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Mussaenda erythrophylla

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Zone 10

The mussaenda is a small tree or shrub related to coffee trees and native to Asia, such as Thailand, the West Indies and parts of tropical West Africa, such as Zaire

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Mussaenda may be a rather small shrub, or large to 30 feet, like a small tree. As in the photo, commercial nurseries often train mussaenda to be tree-like in form for landscape use. Their natural habit is to produce many stems and it is quite a rambler. It has silky, hairy, soft medium-green leaves


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Said to be evergreen, but unless planted in very warm zone 10 or higher, mussaenda loses most or all leaves with cooler/cold weather until spring

The white form mixes well with all the other colors


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Plant mussaenda in full sun for best show of color which starts in spring in South Florida and lasts through summer and into the fall warm months.  We rather like using the white dwarf in many landscape applications

The plant's color comes from bracts and not the small, often yellow, white or orange, flowers at the center of each bract

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This is the same color-producing system used by tropicals such heliconia and bougainvillea

Mussaenda bracts may be seen in several colors including rose, white, red, pale pink and some mixtures

Except for the white, mussaenda wants full sun, decent soil but sandy is fine, reasonable water and reasonable fertilizer

It is good to prune mussaenda heavily in late fall to late winter. This will contribute to shape as well as produce many more branch tips where flowers form thus producing color bracts as well

Named mussaenda varieties available in spring include:

  • Mussaenda philippica 'Aurorae' - white bracts
  • Mussaenda erythropylla 'Dona Luz' - rose bracts
  • Mussaenda erythropylla 'Queen Sirikit' - pale pink & red
  • Mussaenda erythropylla 'Rosea' - carmine pink bracts
  • Mussaenda frondosa - pure white