Michelia x alba - how finicky is this plant?

charlottelilyOctober 23, 2006

I finally found a michelia x alba. It's a beautiful healthy plant that the nursery owner has nurtured himself, and had several blooms when I saw it. However, the plant is fairly pricey, and some people have said it is so difficult to keep, so now I have second thoughts about whether I should risk the disappointment if the plant dies. I have fair experience with houseplants (have successfully grown a gardenia standard).

Comments from alba owners?


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yellowthumb(5a Ontario)

If could nurse a gardenia well, you would not have any problem keeping an alba. I have one for two years, it's growing like weeds. The trick is the drainage and your watering skills. To achieve an excellent drainage, use some good potting material and a clay pot, I am using coconut husk chips plus some peat moss. The way to tell to water is simply lift it up and feel it. If it's heavy, don't, if it's light, then water. Try to use rain water if your water is hard.

You can try to grow an alba the same way as you grow a gardenia, actually it's more like growing a camellia.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 11:03AM
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It depends on the zone you are in I guess. I am totally hooked to the fragrance of Alba. I have 4 albas and 2 champakas in the ground. We hardly evere get a freeze here in the bay area. One of my alba is about 30 ft tall all other are between 15-20 feet. Champakas are huge too, but messy, sheds too much leaves to clean. Yellowthumb is absolutely right. You need excellent drainage. Good luck.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 7:23PM
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longriver(SF Bay Area)

In Canada M alba should be in pot, unless you have a fancy real greenhouse garden like that at BC or at Edmonton. I am at hilly area of SF Bay Area. Once for a while the temperature can go freezing. Obviously Alba does not like that temperature or near that temp. It tends to drop leaves. So You need to watch temperature.

Drainage of potting mix is the key as mentioned by Yellowthumb. Just commercial potting mix is not good enough. You need to add other materials such as small fir bark, rice hull or corse perlite etc that will help to have more air-cell structure to your mix. Alba's root like orchid is thick and jucy. It will causes root rot easily under tight and wet soil mix condition in pot. Your pot should have many big drain openings. Don't use a nice looking pot with one hole at the bottom.

Later don't use full strength fertilizer. Apply only 1/2 or 1/3 strength, or slow to release type.

I have many hundreds of plants in pots. They flower for me every year.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 11:09PM
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As I'm in the Vancouver area, (Zone 7/8?), I would be keeping m.alba as an indoor plant. (So, not like camellias for me, Yellowthumb. My camellias do beautifully outside :))

I am wanting this m. alba so badly - it really is a lovely specimen too - but it would certainly be the most expensive plant I've ever bought!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2006 at 1:55AM
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yellowthumb(5a Ontario)

Vancouver is a very nice area with many great gardener there. The weather is much milder, there are many great plants to choose from. I don't think you will have any problem keeping an alba. I found good drain plus rain water will keep them happy.

Camellias like to be in the ground, all plants in my opinion like to be in the ground. Living in a pot is too risky, nobody will enjoy living a car. I have two camellias in pots, they do nice, one is loaded with buds. I am putting it in the garage with lights and going to grab it back into my sunroom at January to enjoy the flowers.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2006 at 9:37AM
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longriver(SF Bay Area)

M alba is an outdoor plant. Van B C is very similar to Seattle. You should keep Alba most the time of a year outdoor at an area sheltered from wind, at a warm recess close to house to receive real sunlight unless it becomes about freezing. Keep it indoor at a bright area during cold winter days. It is very possible that you will eventually smell your Alba.

I do grow quite a few Alba, some at sunny spot and some in my passive green house. I am able to manage them easier in 10 to 15 gal containers. They give me continuously fragrant flowers from early summer to right now. At right place( Tailand, southern China and Taiwan province, and even downtown Oakland,Ca), Alba can grow into a huge and tall tree.

Hope the best.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2006 at 2:50AM
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I think I will suggest that my husband buy it for me as an early Christmas present. Although I hate to choose my own gifts, at least I like it so-o much and it would be better than spending money on something I may not like, haha.

Thanks for all the advice - I will do my best to take good care of it, especially since this nursery owner did such a good job himself.

Longriver, I first came across this plant in Hong Kong many years ago when my sister took me to a little place to eat tofu dessert. This huge tree had the most incredible flowers - I will never forget it.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2006 at 9:13PM
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Thank you for all your comments that I have read.
I live in San Diego, CA and this is my 4th Michelia Alba (heheheh). The 1st three all died. :( I just purchase this one and I am very nervous in killing it.
The leafs are green.
I put it in my patio in a sunny area (west word facing patio). There are no flowers blooming when I bought it.
What do I need to do to make sure that the flowers will bloom and what do I do during winter time in San Diego? thanks for all your help

    Bookmark   August 22, 2009 at 9:34PM
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I live in San Francisco, Ca. I have a michelia alba tree plant tin the ground in my backyard for almost 30 years and it is about 35 to 30 feet tall. Each year it gives a lot of frangrant flowers from March thru Nov. Here is the picture of my tree. By the way, on June 2011 I airlayered my michelia alba tree, and I was so happy to see that the roots were coming from the airlayering pouch. I did it!!! I will post the rooting michelia alba later.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 1:30PM
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Here is the rootings of my airlayered michelia alba that I airlayered on June 2011 and discovered roots form on July 2012. A job well done!!!!

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 1:33PM
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