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Past Articles Library | Medicinal Plants | Unusual Soothing Scents One can Grow at Home

Aromatherapy is an ancient healing art that promotes emotional and physical well being through scent.  Many uncommonly grown plants have wonderful scents that not only add beauty to a garden space but also a pleasant aroma.  Ginger, vanilla and ylang ylang are just a few of these plants.  Described below is a general guide on how to grow these three distinctive plants.

All the plants described below can be and should be grown indoors at least part of the growing season.  This is due to their tropical heritage.


If you live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7 through 10, then you can grow your ginger outside.  If you do not live in these areas, then you will need to grow your ginger inside.

Ginger is grown through a rhizome or tuber that can be found at the local grocery store.  But before you pick that rhizome make sure that it is healthy.  A plump tuber is the type you need for this project.

Ginger does better when it is started in late winter.  To begin the process of planting ginger, one must first soak the rhizome in water overnight.  While the rhizome is soaking, clean an 8-inch pot that has drainage holes with bleach water and allow to dry.  Once it is dry, place drainage material in the bottom of the pot and fill with a rich potting soil medium. 

After the tuber has soaked overnight, remove it from its container and plant it 4-inches deep in the container.  Fill in around the rhizome with sand and then top it off with the potting medium.  Placing sand around the rhizome will prevent water from pooling around the rhizome and causing rotting.

Place the container in a sunny location that receives filtered light.  Continue to care for as you would a houseplant. 

Ginger can be harvested in 8 to 10 months.


Vanilla comes from the vanilla planifolia, which is an orchard.  Most of the time vanilla is started through cuttings that can be obtained through a tropical plant supplier.  Another way of getting a start of vanilla is through a plant swap or a friend who already has a vanilla orchard.

If you cut your own start, make sure that the start is placed in the dark for two weeks before planting.

Vanilla orchard starts can be rooted in water or in soil.  If rooting in water, simply place the cutting in a glass of water and place the glass on a windowsill that receives indirect light.

Planting a cutting or rooted cutting is simple and starts out with the correct type of pot.  The pot needs to have drainage holes and also needs to be cleaned completely before moving on to the next step.

Once the pot has been cleaned and dried, the next step is to place drainage material in the bottom of the container.  After this is done, fill it with a mixture of potting soil and sand that has been premoistened.  After this is done, simply remove the lower leaves of the cutting and place into the soil.  If leaves are touching the soil, remove them with scissors.

Place a trellis or pole in the pot along side the cutting and place the cutting on a tray filled with pebbles and water.  At this point, the plant will need to be placed in a warm room that receives the most sunlight possible.

Vanilla beans are the fruit of the vanilla orchard but to create the bean one must hand pollinate the plant.  This is done by rubbing a cotton-covered stick over the pistil and stamen of each flower.  This will need to be done several times.

Ylang Ylang

Ylang Ylang  (Cananga odorata) is a tropical plant that can reach 100 feet in height.  This variety does well outdoors and can thrive in USDA Plant Hardiness zone 10.  A dwarf variety exists (Cananga odorata ‘Fluticosa’) that is well suited for indoor container gardens.  At maturity, this tropical plant only reaches 6 to 8 feet in height.

Ylang Ylang is started from seed that can be obtained from a tropical plant nursery or seed catalogue.

Once you get your seed, you will need to prepare the container.  Wash thoroughly the container with bleach water, rinse and let dry.  After it has dried, place drainage material in the bottom of the pot and fill with a good quality commercial potting soil mix.  Then, place the pot on top of a saucer filled with water.  Allow capillary action to moisten the soil.

After the soil has become completely moist, lay the seeds on top of the soil surface and cover with one-quarter of an inch of the potting soil medium.  Place wire hoops or stakes into the soil and put the container inside a plastic bag.  These structures will prevent the plastic bag from lying on top of the soil.  Secure the end of the plastic bag so that it remains closed.

Place the container in a warm, sunny area but away from direct sunlight.  Check the soil moisture every few days and mist as needed.

Once the seedlings are six inches tall, separate them and place them in larger containers.  Continue to keep the plants in a warm room that receives indirect sunlight.

While some of these plants can be a challenge, they are well worth the effort and tranquility they bring to our modern lives.


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Plant Dwarf Varities

If you love fruit tress like apples, peaches, pears and plums, but don't have the room, plant a dwarf variety.

Most grow from 3 feet to 8 feet. They product tons of fruit and are easier to harvest because they are low to the ground.

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