Clerodendrum thomsonae: Glory Bower, Bleeding Heart Vine

It is not usual for a species that has extremely attractive flowers to be undemanding as regards cultivation. Generally, growing plants with decorative flowers is coupled with the necessity of providing them with cool conditions in winter and many species are better suited for the conservatory or plant-case than for room decoration.

All that is needed for success in growing the plant, however, is a warm room and plenty of space by a sunny window. It will even be quite content with a cooler room if provided with enough light.

Clerodendrum thomsonae is a twining shrub which in its native home — west Africa — grows in warm forests. It generally flowers in spring, but if it is hard pruned after flowering it will flower a second time the same year. The dense clusters of flowers with inflated white calyx and bright red corolla are truly lovely. The decorative effect is heightened by the attractive foliage. Some of the leaves are shed in winter. The calyxes, often a crimson hue, remain on the plant long after flowering has finished.

Though clerodendrum reaches a height of 4 m (13 ft), there is no need to fear it will crowd us out of the room. Not only is hard pruning possible, it is a must for keeping the plant shapely and thus for proper cultivation; 60 cm (2 ft) is the height at which it should be maintained. When pruned, the plant quickly puts out numerous side shoots that produce flowers. Pruning should be carried out in late winter as soon as the light conditions improve and the plant begins growth.

Another very attractive species of the same genus is C. speciosissimum, an upright shrub with large leaves covered thickly with soft hairs and large terminal clusters of scarlet flowers.

Clerodendrum should be grown in a heavy, nourishing soil composed of compost, loam and sand, to which some peat may be added. Propagation is easy, for the spring prunings root quite readily in a peat and sand mixture in a warm propagator. In summer the plant requires regular and liberal feeding which helps to turn the new growth woody.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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