Michelia Alba

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Description  Michelia Alba Photo Gallery

Name: White Champaca, Joy Tree, Bai Yu Lan
Scientific Name: Michelia Alba
Family: Magnoliaceae

Soil: Prefer acidic, well drained soil. For this area, since the water is highly alkaline, I mixed some sphagnum peat moss and pine needles to provide a little more acidic environment.
Sun: It does not like direct sun, especially here. Though it is a member of the magnolia family, it¡¯s leaves are shinier and much more delicate than those of other magnolias. Too much sun can burn the leaves.
Water: Remember to keep the soil moist, but at the same time try to avoid over water the plant. When the tips of young leaves turn brown, you have either over watered or under watered it.
Fertilizer: Use fertilizer for acid-loving plants. I give it MirAcid, as well as food for Azalea, Camilla, and Rhododendron. I also feed it with some diluted IronPlus. I will also try some Dr. Q¡¯s acid food, which contains a lot of organic matters.
Care: Because it doesn¡¯t naturally grow here, it requires much more care. It is intolerant of soil dry and prefers some moisture in the air. It does not like wind either. It usually grows well under a larger tree. Until it is fully grown, michelia alba survives better here if allowed to sit indoors near an east-facing window.
Tips: Remember to water often as needed and mist the leaves each morning on hot days. It does not like wind so keep it sheltered.


I long remembered the white elongated bell-shaped flowers of michelia alba. It has a scent that I believe no one can forget. The smell is strong yet not as overwhelming as those of some types of jasmine. Someone once told me that its flowers are used to make the most expensive perfume in the world¡ªJoy Perfume. That explains why girls in Asian often wear this flower like a pedant; for days, they let this unique aroma surrounded them.

The first time I saw a michelia alba tree outside the Asian continent was in Hawaii. A friend of mine took me to Honolulu¡¯s Chinatown and we stopped by the cultural center for some tea. In the middle of the cultural center stood a nice-looking tree about two stories high. I was captivated by a strong and pleasant fragrance as soon as I walked into the courtyard. Underneath of it, I saw some flowers. Though most of them were no longer in their prime (as a matter of fact, most of their petals were in various shades of brown), their fragrance was heavenly. I put one of them neatly in my pocket and the wonderful smell accompanied me for a long time.

I often wondered about raising one here on the Mainland. I heard people¡¯s success stories about raising michelia alba in places like Florida first. Then there were cases that michelia alba were successfully grown indoors in East coast areas such as New York and Maryland, as well as west coast states such as California. Several California nurseries carry these exotic plants. As soon as I discovered that someone in Texas has actually grown one in her garden, I told myself that I have to give it a try. I ordered my michelia alba from an online store in California. It arrived in a long package, much bigger than I expected.

As soon as I opened the package, I was embraced by a sweet smell. I examined the plant and found a small bud on the top branch that hasn¡¯t opened yet. But the smell seemed to emit from the jade-green leaves. I planted it in the pot immediately. Unfortunately, I had my first lesson the very first day I got it. I left it on the porch over night. The wind seemed to pick up a bit that night and the little flower bud along with several young leaves turned yellow, then brown, and fell off. I was a bit heart-broken and moved it indoors immediately.

Now, standing in front of an east-facing window, where it can enjoy abundant sun light during morning and enough light during the afternoon, my michelia alba is well protected from the harsh sun and strong wind outside. I spray it with water as often as I can manage (before and after work). So far, it seems to doing okay. I saw some new leaves formed and a couple of them unrolled and extended out in a bright-yellowish green color. Everything is still a bit too early to say, but so far, I have welcomed it with all of my heart. Hopefully, it will adapt to my house as its new home.



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