Fragrant white flowers of native Mock Orange shrub (Philadelphus lewisii). One of 100+ species of Pacific Northwest native plants available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.
Hundreds of fragrant white-flowers cover a mature native Mock Orange shrub (Philadelphus lewisii). One of 100+ species of Pacific Northwest native plants available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.
Closeup of a white flower of native Mock Orange shrub (Philadelphus lewisii). One of 100+ species of Pacific Northwest native plants available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.
Fragrant white flowers of native Mock Orange shrub (Philadelphus lewisii). One of 100+ species of Pacific Northwest native plants available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.
Hundreds of fragrant white-flowers cover a mature native Mock Orange shrub (Philadelphus lewisii). One of 100+ species of Pacific Northwest native plants available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.

Mock Orange

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Philadelphus lewisii 

Mock Orange is an extremely versatile shrub best known for its sweetly fragrant white blossoms which appear in abundance from late spring through early summer, filling the air with the scent of orange blossoms. It thrives in a wide variety of habitats and garden conditions and is an excellent plant for erosion control, screens and hedges. Mock Orange also has a plethora of habitat values, including attracting bees, butterflies and other insect pollinators to your fruit and vegetable garden.

  • Plant type/canopy layer: deciduous large shrub 
  • Size at maturity: 6-14' tall, 4-10' wide
  • Light requirements: full sun to full shade
  • Moisture requirements: dry to moist soil, preferably well-drained
  • Bloom time: May - July
  • Growth rate/ease: fast growth rate, easy to grow
  • Native habitat/range: Grows in a variety of habitats including moist open woodlands, conifer forests, dry rocky hillsides and canyons, and sagebrush deserts at low to mid-elevations throughout western North America from southern B.C. to northern California and the Sierras, and east to Alberta and western Montana. Portland Plant List - yes.  
  • Wildlife support: The flowers attract and provide nectar for nocturnal moths, adult butterflies such as the tiger swallowtail, bees, syrphid flies, and other insect pollinators as well as beneficial and pest-eating insects. It is also a caterpillar host plant and larval food source. In late summer, the flowers mature into seeds that are attractive to many species of birds and small mammals, particularly quail and squirrels, while deer and elk are known to browse on the branches. The branches and twigs also provide cover year round.
  • Special features: Landscape uses include soil stabilization, erosion control, screen and hedgerow. Mock Orange has many ethnobotanical uses, particularly for native peoples. The wood can be made into tools, snowshoes, combs, arrow & harpoon shafts, netting shuttles, cradle hoops, digging sticks and more recently knitting needles and tobacco pipes. The leaves and bark, which contain saponins, can be mixed in water for use as a mild soap to wash hands, body and hair.

Gardening with Mock Orange: Mock orange grows quickly, easily and is relatively low-maintenance once established. Be sure to give this lovely yet large shrub plenty of space, in a special place where the scent of its fragrant flowers will be adored. It’s drought-tolerant, thriving in soils that are moist to dry and well-draining. It does best and flowers prolifically in full-to-part sun but can withstand a fair amount of shade - but will produce less blooms, with less sun. It’s fibrous root system makes it excellent at stabilizing soils and it makes an excellent hedge or screen.

It is ideal to allow any plant, including Mock Orange, to achieve its natural size and form - but pruning is an option, especially considering Mock Oranges less-than-compact habit. Be sure to prune soon after flowering, since next year’s blossoms develop on the previous year’s new growth. Cut out up to 20 percent of old stems from the base, leaving the younger, more vigorous shoots to produce a spectacular floral display next year. In the garden, consider planting it with some of its natural associates; Douglas-fir, oceanspray, ninebark, osoberry, baldhip rose, and tall Oregon grape, and others.  

Photo Credit 1: "philadelphus lewisii" by Oregon State University is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Photo Credit 2: Eileen Stark

Photo Credits 3 - 5: Nikkie West