Stephanotis is a popular houseplant, grown for its glossy leaves and fragrant blossom from May to October. It thrives in a heated conservatory, but can equally make an attractive display in a warm, light room.
While it is difficult to provide ideal conditions akin to the stephanotis’ native Madagascar, it is possible to get good results with care.
- Grow plants in a well-lit situation, but shade from direct sunlight in summer. In the greenhouse, lightly shade the glass to prevent scorching
- A summer temperature of 21ºC (70ºF) is ideal. Winter temperatures of between 13-15ºC (55-60ºF) are best, but plants will tolerate a low of 10ºC (50ºF)
- Stephanotis requires high humidity levels and containerised plants should be placed on a gravel tray in summer. To create this, fill a tray, wider than the container, with gravel or expanded clay granules and keep the water level to just below the surface. In warm summers, lightly spray the foliage with water in the morning
- Little growth is made during winter, so water sparingly, allowing the compost to dry slightly between waterings. Give plenty of water during the growing season (from April to October), allowing the excess water to drain away. Do not let the compost dry out completely
- Feed fortnightly between April and October with a proprietary, high-potassium, liquid houseplant food
Compost and re-potting
- Stephanotis requires a humus-rich, well-drained compost, such as John Innes No 2
- Pot on annually in April, until the plant is in a 20-22.5cm (8-9in) pot
- Once in a large container, re-pot every three years in March or April, using compost such as John Innes No 2
- To grow a large specimen plant, it is best to plant in a greenhouse/conservatory bed measuring about 90cm (3ft) square. They do, however, show some degree of tolerance to root restriction, where space is limited
Pruning and training
Little pruning or training is required, but there are a few things worth carrying out:
- Cut out all weak lateral growth at the end of February
- Train shoots along strings, wires or to a framework of canes
- To reduce the size of the plant, cut lateral growth back to 7.5cm (3in) and shorten leading shoots by half their length
- Heavy pruning to renovate old plants is seldom successful and replacement is usually required
There are two methods of propagation that work well with stephanotis:
Stephanotis can be propagated from cuttings at any time of the year, but it is usually most succesful between April to June.
- Take 10cm (4in) cuttings with two or three nodes, from non-flowering shoots, produced the previous season. Cuttings of stem tips also do well
- Insert cuttings into a mixture of equal parts peat-free compost and sand
- Maintain at 18-21°C (64-70°F) with high humidity and shade in warm weather to prevent scorch. A heated propagator is useful for this task. Alternatively, try placing cuttings in a plastic bag loosely tied at the top and positioned on a bright (not sunny) windowsill
- When rooted (four to six weeks), plant into 10cm (4in) pots using John Innes No 2.
Stephanotis occasionally produce pear-like fruit 10cm (4in) long. These may take 12 months to ripen and, if necessary, can be picked and placed in a warm spot to ripen.
- When the seeds are ripe, the fruit will begin to split. Ease the two halves apart to reveal a silken sheath enclosing the seeds in the centre of the fruit. Even after several months, the plume-attached seeds may be a little moist, but will soon dry when exposed to the air and can become airbourne with the slightest movement
- Sow the seed fresh using a general-purpose, seed compost and maintain at 21-24°C (70-75°F). If you are unable to provide heat and good light (such as in winter), keep the seed cool and sow in April
- When large enough to handle, prick out the seedlings into John Innes No 1 compost or other good potting medium
Stephanotis floribunda AGM: Woody-stemmed, twining climber to 3m (10ft), with mid-dark green leaves contrasting with the highly fragrant, slender-tubed clusters of white flowers.
Stephanotis floribunda variegated: This form is similar to the species in all respects except that it has variegated leaves. This plant is not widely offered for sale, unfortunately.
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Stephanotis suffers from some common houseplant problems.
- Pests: susceptible to scale insect, red spider mite, mealybug and root mealybug
- Lack of flowering: may be caused by low humidity or insufficient summer warmth, but may also be due to unsuitable winter treatment. Keep plants cool in winter – between 13-16°C (55-61°F) – and water sparingly. Poor general growing conditions and lack of feeding may also be factors
- Flower bud drop: extreme changes in growing conditions, either over or under watering, extreme high or low temperatures or lack of humidity may cause the flower buds to drop
- Yellowing and dropping of leaves: this may follow waterlogging or very low temperatures. Lack of feeding will cause a general yellowing of the leaves without dropping. Plants should show green rapidly after foliar feeding