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What’s Blooming in Paradise: Ylang-Ylang Tree (Cananga odorata)

By Staff | Mar 18, 2015

First impression: Cascading, pendulous, twisted, yellowish green flowers that remind me of curled ribbons. These unique flowers emerge from the leaf axils which are large oblong and dark green. Her trunk has a shallow ridged texture of light gray bark and stands very straight up and down with a canopy that is close and has little spread.

Expensive, exotic perfumed scents languish in the breeze. We have three very huggable Ylang-Ylang trees blooming at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: Ylang-Ylang is pronounced ee-lang ee-lang, which hails from southeast Asia to Australia. Considered a mid-sized tree whose mature height can be 30-40 feet, it is perfect for our tropical temperatures of seasonally moist and hot.

Plant in partial shade to full sun in a well-drained area layered with lots of mulch. Volcanic mulching is never recommended. Picture, if you will, mulch that is piled higher around the trunk of the tree sloping downward to resemble a volcano. Bad form! Tree trunks need a wee bit of space between mulch and its bark to stay healthy by not inviting mold, fungus, critters, etc. Mulch correctly applied should cover the roots (2-3 inches deep) for cooling, amending soil, and water retention.

If you’re looking for fragrance, you found it! Our star is a number one, top of the heap for perfume-makers. Coco Chanel searched for this iconic scent to characterize the more independent women of her century. The year was 1923 and the Paris perfume was/is Chanel No.5. Thanks to Coco our Ylang Ylangs are purposely pruned for the intent of our noses falling into the branches and taking in whiffs.

Categorized as evergreen and ever-blooming, our tree has short periods of non-blossoms. We are truly blessed to have one of our trees that is about 40 + years old. She has been through many hurricanes and storms, but has weathered them sporting multiple trimmed major branches. The beauty of this tree is not only in its fragrance, but in its perseverance to survive. Yay, Ylang!


* Unique ribbon-like bloom

* Does well in moist soil

* Likes full sun

* Easy to maintain/prune

* Fragrance is spellbinding

* Always a joy to hug

* Is great for night garden areas when scents are at their peak

* Non-invasive

* Minimal or no pest


* Non-native status

* Looses limbs in strong winds

* Slow grower

* Small canopy

* Fragrance is strong and intense

* Neighbors will be sniffing your flowers

* Not cold tolerant

Conclusion: Ylang Ylang is one of the most celebrated flowering trees of the world! Just perfect for our tropical oasis, it mesmerizes you to embrace its cascading flowers. Huggable, hum Coco was definitely on the right track.

Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!