Clerodendrum quadriculare (Lamiaceae)
Star-burst Clerodendrum, Shooting Star (Mint family)
This week’s featured plant is a very popular tropical shrub here in the protected parts of Florida. A fantastic hedge plant, the leaves of the Starburst clerodendrum are a dark green on top and a rich purple on the underside, creating a regal, dark look. They also have a reputation shared by most clerodendrums in humid climates of suckering profusely, which is not a bad thing if a hedge is desired, but can make maintaining a standard tree a little difficult. Very cold sensitive, and blooming just after winter, these plants really do look better in more tropical areas.
The leaves are beautiful all year long, and would be reason enough to grow the plant. The blooms, however, are incredible. Long, tubular flowers which resemble white stars with slender tails and light pink bracts and buds, creating a stunning display of delicate color as the plant is filled with blooms of all stages. Something odd: Clerodendrums are protandrous, which means that the flowers emerge one sex and become another over time. In this case, the stigma is hidden until all of the pollen on the stamens has shed, at which point the stamens collapse, the stigma emerges, and the flower which was just male and dropping pollen, is now female and accepting pollen. In this way the flowers avoid self-pollination.
Starburst clerodendrums bloom heavily to the point of bowing over, and the light flowers against the dark plant are striking. It’s why you see so many of them planted in gardens around south Florida. They really do need to be kept under watch if a single trunk is desired. Suckers should be scouted and removed. Don’t be shocked to find them many feet from the main stem. Plant them in full to part sun, and give them plenty of water; once established, they’re decently drought tolerant. Here at Selby Gardens we have three in the ground: a group on the northeast side of the Great Lawn, fifteen- footer behind the Koi Pond, and a variegated quadriculare, ‘Brandon,’ planted in the Fern Garden. Right now, they are all blooming magnificently!
Text by David Troxell