't been pollinated. I will grab some yellowish ones to try, but I am interested in your thoughts about pollination. Also, how old would the pods be roughly when you pick them. It takes slightly over 12 months for them to crack open and drop naturally.

  10. Wow....I have never never really noticed how long the fruit are on the tree...now I will have to observe and take note. If there are seeds then pollination has occurred. I am not sure why the seeds are not sprouting. It helps to soak the seeds in warm water for 24 hours before planting.

  11. how can i plant it from it's branch?

  12. Tiare is very hard to grow from cuttings but you may get something started. I would make at least 10 cuttings and if one grows you are good. Easier for the professionals with misters etc. Make sure you use rooting hormone to help.