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Here are the essential things to know about how to grow choisya shrubs successfully also known as the Mexican orange blossom.
Choisya are hardy evergreen plants that don’t require much maintenance. Just spend some time to get their initial placement and care right. You’ll be rewarded with many blooms and leaves in spring and often again in autumn.
Why do I love choisya shrubs?
Also known as the Mexican orange blossom, the choisya plant has evergreen foliage throughout the year. It’s relatively easy to grow choisya. It’s often used as a low maintenance hedge around domestic gardens. They are make great specimen plants for borders but some of the smaller varieties such as Choisya ‘White Dazzler’ grow well in pots. But it goes beyond a regular shrub as it produces citrus-scented flowers in spring and again in autumn. In some varieties of this plant, crushing the leaves also releases a wonderful scent. As well as being very pleasant, the scent serves to keep away insects and other pests from the plant.
Choisya produces masses of small white flowers surrounded by dark foliage in the spring. Depending on the variety you buy, you may also see more flowers in the summer and autumn. Pollinators of different sorts are attracted to the flowers and the scent. Choisya is doing its bit for the environment!
Choisya isn’t too fussy about the soil it grows in – loam, clay or sandy soil are fine. It tolerates different pH levels of soil but prefers a neutral soil that’s well-drained. The drainage is important as a waterlogged environment encourages fungal diseases to make their home in the plant that causes root rot. This leads to the illness in the plant and sometimes its death.
If your soil has poor drainage, mix in come horticultural grit and compost to try and improve the drainage. You can also consider growing them in pots.
I always recommend planting them in soil that is not too wet but also not too dry. If growing them in pots I recommend using a John Innes potting compost as it is soil based and won’t dry out too quickly.
Established Mexican orange blossom shrubs are drought tolerant, they can pretty much handle being neglected. Just check them in a dry spell and water when necessary. However, young plants need a little more attention. Make sure that newly planted shrubs don’t dry out and yet don’t overwater them. Check the soil 3cm to 5cm down; if it’s dry then the plant needs watering. Make sure that excess water is running away and not pooling around the base of the shrub.
As with most plants, Choisya grown in pots will need watering much more often even once established in their pots.
Plant in a sunny and semi-shaded position but sheltered
As choisya are native to Mexican, they evolved in a very sunny climate or light shade. You need a place with full sun to grow choisya successfully. So don’t put them in a shaded location. However, a few varieties are more shade tolerant, so look for these if your garden doesn’t get a full six hours of sun per day.
Sheltering the plant from high winds will aid its strong growth. Don’t plant it in a wind tunnel or an area that’s very exposed to all the elements.
The good news is, you very rarely need to feed choisya. If you’ve planted it in good soil, then it has all the nutrients that it needs. However, if it’s in poor soil, be sure to add in some bone meal as fertiliser and lots of good compost when planting. Keep up supplying nutrients to this poor soil by feeding the shrub again each spring with a general balanced fertiliser. If flowering is poor, you could feed with a fertiliser that is high in potash in spring to encourage better flowering. A good option is actually tomato feed, I’ve had lots of success using it.
Pruning and deadheading
Choisya grows very well on its own and doesn’t need pruning. If your shrub is getting too large or not staying in a shape you want, then some light pruning won’t do it any harm. Prune by up to a third in the spring after any risk of frost has passed. Any new growth that soon appears hides the pruned sections of the stems.
If you wait to do the pruning task, schedule it for when the first series of blooms has reached maturity. If you do it any earlier you may inadvertently cut off some buds and you won’t get as many flowers.
Deadheading the flowers after they’ve died is also a good practice. This stops the plant from putting any energy into these spent flowers and encourages it to direct energy to new growth and more blooms.
Once established, the choisya plant crowds out any weeds around it. But for the first few years, you do need to keep the weeds down yourself to give enough room for good air circulation. You can remove them manually or use mulch to cover the ground.
Mulch has the added benefit of adding some nutrients to the soil and retaining moisture. Leave a gap of a few centimetres around the trunk of the plant when you put the mulch down. This preserves the dry environment that the plant grows best in.
You can easily propagate choisya by taking semi-ripe cutting in late summer to mid autumn.
Pests and diseases
The good news is that Choisya is generally disease and pests free. However, on occasions, they can suffer from attacks from slugs and snails as well as red spider mites and scale insects.
Again, diseases are not very common but they can get infected with grey mounds and have been known to differ from root rot. During more difficult winters, they can also suffer from dieback of the stems caused by frost. Simply prune out these sections in spring to tidy up the ends of the stems.