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Clerodendrum, the Glory Bower — shrubs, vines and small trees

August 24, 2012
By JOYCE COMINGORE - Garden Club of Cape Coral , Cape Coral Daily Breeze


Special to The Breeze

In 1753, Carolus Linneaus, father of taxonomy and a botanist, named a group of plants, Clerodendrum, from the greek words kleros, meaning chance or fate, and dendron, a tree, referring to the variation in reports of their medicinal properties. Revisions in this genus category have been going on until 2010.

Clerodendron glandulosum has been used in India for medicine, but the correct name for this genus is Clerodendrum, although some people like to use clerodendron.

It never ceases to amaze me how different this family is. This genus now falls into the Verbenaceae family, order Lamiales. Estimates of how many varieties vary from 150 to 450. They occur in tropical Africa and southern Asia, as well as the tropical Americas and northern Australia, and a few extend into the northern temperate zone of eastern Asia.

They are shrubs, vines and lianas, and small trees. Clerodendrums are called, Glory Bowers. It is the flower/shrub with a big family. Some rascals and some beauties!

I first came across a lovely vine of Bleeding Heart, not the wildflower I knew up north, but a flowering vine of snow white-seeming pods with a star-shaped scarlet red flower bursting out the bottom, known as Clerodendrum thomsonae. It blooms throughout the summer into the fall. I planted it at the front door of our rental home in Venice.

This vine needs support of a fence or trellis and enjoys light shade or a sunny location with well drained rich loamy soil. Prune them in early spring to encourage the new growth that produces masses of flowers. Feed it monthly with liquid 15-30-15. Some have used it in a hanging basket and tried growing it indoors in the colder climates. There is a variation vine with pale purple pods showing scarlet red stars, called delectum.

When I moved to Cape Coral, I kept seeing a lot of shrubs with heart-shaped green leaves and bright orange/red clusters of blooms in our warmer months. This is what I called Glory Bower until I found out they are all Glory Bowers. I found out it was C. speciosissimum, from Java, so it was called Java Glorybower, a very common shrub that was easy to multiply, so people did. They like to reseed, with seedlings that need to be pulled unless you like a thicket of them. They are spectacular when in full color. "Specio" means showy, and "issimum" means very. One article I read, the author said, she was amazed to find it was related to mint through the Verbena family, due to recent genetic sequencing.

I think I wrote about Clerodendrum quadriloculare, the beautiful "Shooting Star" or "Starburst" blooms, with large green leaves on top and dark purple underneath. It blooms in the winter. I wanted one, and my son-in-law brought me one he dug up, given to him by their neighbor. I planted it on the east side of my house where I had tried to eliminate all the invasive Mexican petunia. Well, I found out this plant was supposed to be just as bad. I saw it planted along Hancock Parkway and throughout the Botanical Garden at the Garden Council. Its bad habit was, it was invasive by suckering. Severe pruning will bring on an outburst of suckers and shoots. It was suggested I keep it potted, but I let potted plants dry out. They have recently developed a "Dwarf Purple leaf Morningstar" that grows to 6 feet tall, but it is less aggressive and can be maintained by pruning. There is now a tri-color leaf plant. My plant has not been watered in the ground, and I haven't pruned it in a year. It is just as I planted it, a lovely small tree.

My latest brush with a Clerodendrum is the exquisite C. ugandense, (Butterfly Bush), not to be confused with Buddleia. Also, originally it was first described as coming from Kenya, then Uganda was included, and the name stuck. It does not attract butterflies, but the dancing blooms of two shades of blue really resemble butterflies.

Grow this in partial shade in zone 10 and 11. It is root hardy in zones 8 and 9. It freezes back, but comes back from the roots. Prune this shrub back, and be aware that the leaves have an odd scent when bruised. They flower on the current year's growth, so you can prune anytime you need to improve flowering.

There are more Clerodendrums, about 150. Most are good guys and behave, but there are a few bad guys that become a nuisance. The Rose Glory Bower, (C.bungei) sends up suckers all around itself, very invasive. Redemption comes from its blooms being very fragrant and looking like the French hydrangea. Some states may ban the sale and propagation of Rose Glory Bower. Be sure to keep it contained. Goats won't eat it.

Doug Caldwell, Ph.D., is the commercial landscape horticulture extension agent and entomologist with the Extension in Collier County, and he has an affinity for the "Musical Note," Clerodendrum incisum "Macrosiphon." A very unusual Clerodendrum that is about 4 feet tall as well as round, needs little pruning and produces blooms monthly when left unsheared. As the bloom emerges, it resembles a 4-inch-long eighth note, before it stretches and splits, forming into a white butterfly. These flowers are short lived, two days, and start around the fourth of July and last until November. Avoid full sun, semi-shade suits them best. Cut plants back moderately in March and April, they fill in quickly. They are quite a show-stopper.

Enjoy the many varieties of Clerodendrum you may find, be sure to know their roots spread.

And find a tree, thank it for your clean air.

Joyce Comingore is a master gardener, hibiscus enthusiast, Federated Garden Board member and a member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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