Tuberoses for our friendship garden

By Heidi Bornhorst

The fragrance of tuberose! One of my Mother’s favorites, as a lei of tuberose and yellow roses are what my dad got her for their simple wedding ceremony. She also loved the smell of pineapple, because my dad gifted her with those too!

I like them in a lei, combined with other flowers like roses, carnations or orchids.

Florists carry this fragrant lei and if you grow your own, imagine what flowers from your garden you can combine with tuberose?

It’s an old-fashioned flower.

We used to grow a lot of them here in Hawaii. When I worked at Evergreen nurseries in Waimanalo, in 1978, one of my friends there, was working a second job, harvesting tuberose.

Her name was Estralita, and she was from the PI and recently married.  I think her new family really made her work hard!  At two jobs and at home.  She said they harvested in the dark using headlamps.

She told me that her named meant “star” and how appropriate that she worked at night when the stars came out!

She taught me the saying ‘Mabuhay las Philippinas !!’  Long life to Filipino women!

I wonder what happened to her, as she was kind, nice FUN and hardworking.

Tuberoses remind me of her, and I say a special prayer for her happiness. 

I got some from Estralita back then and grew it in our family garden in Makiki.  It did well for a while and even sent up a flower spike.  But then it got a very bad infestation of mealy bugs.  I treated it but they were too severe, and the plant died. I was sad.

Maybe tuberose does not like Makiki black sand as a potting media? Or it needs cooler conditions. Time to do some research and find out!

​The other day I got an email from my friend Ruth Fujita, another great gardener.

She was offering us, her Budleys, tuberose bulbs. She had a big plant and dug it up, dried out the bulbs a bit and had some to share with da girls.

So, Rachel Morton and I went up there, after a visit to Foster garden to see the Triennial art exhibit.

Ruth shared how she got the tuberose bulbs:

Our niece Tia C. had gone traveling.  She needed omiyage for her epic Aunt Ruth and so in the airport she bought a bulb in a package.

Ruth grew them and was now sharing them with Lynne, Cheryl, Doris Susan Young, Annie, and me and Rachel.

Such an epitome of the Friendship Garden: Grow something with love (and good horticulture!) and then share it with your friends.

With rare plants, this is a Botanic Gardenconcept: Share it and keep good records. If yours dies, you know right where you can get a replacement.

With plants of sentiment like this tuberose, its mainly sharing the wealth and the stories.  But it will be epic for us all to see them grow and Bloom!

People call it a bulb but the roots are actually a rhizome (just like our fragrant gingers)

Fragrant, showy flowers in the late, HOT summertime lead many to plant tuberose bulbs. The scientific name is Polianthes tuberosa, and it also called the Polyanthus lily. It is in the Lily family, LILIACEAE.

Florists and nurseries sometimes “force” tuberose to bloom year round with artificial lighting.  

Tuberose has a strong and enticing fragrance makes it a popular plant in our Hawaii gardens. Clusters of large white blooms form on stalks that can reach 4 feet (1 m.) in height and rise from grass-like clumps.

Tuberose was discovered by explorers in Mexico as early as the 1500’s.  It was one of the first flowers to be imported to Europe, where it was very popular in Spain. 

It likes well drained, compost enriched soil.  It likes FULL SUN especially hot afternoon sun (which not all plants do) 

Plant them 2-3” deep.

In cold regions they dig out the roots in winter.  In Hawaii we can dig them out hand let them rest but not for too long or they will dry out.

There are single and double flowered varieties and now we are seeing them in different colors like yellow and pale pink.

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