Search This Blog

My Vertical Garden Wall

My Vertical Garden Wall


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tips to Care & Cultivate Ylang ylang Plant (Cananga odorata)


Commonly known as Canaga Tree or more famously as Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata) is a tropical shrub tree. There are however a well refined type where it appears to be a dwarf type where it blooms more profuse in comparison the tree type where the later growths in considerable size. 

This particular miniature type is very much garden ornament friendly where you can easily grown in a flower pot. On a general note - Ylang-ylang has these greenish yellow flowers and emits the constant relaxing scent which I may say can considerably help eliminate anxiety and stress.

Hence this particular one is very much cultivated for the flowers and used for therapeutic uses especially as essential oils in aromatherapy. There are a huge extensive study done on the uses on Ylang-ylang essential oil namely for calming  & relaxing effect.

I managed to purchase this for RM20.00 and its so worthed it.


Being a Tropical Plant native surrounding regions of the Southern Asia - this plant does require good strong indirect bright sunshine, It can tolerate growing in shaded area however it must receive at least 6 hours of sunshine. It does not do well in heavy shaded area and may not bloom in such conditions. Also the leaves may turn yellow and also become leggy. Another factor in the lack of sunlight may cause the plant to become stress and can attract pest to heavily attack on them.

Hence do give a thought if you're not having open garden area as this would not so well as indoor plant - even placing them as a balcony potted plant can be challenging if they receive inadequate light.


Considering one of the most basic thing about planting material - this one doesn't require anything special - just any balanced potting mix will do. They seem to do fine in a medium or big potted plant - however they will do great if they are planted directly into the garden soil as these will require just that to create those majestic cascading blooms. 

However if limitation occurs where you can only grow in pot - then a good balanced potting mix with rich amount of organic material and equal part of well drained soil which will help from root rot. 


It may require a good adequate watering - both morning and evening based on the size of the plant.
You can grow it in a nice medium or large size pot, the plant will behave and grow based on the size of the pot. However I would recommend this to grow freely on ground if you want lushful beautiful cascading flowers.

Also this plant is a heavy feeder and do feed adequately during the flowering season.
However take note that over-watering can cause them to bud-drop especially during the rainy season, hence a well balance fast draining medium to ensure no root rot occurs.


One of the most challenging part for this shrub is pruning. They do grow extremely fast and become very unruly if not proper care is not given - especially when it comes to growth factor, this plant focus more on branching more stem and over growth rather than blooms which can be one of the down-side coming from this ever blooming plant.

However with the right pruning method and keeping it trimmed and manageable size - this one can be such a beauty. As shown here - the appearance of the blooms can last at least for few months until the next pruning session is done to maintain the blooming cycle from interruption.

This consideration applies very accurately when the plant is matured and had grown for years - that is if it is not flowering in its full potential. Other factors involving lighting / watering / feeding is also essential and necessary.


I had found this one seemed to be a very sensitive plant without strong resistant to pest attack in comparison to many other floral plant. Often mealybugs are found around the flowerbud farmed by ants and occasionally sap sucking insects too are found at the bottom of the leaves.

Occasionally I had come across that if the plant is anyway stressed or lacking nutrients may face some damage on it's foliage but rarely fatal to the plant. 

Keeping the plant - Pruned and Compact does make the plant focused on its blooming cycle and also able to take immediate action if any unruly pest attack where pruning is much easily handled rather than spraying pesticide all over the plant.

Apart from this factor, other matters are very much similar with most tropical garden plants.


Ylang-ylang has deep historic roots throughout many cultures and traditions spanning around the Asian and South Pacific Region. Often adorned as a fragrant flower and very much prized for the aromatic oils that been collected from these blooms. 

Generally speaking, Cananga comes from the local name known as Kenanga in Malay. However unlike Jasmine this one is comes with some taboo where according to feng shui it has drooping flowers hence signifies sorrow thus avoided.

Also these are grown in Malay cemeteries in village areas centuries ago and often emit strong scent especially during midnight which been associated with evil spirits and ghosts as folktales during that time. 

During these modern times, these are now slowly making a comeback bypassing old-age taboos. 

Bud drop due to overwatering.


Propagation can be done but stem cutting, stripping off the bottom leaves and poking it into a deep pot with a rich potting soil. Keep it in shade until you notice a new leaves growth.

Another method is to put the cutting into perlite medium (soaked in water) 
Once taken roots, it should be carefully transplanted into a good potting mix.
Another option is to look out for a sucker that appears from the root base. 
This happens if the plant is very established and has a huge root system.

Also I had noticed that this particular one can be very challenging to propagate if done wrongly - these are difficult to roots easily. Another alternative is seed propagation or marcotting - however it is too tedious that it would be much easier to just purchase the plant from a nursery that going through a lot trouble of trail and error in getting it right for the first time.

I would strongly recommend for you to cultivate these if you have the space and open bright sun for them to grow. The fragrance is very mesmerising and it is true - the fragrance is so much real like having a constant Channel No.5 Perfume Plant emitting all over your garden.

Also, Do click on the link below for more information on Other Types of  Tropical Fragrant Flowers:


Terra Mirabilis said...

