I’m leaving for California in a few days to visit some very dear friends. This is an annual visit and sometimes I am able to make it twice a year. It is great to ‘get away’ and connect with friends. There is nothing better than engaging conversations over great food and wine.
For me, the added bonus when traveling is the exposure to local flora. On this trip I’ll be returning to Flora Grubb Gardens, and checking out Annie’s Annuals and Berkeley Horticultural Nursery.
On one of my earlier visits to San Francisco I noticed a lovely small ornamental tree that I have since incorporated into my seasonal displays. Princess-flower (Tibouchina) is the GGW Plant Pick of The Month.
Tibouchina (pronounced tib-boo-KYE-nuh) is a genus of some 350 plants in the family Melastomataceae. They are native to the rainforests of Mexico, the West Indies and South America.Princess-flowers are prized for their large (saturated) purple blooms and velvety evergreen foliage with reddish venation. They bloom throughout the year with heaviest blooming in the summer. In general, plants in this genus prefer rich soil, high light with some relief from the afternoon sun (during the peak of summer) and moist but not soggy conditions.
I have grown Tibouchina urvilleana (image above) as an annual in my central Illinois gardens and as a small patio standard. By season’s end, the plants are 2-3′ high (in the appropriate zone, T. urvilleana is a large shrub or small tree, reaching 10-15′ high). I have found that plants benefit from a monthly feeding of water soluble acid fertilizer. This particular species is hardy in USDA zones 8-12. It is my understanding that freezing temperatures in zone 8 will cause complete die-back but plants typically re-sprout from the base with the return of warm weather. So far, I have not tried to over-winter the plants in the house.
I am excited to try Tibouchina heteromala ‘Purple Glory Bush’ next season. Notice the 18″ flower stalks.
Be advised that all species of Tibouchina are considered noxious weeds in Hawaii because of their potential to be invasive.
If this is your first time visiting GGW Plant Pick of The Month and you’d like to participate, here is how it works. Simply post your comments below and a link to your own site, where you’ve posted photos of Tibouchina and comments about your experiences working with the plant. Notes regarding successful planting combinations are especially welcome!