Ylang-Ylang is a tropical tree that bears very fragrant, yellow, long-petalled flowers that are the source of the perfume that is known as Chanel #5. In Tagalog (a Philippine language), ylang-ylang means “flower of flowers.” Cananga odorata is a tall tropical evergreen tree native to southern India, Malaysia, the Philippines and other islands (including Molucca, Comoros Islands, Réunion, and Zanzibar) but is now pantropical. It is fast-growing and blooms when very young, making it an excellent landscape tree in tropical and moist subtropical climates. In favorable conditions C. odorata can grow over 60 feet high on a narrow, smooth-barked trunk. The tree has a nice columnar shape. As it ages, the trunk becomes crooked and slightly contorted. The 5-8″ long, pointed oval leaves have wavy margins and are arranged alternately on the brittle, drooping branches.
The flowers of C. odorata are borne in mass clusters along the elegant drooping branches. Each flower has six long, pointed petals. The buds open to pale lime-green, twisted flowers that turn a rich golden yellow when mature. The large, drooping flowers are up to 6″ long. Flowers can be produced at any time of year, but the flowers picked in May or June yield the most oil. Their sweet fragrance is most intense at night, as the flowers are pollinated by nocturnal moths. After fertilization, clusters small fruits are produced. These start out green, but turn dark purple when ripe. They are edible, with a tart, juniper-like flavor, but are rarely eaten.
Growing Instructions for the Perfume Tree
The seeds need to be planted when received or stored in a refrigerator until they are planted. The seeds have a hard seed coat that has to be treated, or scarified, in order for water to enter the seeds so that they can sprout. 1. Scarify the seeds by nicking or sanding the seed coat. The seeds can be sanded with sandpaper, a nail file or an emery board. 2. The seeds like moist, well-drained soil. Prepare a mixture of half potting soil and half sand, perlite or vermiculite. Put the soil in a pot. 3. Sow the seeds ¼ of an inch deep. 4. Water the seeds. 5. Place the pots in an area with warm temperatures in full sun or part shade. The seeds sometimes germinate in 4-6 weeks but they may 2-4 months to germinate, so be patient and keep the potting mix evenly moist and warm. 6. When the seedlings are a few inches tall, they can be transplanted. The plants should grow fairly quickly (about 3 feet tall in 2 years). It blooms best in full sun. Being a rainforest tropical tree, it prefers a high-humidity environment, evenly moist soil, and constantly warm temperatures.