Family: Agavaceae

Original habitat: Mexico

Flower color: White

Flowering period: Mid to late summer

Plant height: 36 inches        

Planting depth: 3 inches

Planting distance: 8 to 10 inches

Type of bulb: True bulb

Light requirements: All species prefer sun


The plant’s name is derived from polios (Greek for “pale”) and anthos (Greek for “flower”). This genus includes a species known to have been cultivated for centuries as a cut flower: the Polianthes tuberosa. This species was also known to Clusius in the 16th century, and a double-flowering version became known in the 18th century. Most species are fragrant.

Applications: The bulbs are not entirely hardy and should thus be lifted in regions where long periods of frost occur. In warmer regions, the bulbs will naturalize. In colder areas, they can also be planted easily in pots. Plant them 3 inches deep in an 8-inch pot or 6 to 8 inches deep in a 12-inch pot. The flowers are also perfect for cutting.

Various species

  • Polianthes tuberosa: introduced in 1629, this plant has long been used to produce cut flowers. Its fragrant white flowers, opening up to more than 2 inches across, are borne on 36-inch stems. The most familiar cultivar, ‘The Pearl’, produces long-lasting flowers; the first to open eventually fall off while the rest of the buds continue to open, thus extending its flowering period.
  • Polianthes gracilis: introduced in1879, this plant has narrow leaves and grows to a height of 16 inches. It produces waxy-looking white flowers. Flowers are produced in late summer.
  • Polianthes durangensis
  • Polianthes geminiflora
  • Polianthes graminifolia