Hi, James. Ylang ylang is used in Chanel's famous "No. 5" perfume; in fact the tree is sometimes called the Number Five tree here. I lost mine in a hurricane, but then I came across a dwarf cultivar (it just grows VERY slowly) and after two years it's still about the same size (3.5'). But it's lovely to have the fragrance again.

Stephanie said...

This plant has a nice name too! Glad to know that this hybrid type flowers all the time. At least you do not have to wait so long for the fragrance ;-) The plant looks like it has potential to grow big. When the time comes, I am sure the fragrance can be smelt even before entering the house/gate he he...

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

Every morning before my father drive off to work he will pick up ylang ylang flowers and put in the car close to him.

Unknown said...

I have always love the name of this plant but have never attempted to plant it. Somehow it has never resonated with me and I wonder why. Btw what is the taboo associated with it?

p3chandan said...

I love it! Recently I went to Malacca n I was surprised to see all along the way, they planted this Bunga Kenanga.Maybe thats the state's official flower, just like in Selangor (at least in Ampang), its Bunga Tanjung.Whats the taboo abt this tree? Is it something to do with....(hair on my neck is standing!) hehe...

Anonymous said...

I had smelled the perfume (in bottles) but never seen the flower before. Thank you.

James David said...

Penny - Never knew that Channel 5 fragrance comes from this one. Thanks for sharing it.

Aaron - Glad that you do.

Stephanie - Totally agree with you, somehow the pot is not big enough for the bigger growth, so I guess Im contented with this size for the moment.

Kadazan girl - that must be lovely, I have come across people put jasmines in their cars too. Thanks for dropping by.

Stitello - I guess you just don't want to plant everything. Actually I had moved out from one season of gardening to the next, the hardy ones stays in my garden. So I guess, when you have the mood to plant fragrance themed plants - You might consider this one in your garden.

P3chandran - You know what, I too came across all the Kenaga tree flowers - those orange flowers truly captive me very much. Also I come across those Bunga Tanjung too - those tiny star-shaped flowers are bursting with fragrance.

Missygarden - Thank you for your comment & dropping by, glad you came to know the real flower behind the perfumed bottle.

As for the taboo - It was believed that once these trees grows big, they tend to house spirits of which loved these kind of fragrance.
In fact, the wood is used to make coffin for the rich chinese people (as the wood gives out the fragrance too) So, its a taboo to have a coffin making tree in the garden during that time.
Even the Frangipani is considered a graveyard flower - but now, all that is the thing in the past.

Autumn Belle said...

James, please tell me where did you buy this plant, I mean the nursery name and contact no. This is the plant I wanted to buy but ended with a white chempaka tree! I planted my chempaka tree in a flower pot but it has never flower since the day it came back from the nursery. It was flowering then and the perfume great too.

ROUGH.ROSA said...

My mother used to wear this flower on her hair, and she smell really nice miles away (no chanel no.5 back then). She also put it together with her 'bedak sejuk'(face powder). What I love about this flower is that it is such a natural car perfume, better than daun pandan. Just pick few & put it near the a/c. It's better than any commercial car perfume and yes, if you plant this, it will be at no cost (except that RM20 bucks for ya James)!

Wendy said...

I bet the fragrance is amazing!

J.C. said...

I love these flowers too. I had a hybrid Ylang Ylang in my garden but during our move I left it behind to be transported at a later stage. But when I return to pick it, it has already died due to the scorching heaty season we had then. Sigh...I was so sad then coz it's not easy to find Ylang Ylang in nursery. James, I have seen the tree Ylang Ylang while in Tomohon, Sulawesi. The whole tree was blooming and the fragrance was really heady and relaxing, as you put it! Great plant to have in the garden.

James David said...

Belle - I will check and let you know coz this one do not have a board nor it has a office or something. Its a lot along the roadside of Taman Greenwood, Batu Caves. I will ask for the h/p number for you when I go there again.

Rough Rosa - I will try to put it in my A/c in see the effects, but again - hope it doesn't bring so much relaxation in the car while driving. I don't mind having this in the bedroom.

J.C. Sorry to note about the plant, Hope you manage to find a new one and have it in your garden too.

James David said...

Wendy - You bet...

Unknown said...

Good morning
I have an ylang growing in a large pot for two years now. I recently fertilized and trimmed about an inch off each of the branches and the tree seemed to be doing well. Within about two weeks, all of the leaves have dried and the tree looks dead. My first thought is to cut about 2 feet off the top of the tree, pack the cut with dirt and cover with plastic wrap. Would this save the tree? Please help! Irene

About Me

My photo
Tropical Garden, Batu Caves, Malaysia
My Malaysian Tropical Garden mainly focused on unique and colorful plants ranging from rare to common plants all around the tropical belt across the world. Ideal for inspiration for challenging areas in the garden space - indoor gardening, balcony gardening and small green spaces especially for ariods, bromeliads, begonias, edibles, cascading & vertical garden plants, succulents & cacti, orchids, together with both shade and sun loving plants.

Contact Me on the Form Above

Do put your queries on the contact form above and I will come back to you ASAP via e-mail. Also I'm open for any business / advertisement proposals / magazine articles / product sampling and sharing personal product experiences here in my blog. Also for specific plant queries where you need to send pictures for free consultation and plant help and aid.

Contact Form


Email *

Message *

Blog Archive

Popular Posts

Popular Post - 1 Month