Medinillas are grown for their spectacular cascading clusters of pink flowers.
Medinillas are grown for their spectacular cascading clusters of pink flowers. pichaitun

Medinillas: A joy to grow, and they'll take the humidity

SOME plants just love the humidity that we have been experiencing in the past few weeks. Anything that hails from a tropical environment will just thrive, and that includes medinillas.

An absolutely spectacular shrub, medinillas are grown for their stunning cascading clusters of pink flowers. In a warm position, they will flower for most of the year. They are not very well known, and not widely propagated. I'm not sure why this is, because they are an absolute joy to grow.

In their natural habitat, medinillas grow in the rainforests from southern Africa and Madagascar, through southern Asia and across to the Pacific. So far as I know, they do not occur naturally in Australia, but they grow really well in the tropical and sub-tropical areas. Some species are epiphytes, like orchids and bromeliads, that grow in the forks of large trees.

The genus medinilla contains hundreds of species, but only a handful are commercially available. They prefer a bright, partly shaded position in moist, well-drained soil. They are absolutely brilliant in pots and hanging baskets. Or try planting one at the top of a garden wall. I think an elevated position really sets off those pendulous blooms, and also helps to ensure that the position is free-draining.

Medinilla myriantha flowers all year. It is perhaps the most cold-hardy of all the varieties. It will even withstand light frost. The leaves are large, lush and dark green, and contrast beautifully with the bunches of pink flowers that are followed by purple-black berries. It will get about 1.5m-2m tall.

Pixi is a beautiful dwarf form of M myriantha, with bright pink flowers. It too will bloom for most of the year, and the flowers will be followed by dark purple berries. It grows about 1m tall and 1m wide.

Medinilla speciosa has beautiful soft pink flowers appearing over a long period, often followed by red fruit turning purple. The leaves are smaller than those on M myriantha. It's the perfect plant for baskets or elevated pots, reaching a height of about 1m in a few years. It too is quite cold tolerant and can withstand light frost. I have a medinilla speciosa in a large pot in a position where it receives full sun in the morning and is completely shaded in the afternoon. It flowers continuously from about August through until May. Medinilla scortechinii is a smaller growing variety, and differs from the others in that its flowers are bright orange, and, being much more cold sensitive, it will not tolerate frost. Because it is small, it is best in a tall pot or a hanging basket.

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