Aglaia odorata
Common Name: chu-lan tree 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Meliaceae
Native Range: Southeastern Asia
Zone: 10 to 11
Height: 8.00 to 10.00 feet
Spread: 8.00 to 10.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: Yellow
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Evergreen


Winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-11 where it is easily grown in medium moisture, moderately fertile, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Plants often appreciate some part shade during the heat of the day in hot summer growing conditions. In the St. Louis area, grow in containers (clay pots best) which may be taken outside in late spring but should be brought indoors in late summer to early fall before temperatures dip to 40 degrees F. Indoor plants should be grown close to sunny windows and watered moderately but consistently, allowing the soils to dry between waterings but never to dry out completely. Avoid wet soils. Plants are usually propagated by cuttings or air layering because the female plants often do not produce seed. Normal room temperature with 60 degree F. minimum winter temperature is recommended.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Aglaia odorata, commonly known as Chinese perfume tree, is an evergreen, glabrous, small tree or large shrub in the mahagony family that grows to as much as 16-20’ tall in the wild. It is native to sparse forests or thickets in low alpine regions of China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. In cultivation, it typically grows to 8-10’ tall unless pruned even smaller. This is an ornamental plant featuring yellow green foliage and sprays of yellow flowers which are intensely fragrant but not overly showy. Pinnate compound leaves (to 2-5” long) typically have 3 (infrequently 5 or 7) ovate to elliptic leaflets (each to 3-4” long). Inflorescence is an axillary panicle (to 2-4” long) containing numerous tiny rounded yellow flowers (each to only 2 mm wide) in the shape of miniature balls that do not open up when they bloom. Several periods of bloom typically occur on and off throughout the year. Intensity of flower fragrance is best during the day (often no fragrance at night). Each flower looks like a grain of rice, hence the sometimes used additional common name of Chinese rice flower. Sweet lemony flower fragrance has given rise to the sometimes used additional common name of mock lemon. Plants are dioecious (male and female flowers on separate plants). Only pollinated female flowers will produce fruit. Pollinated flowers are followed by oblong to obovoid usually one-seeded berries (each to 1/2” wide). Fruiting is often rare.

Genus name comes from Aglaia of Greek mythology who was one of the three Graces (minor goddesses of grace, charm and beauty who were daughters of Zeus) in reference to the sweetly-scented flowers on this tree.

Specific epithet is in reference to flower aroma.


No serious insect or disease problems. Watch for mealybugs.


Where winter hardy, it is typically grown as a hedge, specimen or container plant, or if allowed to grow out fully, a small tree. Beautiful houseplant. Flowers are used in Hawaii to make leis and to wear in the hair.