Chinese Perfume Plant – Care, Transplanting, Propagating (aka Aglaia Odorata)

You may have heard of the Aglaia Odorata referred to by one of its more commonly-used names: the Chinese Perfume Plant.

Its moniker refers to the plant’s sweet smell, and in fact, its dried flowers can be used in perfumes.

Although the Aglaia Odorata is native to Southeast Asia, you can grow your own Chinese Perfume Plant in your garden or home under the right conditions.

What Is A Chinese Perfume Plant?

The Chinese Perfume Plant is a small tree, or large shrub, from the mahogany family.

It has small, round yellow flowers and produces a sweet lemon-tinged aroma. 

The origin of the name Aglaia Odorata comes from Greek mythology. Aglaia was the name of one of the three goddesses of beauty, grace, and charm.

Odorata refers to the odor, or scent, of its unique flowers.

The plant is also known as the Mock Lemon and the Chinese Rice Flower. 

The plant’s tiny, yellow, round-shaped flowers have six petals, and the female plants produce a tiny, red seed inside the flower. 

The Chinese Perfume Plant originated in China, Cambodia, Taiwan, Thailand, Myanmar, and Vietnam.

In its native grounds, the plant can grow up to 20 feet, which makes it closer to a tree. In the United States, it will typically grow up to ten feet outdoors in the right conditions.

If your location is too cold and you’re planting it indoors in a planter, expect your Chinese Perfume Plant to grow up to just four feet. 

The plant is a fragrant perennial, and it retains its green leaves throughout the year.

While its scent comes and goes throughout the day, it is stronger during the daylight hours than in the evening.

It is a popular plant to keep in the house due to its low maintenance and pleasant smell. In fact, these small plants are used for bonsai trees.

How To Care For A Chinese Perfume Plant Properly

Chinese Perfume Plants are very low-maintenance. However, if you’re growing your own Chinese Perfume Plant, make sure you know how to properly take care of it to help it thrive and flourish with ideal conditions.

Where It Grows Well

The Aglaia Odorata grows best in temperatures above 60°F. In the United States, this refers to areas in the USDA Hardiness Zone of 9 and 10.

If the climate in your area is colder than that, you can grow your plant indoors and move it outdoors when the temperatures warm up.

The humidity levels don’t seem to affect their growth. They grow well in both high and low humidity.

Indoor / Outdoor Growing

This plant can be grown both indoors or outdoors. If you have a garden and live in the USDA Hardiness Zone of 9 or 10, your Chinese Perfume Plant can thrive outdoors.

It can grow up to ten feet – pretty impressive for an ornamental plant!

While the plant thrives on light, it can grow in the shade and sunlight, so you don’t need to be concerned about its exposure or lack of it. 

If your environment isn’t suitable for growing the plant outdoors, or you are looking for a pleasant plant to keep in the house, you can grow it in a pot indoors where it can reach up to four feet tall.

Just remember not to expose the plant to temperatures below 2°C/ 35°F.

Watering and Soil Needs

The Chinese Perfume Plant should be watered liberally about once a week, but make sure the pot drains well.

The plant prefers dryer soil, so make sure the soil doesn’t retain an excessive amount of water.

If your plant is in a container, make sure there are drainage holes for the surplus water to drain out. 

Wait until the soil is dried out before watering the plant, and then saturate the ground until the water seeps out of the pot’s drainage holes.

In between waterings, use a mister to lightly spray the leaves with some water. 

Fertilize the soil once a month to replenish its nutrients, but don’t use full strength. The plant is delicate and can get poisoned from too much of it. Ideally, the pH level of its soil should be between 6.0 – 7.5. A cactus mix is an excellent soil to use. 

Temperature Needs and Ideal Climate

Outdoors, the Chinese Perfume Plant should be kept in temperatures above 15°C / 60°F. If the outdoor temperatures drop below that in your area, you can grow the plant in a container indoors. 

Indoors, the plant can survive temperatures as low as 2°C / 35°F. Never expose your plant to temperatures lower than that.

The plant grows well under many sunlight conditions including in the shade or under full sun exposure.

Choosing the Right Pot For A Chinese Perfume Plant

Potted Aglaia Odorata Plant

If you’ll be growing your plant indoors, a standard pot with a soil and sand mixture is just fine for the Aglaia Odorata.

However, terra cotta pots are the best since they provide excellent air circulation and drainage. 

Transplanting the Plant

As your Chinese Perfume Plant grows, you will need to transfer it to a bigger pot.

It’s best to switch pots every two years, so the roots don’t get compacted.

When taking the plant out of the old pot, separate the bottom of the roots and then pack it with fresh soil. 

How Do You Plant an Aglaia Odorata? 

When planting your Aglaia Odorata in a pot or container, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Choose a pot that allows for good air circulation and drainage, such as one from terra cotta or clay.
  • Standard potting soil is fine. It’s best if the pH level of the soil is between 6.0-7.5. 
  • Keep the pot in a place where the temperatures indoors will not drop below 35°F.
  • The placement for sunlight isn’t as important as the Chinese Perfume Plant can grow with minimal sunlight. However, the more sunlight it has, the more flowers and growth you can expect to see.

What Scent Does the Aglaia Odorata Have?

The flowers of the Aglaia give off a pleasantly sweet and lemon-like scent. For this reason, some know the plant as the Mock Lemon plant.

Their scent increases and fades over the course of the day. One theory is that the smell increases when it is more humid. 

Can You Propagate an Aglaia Odorata? 

Yes, you can propagate the Aglaia Odorata. The plant is usually propagated by root cutting or air layering.

The air layering method of propagation seems to work best for the Chinese Perfume Plant. 

  1. Before you propagate, make sure that your plant is healthy and is at least a year old. 
  2. Take a piece of moss, soak it in water, and squeeze it out before using it.
  3. Take a healthy branch from the plant and make a slanted cut ⅔ of the way down on the stem.
  4. Place something small inside the cut to keep it open.
  5. Wrap the moss around the incision and then wrap plastic foil around the moss, covering the branch’s incision.
  6. Water the branch and watch for its roots to sprout.
  7. When the roots start growing through the moss, cut the branch below the spot where you made the incision.
  8. Watch your new little Chinese Perfume Plant grow!

Wrapping It Up 

The Aglaia Odorata is a sweet, ornamental plant that is easy to grow and maintain.

It doesn’t require much hands-on care, is pretty flexible in its environment, and produces a lovely scent. They knew what they were doing when they named it after a Greek goddess.