It was a year or two ago, in one of the many gardening catalogues that get posted through the door, that I spied a small an unassuming little plant – which comes as bulbs – called, Polyanthes Tuberosa. It had the accolade of being the most fragrant plant, ever. I mainly ignored it and thought it was just hyperbole but it lodged in my mind. Earlier this year, when I spotted these as bulbs (relatively cheap) at a local garden centre, I thought, “what the heck,” and popped them in the trolley, took them home, potted them up and sat them out on the patio to see what they would do.
Throughout the summer they grew small strap-like leaves but other than that, didn’t do much. It was late summer when one finally started to send up a flower spike The weather started to deteriorate as summer moved to autumn and with these plants originating from sunny, dry, exotic Mexico, I bought them inside lest they succumbed to the UK weather. They continued to grow indoors and I awaited the first flowers with baited breath, eager to experience this “world’s most fragrant plant”.
The flowers grew on the stems in pairs, they opened in a succession of pairs and when the very first two opened, the perfume released was absolutely knock-out. It’s the sweetest, most sugary, butterscotch-syrup perfume that I have ever experienced and it hangs in the air and actually feels “heavy” in a way that would make you think it was an actual tangible thing you could grab. It was strong, really strong. That evening, I discovered that it was a nocturnal plant and the strength in the afternoon was only a warm-up to the full-on power in the evening when I could smell it across the downstairs.
Then the next set of flowers began to open and the next set after that.
This plant is in the dining room and with all flowers open, it’s a real challenge to sit in that room from the sheer strength of the perfume being released. It assails the nostrils and is so sweet, I really wasn’t expecting anything so powerfully scented from just a small set of simple, white unassuming flowers. It’s quite simply incredible and I can well believe its the world’s most fragrant plant.
There are another two flower spikes to come from the other bulbs.
Alas, this perfume power-house of a plant dies after flowering and propagates through its off-sets, but those take time to grow to flowering size. It may be that the UK weather is just too cool and dull and the summer too short to successfully bring these off-sets on to flowering again in a reasonable time. I’m in two minds about continuing with the off-sets as when fully open, the strong fragrance can set off allergies and headaches, it really is that over-powering.
Don’t let that put you off growing this though, for just a few pounds and a little patience, you too can experience the most powerfully fragrant, sweetly scented plant that has ever been discovered, all from the convenience of a gardening catalogue.