In every nursery, there is a surprise waiting to be found. Even in nurseries that buy all of their plants from other places. Nurseries that grow plants always seem to be trying out something new, plants that set them apart from the other growers and they in turn find their way to the reselling nurseries. Such was the case this weekend.
The plant in question is Tibouchina urvilleana. It goes by the common names of Lasiandra, Princess Flower and Glory Bush. OK – I admit it – I haven’t heard of the common names either. But that is what makes it so exciting – not just a new plant for me, but a new genus, and even beyond that – a new family! That is becoming a rare treat.
The Melastomataceae Family
Let me start from the top. It is in the family Melastomataceae which is actually quite a large family of tropical plants. There are over 5000 species of plants organized into 175 genera. They are characterized by four sided stems, like the mint family, and with simple, opposite leaves that have 3 to 9 major veins.
The Tibouchina genus
There are about 240 species of Tibouchina (pronounced tib-OO-kee-nuh) and comes from the native Brazilian name for the plant. Most of them are native to South America with the greatest concentration in southern Brazil. The genus in general has the common name of Glory Tree. Many of the plants in this genus are considered weeds.
Finally, the plant itself
The plant is named for JSC Dumont d’Urville, a 19th century French botanist and is pronounced ur-VIL-ah-nuh. It is an evergreen shrub that can grow quite large (to 15′), but most reports seem to suggest it gets to about 4′ X 4′ in cultivation and if grown in a frost free environment, can get to 8′ tall and 4′ across. It likes being in sun to partial shade and wants a well-drained, moist soil with lots of organic matter. That means I will have to do lots of soil amendment for that to happen, but it is easy enough to get some water to it. It is hardy to zone 9, which is easy for our coastal location. Top growth may die back if nipped by frost, but regrows from the base in spring.
It has gorgeous purple flowers that last but one day, but reports are that once mature it will produce large quantities of them over a long period of time and possibly year-round. Inside the flowers, the stamen twist and curl and have significant color variation to them. The leaves are blue-green, about 3″ long and 1 ½” wide and covered in soft hairs.
Can be pruned to size and shape, which also keeps it more compact. Tip pruning will increase flower production.
It comes with high accolades from the Royal Horticultural Society who gave it an award of merit. It is also recommended as a plant to attract butterflies and bees.
I plan to plant it close to the Portal in the corner that butts up to what will be the fairy garden. That should give it a little protection from the wind, but still give it lots of light through most of the year. It will get more shade than it perhaps likes in winter.
One word of warning. In places like Hawaii, this plant has escaped cultivation and is considered a noxious weed. Please be careful about the introduction of new plants. Given that this is only marginally hardy where I am planting, and my growing conditions are not ideal for it, I believe it to be safe, but will certainly keep a close eye on it.