Gardeners are good at finding the silver lining, and spending the winter compiling a must-have list of spring-planted bulbs certainly counts. Be sure to include the tuberose in your spring orders. You’ll be richly rewarded in late summer, when this tuber sends up a tall spike with waxy, white, intensely perfumed flowers. Grassy green leaves form a lush clump at the base of each plant. If your climate is colder than Zone 7, grow tuberoses in pots and bring them in before the fall frost, or dig up the tubers as you would for dahlias or glads.
Common name: Tuberose
Botanical name: Polianthes tuberosa
Plant type: Bulb
Zones: 7 to 10; overwinter tubers indoors in colder climates
Height: 2 to 4 feet
• Sun: Full sun
• Soil: Rich and well drained
• Moisture: Medium
• Mulch: None in containers; none or 1 to 2 inches of organic mulch outdoors.
• Pruning: None needed.
• Fertilizer: In containers, fertilize once a month from flowering until dormancy.
• By seed or by offsets.
Pests and diseases
• Generally free of insect and disease problems.
• Can be susceptible to viruses and aphids.
• Plant tuberoses near a patio, deck, window, or walkway so you can appreciate their fragrance.
• Cut tuberose spikes for gorgeous bouquets in late summer.
• As the growing season ends and tuberose foliage turns yellow, water less frequently. Allow to dry out completely while dormant.
• In zones colder than Zone 7, dig up tubers and store indoors in a dry, dark, cool spot. If you’ve grown the tuberoses in a pot, simply bring the pot inside. In the spring, bring them out of dormancy and place them outside after the danger of frost has passed.
• ‘Pearl’ has double blossoms tinged with pink. It blooms a little later than the species.
All in the family
• Other familiar members of the agave family include yuccas and, of course, agaves.
• A well-known houseplant in this family is the snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata).
Where to buy
• Brent and Becky’s, Gloucester, VA, 877-661-2852, www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com
• Dutch Bulbs, Virginia Beach, VA, 800-622-9997, www.dutchbulbs.com
• Old House Gardens, Ann Arbor, MI, 734-995-1486, www.oldhousegardens.com
(Photo of Polianthes tuberosa courtesy of the Kemper Center for Home Gardening at the Missouri Botanical Garden)