Tom Hewitt is a garden writer and consultant from West Palm Beach. He can be reached at

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Glorybowers Rock!
by Tom Hewitt       #Invasives   #Ornamentals   #Plant Profile

Starburst clerodendrums are simply spectacular when they bloom each winter in South Florida.

Clerodendrums are such beautiful things. Not only do they have lovely, tubular flowers, but attractive foliage and fruit as well. Of the 400 or so species in the genus, only a dozen are commonly found in nurseries or online. Most do best in South Florida. Some can be grown in zone 7 – though they often freeze to the ground each winter. Known collectively as glorybowers, several Clerodendrum species do have a deserved reputation for being invasive. But “invasive” is a relative term, since none actually appear on the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council’s lists of invasive species. Still, if you’re not willing or able to keep them in check, they may not be the plant for you.

Fast-growing bleeding heart vine blooms in partial shade.

Some clerodendrums, like bleeding heart vine (C. thomsoniae) are classified as lianas. Lianas are long-stemmed, woody vines that climb their host for vertical support in order to reach sunlight. This is one of my favorite flowering vines, although it does become a tangle of stems eventually and needs to be cut back hard. Fortunately, new growth often arches over and covers bare stems. The most common variety you see has flowers with white calyces and red petals. But I find the lavender bracts of purple bleeding heart vine (C. thomsoniae var. ‘Delectum’) much showier, and even use them in dried arrangements.

Flaming glorybower vine (C. splendens) is another pretty climber that produces deep red-orange flowers fall through winter. It looks great trained on a large trellis or rambling over a wall and it can get up to 12 feet long before needing to be cut back each spring.

I think that the rose-colored flowers of cashmere bouquet (C. bungei) look like flattened hydrangeas. Their fragrance is simply intoxicating, but this plant definitely is invasive and should only be planted where it can take over a large area. It is loved by butterflies and grows well in light shade. It can be grown in large containers to control suckering.

Starburst clerodendrum (C. quadriculare) is aptly named and it puts on a spectacular show during the winter here in South Florida. This one is also on the invasive side and breaks up easily in high winds. It’s extremely fast growing and makes a good understory plant in light shade. It can grow to around 15 feet or so when it is not pruned.

Musical notes (C. incisum) has some of the most unusual flowers of any clerodendrum. Unopened buds really do resemble musical notes. They open to reveal white, tubular blooms with red stamens. Unlike most clerodendrums, it is naturally small (4-5 feet) and doesn’t need a lot of pruning. It is not invasive.

The buds of musical notes are suggestive of eighth notes. • Pagoda flower does sucker from the root, but looks great in the mixed border. • Pagoda flower also comes in a rare, off-white variety. • The metallic blue fruit of turk’s turban is quite ornamental.

Pagoda flower (C. paniculatum) has a reputation for spreading, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it invasive. This clerodendrum has large, attractive leaves and orange flowers that appear in pyramidal clusters that resemble a Japanese pagoda. There is also an off-white variety. Pagoda flower loves full sun, but will also bloom in partial shade.

It’s easy to see where starfish clerodendrum gets its common name.

Turk’s turban (C. indicum) is not very pretty on its own, as it has an upright, non-branching habit. But its huge inflorescence, composed of multiple white flowers, is truly lovely. The subsequent metallic blue fruit (drupes, actually) is also quite ornamental. Plant this one amongst lower things in the shrub border, so its weird shape is minimized. It can get to around 8 feet and loves full sun to partial shade.

Tubeflower or starfish clerodendrum (C. minahassae) is another one that makes a small tree (15 feet). Its free-branching habit gives it a better natural shape than turk’s turban, and it has lovely blooms as well. The bright red, starfish-shaped seedpods that form later give it its common name.

Bridal veil (C. wallichii) has white cascading flowers and dark green leaves. This one can also be grown as a standard or large shrub.

Some clerodendrums have recently been moved to the genus Rotheca, including one of my favorites, blue butterfly bush (Rotheca myricoides). The flowers really do look like little butterflies in two shades of blue, though I’ve never actually seen butterflies nectaring on them. It can reach a height of 8 feet and becomes a bit unsightly if it is not pruned. I cut mine back hard annually to keep it full and encourage new growth. Pink butterfly bush (Rotheca mastacanthum) is similar, except that its pink flowers are smaller and in tighter panicles.




Left: Some clerodendrums have absolutely stunning blooms.

Right: Blue butterfly clerodendrum was recently moved to the genus Rotheca.


There are many other species in the Clerodendrum genus, but make sure you check on their invasiveness before planting them. Pretty as they are, you don’t want them showing up in your neighbor’s yard uninvited.


A version of this article appeared in Tennessee Gardener Volume 22 Number 4.
Photography courtesy of Tom Hewitt.


Posted: 08/01/17   RSS | Print


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