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Serrisa foetida help

Posted by Auron22 6b (My Page) on
Mon, Feb 11, 13 at 15:15

When my father returned to the university of michigan's greenhouse/matthaei's botanical garden, he not only returned with the plant he was originally gonna nab me, but also a serissa foetida (they also called it chinese snow rose). There seems to be some confusion about the names with this plant. Tree of a thousand stars = numerous small tubular single blooms + smaller leaves. Chinese snow rose = larger doubled blooms, less in number and larger leaves. Is that correct? Mine is the one with tubular, white, single flowers. I don't want advice for the wrong plant. Although a popular bonsai, i'd rather have it grow into a larger houseplant, hence this is not posted on bonsai forums.

Anyway, i don't think i have a great place in the house for it and some of the leaves are yellowing/falling off. 80%-85 percent of it's leaves still remain. There are good sized windows but the awnings and trees on the outside take a lot of light away. It is only 5" tall, potted in well draining medium. I water it when the top of the soil is dry to the touch (and a little dry a centimer further down). It is placed in front of a window facing southwest, but again, the awning and tree takes most of the light. It gets about 1hour 30 minutes of direct sun a day, medium/bright light the rest of the day. Sadly this spot also tends to get drafty due to the vent a couple feet away and a small heppa filter on the other side of the room, roughly 8' away. I also noticed that the air very close to the window is too cool (i live in northwest ohio). I have never fertilized and water with lukewarm tapwater. I researched the care it needs, but i thought i was pretty close to it. The plant is too fickle for a novice like me to get, but since my dad took the liberty of getting me one, i would like to keep it. Wish i could post a picture, but i currently have no camera, might get a picture later. Hopefully i supplied enough details.

Could anyone tell me what is wrong?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Serrisa foetida help

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Feb 11, 13 at 15:45

For good reason, Serissa is one of those plants about which it is very often claimed that you are usually either able to grow it very well, or not at all. I have several old Serissas that I've tended for 15 years or more. They do great in the summer, and more than hold their own in the winter under lights, but still, they don't grow in winter like they do in summer.

Mine are in a very fast soil:
under 5100k fluorescent lights at about 50% humidity and about 65-68*. I flush the soil with each watering and fertilize with a weak solution of Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 each time I water.

One of the keys to success is learning to avoid over-watering w/o letting them get too dry. I'm guessing soil choice plays a significant role in determining your likelihood of success. If I were you, I think I'd put a wick to work as insurance against over-watering.


RE: Serrisa foetida help

Thank you tapla
Looked into the "wick" thing, i'll give that a try. I don't think the room gets anywhere close to 50% humidity due to the airflow, so ima try a humidity tray as well. Hope this little guy doesn't die on me.
A question for someone with experience on serissa foetida, would it be wise to grow it over a foot or so tall x wide? I would like it to be rather large and not a bonsai so i can enjoy more of it's awesome flowers, But if conditions can't be met as a larger specimen i'll try my hand at shaping it for bonsai. It's so frustrating finding care information for this plant as a regular houseplant, everything is for bonsai serissa's.

RE: Serrisa foetida help

IIRC these are often grown as Bonsai.

RE: Serrisa foetida help

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Feb 11, 13 at 21:14

The plant can be grown in topiary form. That isn't to say it has to be an intricate shape, just a neat ball of foliage, like a lollipop on a stick, or something not quite so rigidly controlled might suit your purpose. Eventually, if you acquire the necessary skills to keep it going over the long term, you'll need to develop some additional pruning skills to keep it looking good, but satisfying its cultural needs, for now, should be your primary focus.

Best luck!


RE: Serrisa foetida help

I grow my serissas as houseplants- though I do shape them in bonsai form, I grow them in normal pots and ordinary potting soil, with the same mild feeding that all the houseplants get. For the most part they do just fine through the winter with no special care. My house stays around 63 and 35% or less humidity- plus minor drafts at windows.
A few notes though-
They are prissy little divas that don't much care for being moved, so try to get them in a good spot and leave them there. Often when I move mine or bring them in for winter they yellow and drop some leaves- don't panic.

Overwatering is by far the fastest way to kill a serissa. Try not to do that.

A light frost will generally not kill these.

Blossoms don't always mean it's happy- sometimes they seem to set a whole bunch of flowers because of something adverse-like frost.

They will get super leggy and ew if you don't clip them at all- they send up these super long super straight shoots when they're happy. How much and often you clip them is up to you.

They may be a little finicky to grow, but they propagate super easily- stick some of the aforementioned shoots in dirt- i get about 75% rooting and at least 50% make it to one year if i don't cull them because too many.

Spidermites seem to be their insect bane. watch out for them.

I have the snow rose cultivar, but the care is the same, though the variegated type seems a bit picker than the green-leafed types. In the event that yours exits like a drama queen and dies, I'm more than willing to send you one of my babies

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