Verbenaceae (Verbena family)
readers will not be surprised to learn that taxonomic and
nomenclature issues may affect your ability to learn more
about this plant. Instead of Verbenaceae, you might find
it included in the Labiatae or mint family, which is sometimes
named Lamiaceae; and there might be a “p” included
in its species name, turning thomsoniae into thompsoniae.
There are reliable sources on each side of these possibilities
and as I write this I haven’t received an authoritative
response to my inquiries. So I’m sticking with Verbenaceae
and thomsoniae. My money’s on the plant’s namesake
being Scottish naturalist Joseph Thomson.]
It’s not often I write in this column about plants that
are unsuited to growing outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.
It follows I don’t write much about houseplants. I once
heard Craig MacConnell describe them as “long-term perishables” and
I tend to agree, even though for almost 14 years I’ve
fussed over a particular Norfolk Island pine. It’s not
a Pinus at all, of course, but an Araucaria heterophylla--and
it’s certainly not native to these parts. It demands
more care than most plants in my yard, but I’m quite
fond of it just the same. So we all have our soft spots. And
if we’re about to indulge them, we could do worse than
presenting our sweetheart with a nice houseplant for Valentine’s
Day. Most last longer and cost less than a dozen red roses.
One that stole my heart the first time I spotted it more than
25 years ago is Clerodendrum thomsoniae, sometimes called bleeding
heart vine or glorybower. It is indeed glorious.
confuse this bleeding heart vine with any members of the
genus Dicentra commonly called “bleeding heart.” These--including
those delicate, spring-blooming woodland plants that grow so
well here--are native to North America and eastern Asia. C.
thomsoniae is a heat-loving plant, native to West Africa, and
can be grown successfully outdoors in only a few areas of the
southern United States. But it makes a fine houseplant anywhere.
In the wild it is a vine that can grow to 12 feet. In captivation--your
living room, say, or your kitchen--it’s likely to stay
under three feet. So C. thomsoniae makes a large houseplant.
It shows to best effect when it’s in a hanging container
or at least placed on a high shelf. When properly sited and
cared for, it will be full with lush foliage and branches that
spill over the edge of whatever container you choose. Its bark
is a pretty reddish brown. Its nicely shaped and patterned
leaves are large, close set, and a beautiful deep, dark green.
They’re really quite attractive, all on their own. But
what really sets C. thomsoniae apart from typical houseplants
are its masses of stunning red and white blossoms. Calyces
of the purest white imaginable shelter blooms--sometimes called
corollae--of pure red for a most striking effect.
a C. thomsoniae commercially or grow yours from a small start
shared by a
friend. Use fresh, sterile potting
soil to avoid passing along any fungal diseases, including
botrytis, to which this plant is known to be vulnerable. Of
course, using fresh potting soil is always recommended when
growing plants in containers. Water the plant when the soil
surface feels dry and feed it every two weeks with a complete,
balanced, water-soluble fertilizer--except when the plant is
taking its winter’s rest from Thanksgiving to--you guessed
it--Valentine’s Day. Water sparingly then and don’t
fertilize at all. Move your plant to a place where the temperature
won’t exceed 65 degrees during the day or drop below
50 at night. Expect some leaf drop as the plant protests change
before it adjusts.
your C. thomsoniae in mid-February just before new growth
emerges. You’ll want to remove old, overcrowded shoots,
particularly any that are too long for your taste. Plus, those
flowers grow on new wood. So don’t be afraid to cut the
plant back severely. Then place it for the growing season where
it will get bright but indirect light and enjoy the typical
indoor temperatures of the Pacific Northwest. A bit of humidity
will keep the leaves fresh so let it live away from direct
sources of heat. You’ll enjoy the heaviest flower crop
from early spring through mid-summer and then it will slow
a bit into the fall.
circulation, appropriate watering, regular feeding while
proper drainage--these will help your bleeding
heart vine thrive. Keep it healthy: when your friends see it,
they’ll want stem cuttings to start their own Valentine’s
Day surprise for next year.
used by permission of PlantFiles at davesgarden.com