Clerodendrum is a beautiful, flowering plant that can be found blooming and thriving all over our South Florida landscape. With more than 300 species of vines and shrubs in the genus, they are as plentiful as they are lovely.
Some are grown primarily for the large, beautiful flowers that emerge in clusters. Others are wanted mostly for their fragrance. Either way, they’re a great addition to anyone’s garden. Many of the varieties can be found easily; others are rarer and must be hunted down a bit. Finding them is part of the fun of using them in your landscape.
Like most shrubs in South Florida, they prefer morning sun and dappled sun or shade in the afternoon. Once established, they are very drought-tolerant and can survive with little water during our dry season. Depending on the size and location of your garden, some species can spread aggressively, so watch out. They can becontrolled easily by removing volunteers when they sprout. This trait can be an asset because a large grouping can be obtained with no expense and little work. Clerodendrum will do it all for you with no help.
These versatile plants not only brighten our Florida landscapes, but they also can be grown in containers for beautifying smaller spaces.
Some of my favorites:
- Clerodendrum minahassae: Native to Indonesia, this plant is very fragrant with white flowers that bloom mostly in the warmer months. It prefers sun or light shade.
- Clerodendrum quadriloculare (starburst): Very common in Southwest Florida, this plant is native to New Guinea. It can be grown as a large shrub or small tree and has tubular white and pink flowers that bloom in late winter. The leaves are green on the top and maroon on the underside. In the past few years, a tri-color leaf has been produced.
- Clerodendrum paniculatum (pagoda flower): It is native to Asia and has tubular red flowers that form a symmetrical shape, such as that of a Japanese pagoda. This summer bloomer can grow 3 to 4 feet tall and is a very showy landscape shrub.
- Clerodendrum bungei (pink glory flower): This one is native to China and has large clusters of pink flowers. It is very fragrant and can grow 4 to 5 feet tall.
- Clerodendrum thomsoniae (bleeding heart): This is one of the most common of these plants. It grows as a vine and prefers shade. The flowers, which can be red and white or red and purple, appear in clusters on the ends of the new growth.
Clerodendrum speciosissimum (java glory bower): This one is 4 to 5 feet tall with clusters of scarlet red flowers; it blooms in warmer months.
- Clerodendrum ugandense (butterfly bush): This is a very common Southwest Florida plant. It is native to Africa and produces blue and white flowers that resemble butterflies. Horticultural names are always changing, so it is also sometimes called Rotheca ugandense.
- Clerodendrum incisum (musical note): This plant blooms repeatedly all year long with white flowers that resemble musical notes or bean sprouts when first emerging.
- Clerodendrum wallachii (bridal veil): One of the showiest plants of the species, this one has pendants of white flowers 6 to 10 inches long cascading from the ends of the green branches. There is one called (Smithianum). The pendants of flowers are a little longer, and its stems are reddish.
These are just a few of the many beautiful and fragrant clerodendrums that are out there to enhance your Southwest Florida gardens.
Rumor has it the large and colorful flowers are a favorite of all Florida’s butterflies, especially the swallowtail. The flowers are so large, the swallowtail can come to rest on them and enjoy the nectar withoutdoing a lot of work. Hummingbirds also have a fondness for the clerodendrum’s large, semi-tubular flowers.
Mike Malloy, local author and artist known as “The Butterfly Man” has been a Naples resident since 1991. A Collier County Master Gardener, he has written two books entitled “Butterfly Gardening Made Easy for Southwest Florida,” and “Tropical Color – A Guide to Colorful Plants for the Southwest Florida Garden”, and currently writes articles on various gardening topics for several local publications. Mike has planted and designed numerous butterfly gardens around Naples including many schools, the City of Naples, Rookery Bay, the Conservancy and Big Cypress. Bring your gardening questions to the Third Street Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings or on Thursdays at the Naples Botanical Garden where he does a Plant Clinic or visit his website, www.naplesbutterfly.com. He also can be heard every Saturday at 4 PM on his call-in garden radio show, “Plant Talk with Mike Malloy,” on 98.9-WGUF.