June 19, 2012

Can you guess what this plant is?

It's like Christmas in June, except we here in New England are about to have a three day heat wave with temp's reaching near 100 deg. F ( Oh, the sweet peas!). Yes, suddenly, it's tropical, and for many of us, it's about time, after all, it's nearly summer. This strange plant may not be strange to you if you collect plants and live in southern Florida. What looks like a velvety Holiday poinsettia, is a plant genus often collected in the tropics for its colorful bracts and habit of blooming during the longest days of the year. Meet the genus, Mussaenda. A tender, tropical shrub with colorful bracts that come in pink, white and yes, even a bright, 'double' red. This cultivar, called Mussaenda 'Double Red' could have a better name, but we felt that it was worth a try, even though I have the faintest idea where I can fit it into a color scheme in my garden. It sits in a large tub on the deck, looking awkwardly Christmasy, so maybe I'll drag out the twinkle lights.

Mussaenda is new for me, but here is what I know. Its common name can be Tropical Dogwood, Ashanti Blood, Red Flag Bush or Profit's Tears. Native to tropical West Africa, where it can grow as tall as 30 feet, it makes a terrific tub plant for areas with hot and humid summer weather. In tropical climates, it is often used as a landscape plant as a substitute for Poinsettia, as the genus Mussaenda is more disease resistant and less likely to have insect pests. There are a few names cultivars, ranging from pink, white and single red forms, all are choice and valued as container plants in the north.

Most of us will need to grow this as a house plant, or in a warm conservatory, but as it blooms best during the hot and humid summer, this might be one plant to add to your summer container list, since surely, your neighbor will not have it. It's always nice to have something to stump the plant geeks who may visit your garden!

1 comment :

  1. Very nice. Alas something I could never grow here as days above 70 are rare.


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