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Star of the season: Clerodendrum

Glory bowers, bleeding hearts and butterfly bushes – the common names tell us why we love Clerodendrums.

In summer the delicate, scented panicles dangle sweetly in shades of scarlet, pink and blue making the garden a delight.


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The evergreen or deciduous small trees, shrubs and climbers of this genus, variously known as glory bower, glory flower, lolly bush, butterfly flower, Spanish jasmine and bleeding heart vine, do best in partly shaded positions where they are protected from the hot afternoon sun. They are not frost tolerant.

Clerodendrums make good fillers and delicate climbers in the garden. In tropical-style gardens they are good companions with colourful gingers, cannas, golden cane palms and bromeliad clumps. They look equally at home in a conventional, temperate-style mixed shrubbery, with camellias, agapanthus, clivia, hydrangea, yesterday, today and tomorrow (Brunsfelsia), Duranta ‘Geisha Girl’ and Chinese lantern (Abutilon). To ensure a year-round display of flowers, add some winter and spring flowering bulbs to plantings of deciduous varieties.


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Clerodendrums like a sunny position and fertile soils. Water well throughout the warmer months and expect flowers to last well into autumn. Like many warm-climate shrubs, they become untidy through winter, but it’s best to resist the urge to prune until the end of August. After a few years the shrubs tend to become lanky and untidy and are best replaced with a fresh specimen. Propagate from -hardwood cuttings taken in summer. In spring apply slow-release fertiliser and increase watering.

Warnings: Suckering can be a problem. If this is the case, dig suckers up in winter and pot them up to replace tired plants or to share with friends.

What else: Leaves can emit unusual smells when rubbed: C. trichotomum, for example, has a scent like peanut butter while C. bungei smells like burning rubber!


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Bleeding heart vine (Clerodendrum thomsoniae) is a vigorous, evergreen twiner with pure white petals and a red centre. Train it on a trellis to add eye-level splendour to a pergola, wall or fence.

Cashmere bouquet (C. bungei) is often grown in cool-temperate gardens for its spectacular, strongly scented, pink and deep pink flower heads, which attract butterflies. It’s excellent under big trees, as heavy root competition discourages suckering. Cut this deciduous shrub back to the ground in mid-winter.

Pagoda flower (C. paniculatum) is the most magnificent member of the family, with an enormous terminal inflorescence of tendrilled terracotta petals in the shape of a giant pagoda. It hails from tropical Asia so prefers a warm humid climate. The downside? Expect suckering.

Flaming glory bower vine is the wordy but perfect common name for C. splendens, an evergreen twiner with eye-catching bicoloured heart-shaped flowers of scarlet and magenta.

The butterfly clerodendrum (C. ugandense) has butterfly-shaped flowers in shades of sky blue. Originally from tropical East Africa, this plant loves Sydney. It grows 2-3m tall with evergreen arching branches. Prune in late winter or early spring. (Recently reclassified as Rotheca myricoides.)


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About this article

Author: Linda Ross