Growing tuberoses in containers

Judith Adam

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Double tuberose (Photo by Veseys)

I’m always looking for something highly fragrant to grow in containers over summer. Last year, I had big pots of beautiful acidanthera on the front porch and back deck, and they released sweet perfume near outdoor chairs and windows. This year, I’m going to try tuberoses (Polianthes tuberosa, Zone 7), popular as Victorian funeral blossoms. Their tall spikes of waxy white flowers produce one of the most intense floral scents; their essential oil is a primary ingredient in perfumery.

Tuberoses are tender perennials, growing from rhizomes that produce offsets each year. When grown in warm climates, they make use of the long growing season to spread in colonies. The combined perfume of a spreading tuberose patch must be overwhelming! In cold climates, the rhizomes can be started indoors in April, and will bloom in midsummer. (If started in May, expect blooms to start opening in August.)

The double tuberose ( is sometimes listed with its cultivar name, ‘The Pearl’, and may be slightly less scented than the single species. That’s just guessing on my part, and if I can find both single- and double-flowering tubers, I’ll try both for a sniff test. The flower spikes rise and begin to enlarge their green buds over several weeks, each bud becoming white with a pale pink flush. When the buds begin opening from the bottom of the stem, the flowers are entirely milky white.

Each tuberose rhizome will produce grass-like, 18-inch (45-cm) leaves and flower spikes up to 24 inches (60 cm) tall, with two to five flower spikes from each rhizome (depending on the age and size of the rhizome). When planting in the ground or in pots, set rhizomes three inches (8 cm) deep, and space them six to eight inches (15 to 20 cm) apart.

In the fall, lift tuberose rhizomes before hard frost and store indoors over winter. If grown in containers, leave the rhizomes in the pots, cut down the spent flower spikes and foliage, and place the pots in loose, unsealed plastic bags in a cool basement. (They might need a little water mid-winter if the soil seems excessively dry.) Bring them out the following spring, and water regularly.

Using containers for perfumed plants lets me have deeply scented flowers close by, and I can cart pots off when the flowering period finishes. There’s a bit of economy in this method, as just a pot or two has quite an impact. If tuberose were planted in the garden, I would need more to pump up a scent cloud to float across the garden and reach me on the deck. Planting in pots also means there’s no damage from animals, weather, and soccer balls.

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13 thoughts on “Growing tuberoses in containers”

  1. I have multiple tuberoses in a 10” pot. I live in Canada so they are inside. I have a grow light with a 16 hour timer. My problem is the tips of many of the leaves are turning brown and dry. My question is: am I over or under watering?

  2. I am in zone 6a, Kansas, I grow Peruvian daffodils in pots, moving the containers to my basement after the first frost, I ignore them all winter until I see growth in March or April then I start fertilizing them and watering them inside until the temp is above 50. Will this method also work for the tuberose? How long will the tuberose tolerate temps under 60 degrees as occasionally it goes from 90 during the day to 55 at night?

  3. I started three tuberose from bulbs. Because of too much watering all started rotting. So I cut the rotten part, sprinkled root hormone and re-potted. This time I put the pots one top of another container and filled that with water and kept outdoor. After few weeks leaves plants started growing from two. After few more weeks few plants started from the 3rd bulb. I kept them same way and growth is huge and flowers are coming from two of them. I am super excited. I am in Zone 9b

  4. Tuberoses are best grown in containers in any zone colder that zone 7. Tuberoses are one of those bulbs that resent root disturbance. So bringing into a cool (but not frozen) environment in the winter and allowing a natural dormancy to occur is best. I tried growing them in my zone 6b garden but even with a thick mulch I was not successful in overwintering them. I also find it takes these bulbs a long time to “wake up” so having them indoors in a cool root cellar in my basement allows me to bring them out in Mar/Apr and get them started.

  5. Im in australua and its winter here. The leaves are starting to go a little yellow. What am i doing wrong ?. They are in pots indoors . I dont want them to die. Any help would be grateful

  6. What size pot for each rhizome? I have one in a 5 at pot. It’s about 3-5 years old. It’s only grown spikes every year and this I got one stem about 2 to 2-1/2 feet tall with blossoms on the last 4-5 inches.

    Any way to increase the spikes or number of blooms? Fertilizer?

    • @moses, I have heard lots of good things about sea kelp meal. It also comes in a liquid formulation. I’ll try soaking the bulbs in a solution using the liquid, before planting, Supposedly gives them a boost that stays with them. (I think this applies to pots, as well as open ground. I can’t remember how much or how long you do it for, but there’s several articles online about kelp being a plant booster.

      I also think bulb fertilizer like we use when planting fall bulbs, would be useful. It does help build roots, which is so necessary to support the above-ground growth, including flowers. I don’t know if I would use both together or not. I do know bulbs with a poor show one year shouldn’t be discarded because they often decide to put on a big show out of the blue. This happened with my pot-grown Peruvian Daffodils, which I had forgotten about, then suddenly, five huge flowers!

  7. I feel in love with tuberose when I lived in the Caribbean. I am moving to an area where they are not easily or cheaply available for purchase, North East Coastal Florida. According to online sources, it can grow in zone 9 and is salt tolerant. My question goes to the dormancy period. We do not get sustained temps below 60 degrees F let alone below 50. We do get cold temps, and the occasional freeze, but not sustained lows. I plan to grow the plant in a container, which will protect it from freeze but what do you think about the relatively high winter temps? My thought would be to leave it outdoors (cutting it back) and bring in only if we get very low temps.
    Thank you for your answer.

    • I live in Maryland , I bring the pots into my garage before the first frost. Leave them alone until Spring. My bulbs are three years old!

      • Wow, I would love to see a photo and know where you bought your bulbs> I guess if they are in pots they dont really multiply or take to division?

        • tuberose from Tennessee is a great place to buy these rizomes. they sometimes throw in a few extra!! highly recommended.

      • What zone are you in? I’m in norther VA, zone 6b. I want to store my tuberose (which is in a container) in the garage but worry that it might get too cold over an extended period of time. Do you put yours in a plastic bag and water from time to time?


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