Idaho State Flower - Syringa - Mock Orange

Plant the mock orange next to a patio to enjoy its heavenly scent.

Plant the mock orange next to a patio to enjoy its heavenly scent.

Summer in Idaho brings out the best in the mock orange. The citrus scent of the shrub's blossoms carries on the breeze, so the plant is hard to miss. While there are several mock orange species of varying scents and sizes, it is Philadelphus lewisii, also known as syringa, that bears the honor of being the official flower of the state of Idaho.


The mock orange is a deciduous shrub in the hydrangea family. Native to the northwester regions of the United States, you can find it growing in nature in diverse areas of Idaho, including along streambeds and on rocky ledges. The mock orange grows from 6 to 12 feet tall, although experts at Washington State University claim that mock orange shrubs growing west of the Cascade mountains are taller and have more fragrant flowers than those on the east side of the mountain range.


The syringa took the back door into becoming the state’s official flower. In 1890, shortly after Idaho became a state, officials held a contest to design the state’s seal. Emma Sahah Etine Edwards, traveling through Boise on her way to art school in New York, submitted the winning entry. Her design included the syringa because, she claimed, it “grows at women’s feet.” While folks from then on took it for granted that the mock orange was their state’s flower, it wasn’t officially declared as such until 1931.

Cultivation Notes

While mock orange thrives in either full sun or partial shade in Idaho and is easy to cultivate, it requires consistent pruning. Left unpruned, it may grow quite large and look unruly. To rejuvenate an overgrown mock orange shrub, cut it to the soil in early spring. It will experience a growth spurt the season after pruning but won’t flower again until the following spring. This is a drought-tolerant shrub, so avoid over-watering.


If the name syringa sounds familiar, it is because it’s the name of the genus to which lilacs belong. "Syringa" is derived from a word that means pipe, according to master gardeners at Washington State University. Shepherd’s pipes were once constructed from the mock orange’s stems, thus, the nickname. Idaho’s Coeur d'Alene and Northern Paiute tribes used the mock orange’s wood to make tools, such as root diggers. The Paiute also split the twigs and created hair combs. Today, the mock orange is a common ornamental in Idaho gardens, and the cut branches, laden with flowers, provide scented and striking additions to cut flower arrangements.

References & Resources

About the Author

Photo Credits

  • philadelphus image by Alison Bowden from <a href=''></a>


OrderFlowers 2011 © All rights reserved.