Looking down on creamy white flower buds on their stems
Tuberose flower buds, 'Pearl'

A Flower with a Most Beguiling Fragrance

Polianthes tuberosa

Add a touch of the tropics with tuberose flowers in your garden. Their waxy white flowers are reminiscent of plumerias. They’re incredibly fragrant—a rich, sweet fragrance with a touch of citrus. Not only do they make great cut flowers but they’re easy to grow.

If you live in the right zone for these, and even if you don’t, you can still grow these highly sought after flowers. Read below on how.

They make excellent cut flowers but only one stem in a bouquet is needed due to their intense fragrance! And this gem of a flower has a very long vase-life, up to two weeks or more.

Tuberose’s distinctive scent has been used in perfumery since the 17th century and was said to be worn by Queen Marie Antoinette. (I don’t blame her!)

What Tuberose Flowers Are Like


The individual tuberose flowers are white and waxy, with a pinkish tinge on the buds before they open. The flowers are arranged on a tall stem that reaches up to 30-48 inches. The buds open from the bottom to top.

There are two varieties, the single flower with a single whorl of petals, often sold as ‘Mexican Single’, and ‘The Pearl’ which has a double set of petals. The Pearl has less fragrance than the single.

Tuberose blooms in late summer to early fall.

There’s an interesting thing you should know about the fragrance of  these beauties… you’ll find it below in the Special Info section below ↓.

Close-up of white flower with buds above it
Close-up of Mexican tuberose flower

What the Plants Are Like

Tuberose comes from Mexico. The plants look like a little soft yucca plant (it’s a relative of Agave).

The foliage is a soft pale green and grows to about 1½ ft. tall with the flower stem growing up to 3½ ft. tall in the single form and up to 2½ ft in the double-flowered ‘Pearl’.

Farm rows of tuberose plants with a few white flowers blooming
Tuberose farm in India, where florist’s flowers are grown and shipped. Image by aferropro from Pixabay

How to Grow Tuberose

Zones 8-11, full sun.  If you’re in a cooler climate, they can be grown in a container to be brought into a sheltered spot over the winter. Average garden soil that drains well. Don’t overwater.

Tuberose flowers grow from a bulb-like structure that’s technically a modified rhizome. But they’re almost always referred as and sold as bulbs.

They like a hot, sunny site with good soil drainage

Plant the bulbs after the last frost has passed. Plant them 2-4 in. deep and 4-6 in. apart. If your soil is alkaline, use an acid fertilizer, like those that are good for hydrangeas, rhododendrons, and azaleas.

 Water the plants when no rains have occurred. They don’t want too much water, but strive for about an inch a week during their active growing season till bloom.

When the flowers are harvested, let the foliage die back naturally so they continue to feed the bulb.

How to Harvest The Flowers

They produce a single fleshy stem with virtually no foliage, so just cut it close to the plant, at the usual angle. Trim off more if it’s way too long for you—which it probably is.

Tuberose flowers have been shown to perform better when they are placed in a preservative that has sugar. That’s the word for growers that ship the flowers long distance for florists. For us home growers, that means that we can benefit from making our own floral food, which has sugar, to keep the tuberose flowers opening up through the stem. See my recipe for a food I used when I sold fresh flowers in markets.

The flowers on the stem may not open all the way, even if you use the flower food. And the first ones will wither and fall off as the nest ones open. Just maintain the appearance of the flower stem by removing the withered flowers and recut the stem if necessary.

Overall, tuberose flowers last long in the vase, up to two weeks or more.

My Favorite Varieties


There are only two varieties, the natural one (the Mexican single) or the Pearl. Pearl is a double flower and is an attractive one, which makes it much more popular.

But my favorite is the Mexican single. It’s much more fragrant. And while both flowers are very pretty, the fragrance is what I love most… it’s a haunting, seductive treat.

When it’s in the garden the fragrance can waft in through the window. Or when it’s in a bouquet in a vase, one flower can fill the room it’s in, and even more.

It’s the fragrance that makes me love this flower, so it’s the single I highly recommend. The problem is, they’re harder to find. But I have a source for you below.

Two white flowers on a pale green stem
Mexican single tuberose flowers blooming.

Source of Tuberose Bulbs

Eden Brothers has the Mexican Single flowered tuberose bulbs.

Many bulb suppliers offer retail nurseries and garden centers the Pearl bulb. Not the Mexican single. Go to your local nursery first to see if they have it. It’s a spring planted bulb so you’ll start seeing Tuberose in mid to late winter. If they don’t carry the single, you  can get it from Eden Brothers or another online nursery.

Special Info

Here’s When You Can Enjoy The Best Fragrance:  If your tuberose flower is open and you don’t smell it…wait. Till 4:00 pm, then you’ll smell it. For the rest of the day and night.

Flowers to Go With that Fragrant Stem of Tuberose:

Here are some flowers that may be blooming at that time:

Alstroemerias: They will have come back after the hottest part of the summer

African Marigolds: Their intense yellow, gold, or orange colors will be a perfect foil for the quiet white of tuberose flowers

Golden Glow: The long stems and fluffy clear yellow will make the bones of a colorful bouquet with tuberose, they’ll last as long, too

Perennial Sunflowers: Tall-stemmed and bold yellow, these, too, will last as long as the tuberose

Ornamental Oreganos: one or more of these will add misty long-lasting color to the bouquet