Species: Hybrid of M. champaca and M. montana (Referred to as M. x alba or simply M. alba)
Common Names: White Sandalwood, Himalayan Champaca, White Champak
Michelia x alba is a tree in the magnolia family. The “x” in x alba means that it is a hybrid of two Michelia species, M. champaca and M. montana. All species are native to China and southeast Asia. White sandalwood is a medium sized tree growing up to 25 feet tall. It has large, glossy green leaves. The real treat, however, is the sweet perfume exuded by the flowers. The flowers are creamy white with numerous long tepals.
Sun:M. x alba will tolerate full sun, but the leaves may turn yellow, which some people find unattractive. The leaves can also burn in very hot direct sun. An east-facing location with direct morning sun and bright indirect light the rest of the day is perfect.
Planting:M. x alba can adapt to containers. Larger pots are better to allow more growth, and to extend the time between repotting. The tree will truly thrive if planted in the ground in a spot protected from high winds and extreme temperatures.
Water:M. x alba has average water needs, it should be kept moist but not overly wet. Plants in containers will dry out more quickly and have higher water requirements. Depending on your climate, established trees in the ground may not need any water.
Seasonal Care:M. x alba is adapted to tropical and subtropical climates and will not tolerate extended periods below freezing. If your plants are in containers, they can be moved inside to overwinter indoors. If temperatures are expected to stay below freezing, you should protect any trees in the ground, by covering them with plastic.
Propagation:M. x alba is something of a luxury plant. Large, healthy specimens are sometimes hard to come by and when you do find one, it is often very expensive. Part of the reason for the high price is that M. x alba is difficult to propagate. Seeds are rarely produced, and plants grown from seeds probably won’t have many of the characteristics of the parent plant. Cuttings are not impossible, but very difficult. Commercially, new plants are produced in one of two ways: air layering and grafting.