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A Floridata Plant Profile #655 Choisya ternata
Common Names: Mexican orange, mock orange, Mexican orange blossom
Family: Rutaceae (citrus Family)
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Shrub  Attracts Butterflies Drought Tolerant Can be Grown in Containers Has evergreen foliage Flowers Fragrant

Mexican orange
Mexican orange's glossy green leaves provide a beautiful backdrop for clusters of fragrant white flowers.
Mexican orange is a small and compact evergreen broadleaf shrub that gets about 6-8 ft (1.8-2.4 m) tall with a similar spread. The leaves are opposite and palmately compound with three elliptic leaflets, each about 2-3 in (5-8 cm) long. When bruised they give off a strong and pungent smell. The white 4 or 5-petaled flowers are about 1 in (2.5 cm) across and deliciously fragrant. They stand in clusters of 3-6 above the shiny rich green foliage. Mexican orange is very showy, especially during its blooming period which lasts several weeks from early spring to summer.

The young leaves of 'Sundance' are bright lemon yellow, eventually turning yellowish green. This cultivar is said to produce fewer flowers than the species.

Mexican orange, or Choisya ternata, is native to high elevations in Mexico where it grows in canyons and on rocky hillsides.

Light: Grow Mexican orange in full sun in areas with cool summers. It needs light shade in hot summer areas, but too much shade will cause it to become leggy and bear few flowers.
Moisture: Mexican orange is drought tolerant. It requires well-drained soil.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 10. Mexican orange is hardy to 10°F (-12°C), and probably can be grown in zone 7.
Propagation: Cuttings of young, semi-ripe stem tips can be rooted with bottom heat in summer.

Mexican orange is a fast growing little shrub that is perfect for a mixed shrub hedge or border. The glossy evergreen foliage and long-lasting flowers brighten up an informal hedge or low screen. Mexican orange responds well to pruning and is easily shaped to stay in a small space or conform to a regular hedge. It is often used in foundation plantings. Without pruning, Mexican orange grows in a dense rounded mound that makes an attractive specimen, and a group of them is especially showy.

Honeybees and butterflies are attracted to the fragrant flowers which are very similar to orange blossoms. Mexican orange blooms for a couple months in spring and then intermittently throughout the summer. The blossoms are long-lasting as cut flowers, too. Plant Mexican orange near a walkway so its fragrance can be appreciated. I have one in a container which I move to the front steps when in bloom.

Steve Christman 4/11/00; updated 9/13/05; 5/6/06

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