Ylang ylang, or Cananga odorata, is a mid-sized tree that produces oddly-shaped yellow flowers with a strong, sweet fragrance. Native to Indonesia and Malaysia, ylang-ylang is a tropical tree that will grow only in very warm, humid areas. Although ylang-ylang is usually propagated by seeds planted directly into the soil, it can also be grown indoors if provided with ample sunlight and humidity.
Planting Ylang-Ylang Outdoors
Purchase ylang-ylang seeds from a nursery or greenhouse that specializes in tropical plants. Seeds can also be purchased over the Internet. For a list of supplies, see the Resources section.
Choose a planting site in full sunlight. It's crucial that the ylang-ylang seeds be planted in an area where water drains freely, so avoid areas where rainfall puddles for more than four hours.
Remove any weeds from the planting site and cultivate the soil to a depth of 18 to 20 inches, using a shovel or a tiller.
Plant the ylang-ylang seeds about an inch deep in the soil. Germination of ylang-ylang seeds isn't a sure thing, so planting several seeds will increase the chance that you'll eventually have one viable ylang-ylang tree.
Water the ylang-ylang seeds regularly, but don't overwater. Ylang-ylang likes moist soil, but can rot in excessive moisture.
Watch for the seeds to germinate in three to four months. Once the seedlings emerge, remove all but the strongest, healthiest seedling. Continue to keep the soil moist for the first year. After that, water the ylang-ylang tree during times of low rainfall.
Planting Ylang-Ylang in a Container
Fill a planting container with good quality commercial potting mixture. Set the planting container in a saucer of water and allow it to wick water through the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot. Remove the container from the saucer as soon as the potting mix is damp all the way through.
Plant the ylang-ylang seeds on top of the potting mixture, and cover them with one-quarter inch of potting mixture. Put the container in a plastic bag, and install some stakes or a wire hoop to keep the plastic from dropping down on the potting mixture.
Put the container in a warm, sunny area, but avoid direct light, which can be too hot. Check the container every few days, and mist inside the bag if the top of the potting mixture feels dry to the touch. The atmosphere in the bag should be kept humid at all time.
Remove the container from the plastic bag when the seeds germinate, which can take up to three months. Cut off any weak or spindly ylang-ylang seedlings with scissors so the strong seedlings can continue to develop. Don't pull the seedlings out, because doing so can damage the roots of the healthy seedlings.
Transplant the seedlings into individual containers when they are about 6 inches tall. Make sure the ylang-ylang seedlings get several hours of sunlight each day, and keep the soil moist. Ylang ylang requires high humidity and warm, even temperatures. Be sure there isn't a large difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures.
About this Author
M.H. Dyer is a long-time writer, editor and proofreader. She has been a contributor to the East-Oregonian Newspaper and See Jane Run magazine, and is author of a memoir, “The Tumbleweed Chronicles, a Sideways Look at Life." She holds an Master of Fine Arts from National University, San Diego.