House plants: Will fragrant Hoya obscura fill home with scent?

by | Apr 14, 2009

Hoya obscura (left) and Hoya obscura Major

These are our hoyas — Hoya obscura on the left, and Hoya obscura Major on the right. We have had them a little over ten months. Based on their comparative sizes, I’m going to venture that “Major” indicates “bigger.”

I am a fan of plants that serve some sort of extra function. For instance, we have Black Beauty and Black Lace™ elderberry bushes which not only look fantastic, but also feed the birds. This summer I may plant some Korean barberry shrubs which will not only provide spectacular fall color, but also confront the kids cutting through our yard with vicious, razor-like thorns.

So, shopping for house plants for sale, I decided to look for indoor plants that were especially fragrant.

Over the years, we have employed scented candles, dishes of shredded potpourri debris, reed diffusers, baskets of pine cones saturated with fragrance oil, dried eucalyptus branches, room spray, Sharper Image ionizers, Slatkin & Co. Wallflowers® from Bath & Body Works, and Glade® PlugIns® from S.C. Johnson & Son as part of our overall home fragrance layering strategy.

It occurred to me that flowering house plants might be less of a drain on the nation’s energy grid — as well as more natural-smelling, and less ridiculous.

As I scoured websites and Internet forums researching fragrant house plants online, one indoor plant that really attracted my attention was the Hoya obscura.

People blogged about Hoya obscura, they photographed Hoya obscura, and time and time again they compared its scent to “gardenia and Fruit Loops [sic]. Heavenly!”

The Wikipedia entry for Hoya obscura has this too — along with “Intense and pleasant, remarkably like a buttered cinnamon roll … Wafts a considerable distance.”

It was the thought of acquiring my very own Kellogg’s Froot Loops® plant that sold me more than anything.

I had visions of sitting on my sofa some sunny Saturday morning in the summertime, wearing my pajamas and shoveling one spoonful after another of sugar-coated goodness and whole milk into my mouth. Meanwhile, a whole flock of toucans would be perched outside, and the scents of oranges, lemons, cherries, and buttered cinnamon rolls would waft through the room on the warm breeze blowing across my exotic hoyas. It would be like Hawaii, only better.

Cereal advertising can leave a lasting impression on a young mind.

Somehow, though, I doubted that one can simply waltz into Wal-Mart and ask for directions to the Hoya aisle.

Even at Milaeger’s, I’m not sure I would get much more than a quizzical look upon inquiring about the Hoya obscura. I’m betting they’re called “obscura” for a reason.

Happily, the Internet allows us not only to find out about pretty much anything in the world, but also to have it shipped to us via UPS. I found Hoya obscura for sale at Kartuz Greenhouses (although I don’t see any there today), and I grabbed Hoya obscura Major and Begonia ‘Fragrant Beauty’ for good measure.

The order was placed in early April, but Kartuz held them until early June, to assure that all danger of frost had passed. The Hoya plants arrived as tiny cuttings of just a leaf or two in a small clump of soil. We potted them and waited, letting the soil dry a bit between waterings, as most of the data suggests.

Hoya obscura flower

Now nearly a year has passed, and after a very timid start, both hoyas have been accelerating their growth along with the lengthening days. Suddenly, over the past week, the smaller plant has developed a single, hanging little blossom.

There’s no smell yet — the flower probably has to open some more — but I’m getting very excited.

We’re expecting a high of 58 degrees by the end of the week, and if the starlings have returned to Racine, can the toucans be far behind?


We experienced some fragrance from our Hoya obscuras maybe once. It was a fairly concentrated scent, considering the small bloom producing it, and it had a lemon-citrus quality that was very pleasant.

Then, tragedy struck. I too the plants outside briefly to spray them clean with water, and in the short time they were out there drying, aphids found it. Back in the house, an aphid infestation developed, and although we used several different treatments that would briefly diminish the bugs, they kept coming back.

We finally added the poor Hoyas to our compost pile. Maybe we’ll try a jasmine sometime.

1 Comment

  1. the Ficus Wrangler

    That is such a sad story. I found it looking for info on fragrant house plants. May I offer my experience with aphids, in case you have to deal with them in the future? A simple spray of 1 tsp mild liquid soap (no Dawn) in 2 cups water is your basic tool. Spray this all over the plant – tops, bottoms of leaves, and into all the little crevices where leaf stems emerge. Then – this is the important part – spray every week for 4 weeks. That should break the life cycle. The bugs seem to keep coming back because they lay eggs, which aren’t affected by sprays, and the eggs keep hatching.


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