Anita Morton - Growing Gardens

Clear winners

There are some families of garden plants that just give and give Clerodendrum is one such family. Its a genus of widely variable plants which offer wonderful showy flowers, excellent foliage and interesting fruits, while also being pest-free and low maintenance. The blue butterfly bush C. ugandense, hanging clerodendrum C. nutans, pagoda flower C. paniculatum and bleeding heart vine C. thomsoniae will be familiar to many gardeners.

This genus includes species with a wide range of flower colours. Commonly available are C. ugandense, which is very popular because of the unusual two-tone blue flowers, while pagoda flower is a clear scarlet, and C. nutans cream with red calyces. Most of these plants also have attractive glossy berries and persistent decorative calyces, so the season of interest is quite long.

Clerodendrums are native to Africa and East Asia. They are sensitive to frost, so give them a protected position if your microclimate is on the cool side. They also appreciate soil rich in organic matter and a little light shade, and will grow very quickly if given those conditions. C. ugandense and C. nutans are two that will also cope with very poor, compacted soil. Clerodendrums dont need pruning, except to limit the plants size. Evergreen types do need year-round moisture for rapid growth, while the semi-deciduous ones will generally drop leaves in spring to cope with drier soil.

Propagation is easy. Harvest ripe berries, crush them, and put them in a little water in a warm place. The flesh will ferment and release the seeds, which will then sprout readily when planted. You can also propagate from tip cuttings, taken now, or if you are a little more adventurous, root cuttings. Clerodendrums tend to sucker freely, and such plants are usually easy to grow from sections of root.


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