Medinilla magnifica: Rose Grape

Surely the best known, loveliest and also most widely cultivated member of this family is the Medinilla from the Philippines. Though by no means a novelty on the market (it has been a popular plant since the mid-19th century), it did not begin to be grown more widely until the 1960s.

Medinilla magnifica is a relatively robust shrub reaching a height of 1.5 m (5 ft). The thick angular stems, turning woody at the base, bear up to 30-cm-(l-ft) long leaves with pronounced veins. The plant’s chief ornament is the inflorescence, and not only the flowers but also the bracts by which they are enclosed. The flowers are borne over a very long period and in robust specimens they are up to 70 cm (28 in) long.

Somewhat less decorative but also suitable for cultivation are the related species M. curtisii (Sumatra), M. javanensis (Java), M. sieboldiana (the Moluccas), and M. venosa (Malaysia).

The species is not particularly demanding and is well suited for home decoration. It does not tolerate temperatures below 15°C (59°F) for a lengthy period and needs a period of rest with greatly limited watering in autumn and winter, which is when it forms the flowers for the next display.

The soil should be the lightest possible and slightly acid. A mixture of beech leaf mould, pine leaf litter, peat and sand with a small addition of loam is ideal. An application of hornmeal should be provided in spring, and during the growing season a weekly application of feed is recommended.

The easiest method of propagation is from seed, but seedlings are slow to develop and little inclined to flower. For this reason propagation by cuttings is preferred. These should be partly woody and inserted in a mixture of sand and peat in a warm propagator. They are slow to root and frequently not all of them do so.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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