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On Gardening: Princess flower offers landscapes the color of royalty

August 15, 2016

In the fall landscape the various pink shades in the Amazon Rose Magic dianthus makes mesmerizing companionship.

The princess flower loads up with uncountable blossoms of royal purple, making it unchallenged as the most beautiful plant in the late summer garden. Botanically speaking the princess flower is known as Tibouchina urvilleana and is native to Brazil the site of the 2016 Olympics. The family name is Melastomataceae and is most likely quite rare at your local garden center. If you can name even one more member you are most likely a horticulturist.

Here at the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens, we do have two other family members, the big leaf or silver leafed princess flower, Tibouchina heteromalla, also from Brazil and the extraordinary pink lantern or Medinilla magnifica from the Philippines. Neither are as cold hardy as the regular princess flower but both outstanding. The pink lantern which we are growing in a large basket has really captured my attention.

The princess flower is winter hardy in zones 9-11 but here in zone 8 where I garden it dies to the ground returning with vigor in late spring. At my home, they are now 5 feet tall and loaded with an uncountable number of royal purple blossoms that glow almost iridescently and will dazzle and mesmerize until a killing frost.

While mine in zone 8, Savannah, are 5 feet tall, in their native Brazil and similar climates they will reach 12 to 18 feet which is simply put a breathtaking site. The leaves are velvety, deep green and many times lined with orange along the margins. In the fall the leaves will change to an orange bronze. It blooms best in full sun though a little afternoon shade is certainly no problem. The soil should be fertile, organic rich and very well drained. Soggy conditions quickly prove fatal so plant on raised beds.

It is not very hard to grow one in a container or dig and overwinter the plant. The most serious requirement is to not overwater. Keep it dry during the winter. Those of you who like to propagate plants will find it easy to root from greenwood-type cuttings placed in moist sand in a shady location or separate spreading shoots that develop.

The purple is so vibrant that choosing your flower combinations is quite easy except for one thing, everything seems to look great. I am growing a half dozen of them and each combination seems to be a Kodak moment. In one area I have the exotic flowered pink South Pacific Sipper hibiscus. The pink and purple combination is eye-catching, to say the least.

In another area, I have a gold blooming milkweed for an actually superb complementary color scheme. But if you want to look like a landscape pro try growing blue with the purple. I’m using Mystic Spires Blue salvia. There is just something special about putting blues and purples together. You’ve got to consider the golden thyrallis, Galphimia glauca, as a partner. With hundreds of small soft golden blooms, it seems as though it was created just for a princess flower marriage. It too is a zone 9-11 plant, root hardy in zone 8 and superb in a container for overwintering. Lastly, as fall planting time arrives there are some great combinations to be had such as growing the tall cut flower Amazon Rose Magic dianthus as an understory planting to the taller princess flower.

If you are like us in Savannah you are probably muttering that the summer has been relentless. Just about the time we feel like throwing in the proverbial ‘garden towel’ the princess flower starts to amaze and causes us to linger taking in all its beauty.

 

 


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