Stephanotis (Stephanotis floribunda) is a woody, tropical, twining vine belonging to the milkweed family. Its foliage is shiny, thick and dark green, and under the right circumstances it produces tubular waxy white flowers that are star-shaped and highly fragrant. It is also known as Madagascar jasmine, wedding flower, wax flower, floradora, bridal veil or bridal wreath.
Stephanotis is native mainly to Madagascar, but some species can be found in China, Japan, the Malabar peninsula and Cuba. Its name is derived from the Greek word stephanos, which means "crown," and otos, meaning "ear," which is a reference to the shape of the flowers' stamens.
Stephanotis will grow to a height of 15 to 18 feet, though it usually grows more outward than upward. It can be grown as a potted plant or in a hanging basket, and is usually sold twined around a metal hoop, since it must have some sort of support. The seedpods are rare, but those that appear reach the size of a pear, remaining on the vine for more than six months before the seeds are ready to be harvested (see References 1).
In cold climates, stephanotis must be kept indoors or in a heated greenhouse during the winter. It does best in bright but indirect lighting, and prefers 40 to 80 percent humidity. It requires a well-draining potting soil, and does best if kept in temperatures of 70 degrees during the day and 55 to 60 at night. Fertilize monthly during the summer with a water-soluble fertilizer diluted to half strength. Pests that may bother the plant include mealybugs and scale. Stephanotis should be protected from cold and drafts, and it does not like to be moved, particularly when it is in bloom.
The scent of the stephanotis is similar to that of the jasmine, although the two plants are not related. Stephanotis is the source of a classic perfume by the same name produced by Floris, which describes its scent as "Intoxicating orange blossom notes with a mild spicy nuance of carnation ... contrasted to green notes of lily of the valley." (see Resources 1).
It can be difficult to get a stephanotis plant to flower indoors. If it is happy in its growing conditions, the plant will produce blooms in the summer.
During the winter (October to February), the stephanotis requires a rest period. It is normal for the longer, tender shoots to wither down at this time. Though the plant likes to be kept evenly moist during the active growing season, it should be kept somewhat drier during the winter. In spring, prune back the soft wood to encourage flowering, and remove any dead wood.
As a Wedding Flower
Because of its delicate white flowers and lovely scent, the stephanotis is popular for bridal bouquets and corsages. It is also sometimes used to decorate wedding cakes, or even placed in the bride's hair. In the language of flowers, the stephanotis means happiness in marriage, desire to travel and good luck, according to the U.K. floral service Floral Direct. (see References 2).