Tibouchina, Glory Tree, Glory Bush, Princess Flower - Tibouchina species

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Tibouchina granulosaTibouchina granulosaTibouchina is a genus of about 350 species of neo-tropical plants. Neo-tropical plants come from the biogeographic region of the New World that stretches southward from the Tropic of Cancer and includes southern Mexico, Central and South America, and the West Indies. Tibouchinas are native to the rainforests of Mexico, the Caribbean, South America, and especially Brazil. They are trees, shrubs or subshrubs, varying in height from 0.5 to 25m tall, and are known as glory bushes or glory trees. Terminal panicles of flower buds are held above the foliage, opening to large velvety blooms which fade with age; creating a wonderful two-tone effect. Flowering usually occurs during the warmer months, but is especially prolific in spring, late summer and autumn. In warm tropical and subtropical gardens this sumptuous display can continue through summer and well into winter. The flowers are particularly attractive to bees and butterflies and last well in a vase.

Their large bright saucer-shaped flowers with conspicuous stamens, and their attractive prominently veined leaves, Mature Tibouchina. Picture courtesy Michele RoelofsenMature Tibouchina. Picture courtesy Michele Roelofsenmake them glorious additions to tropical and subtropical gardens and parks. Because the blooms are carried on terminal panicles, the plants look stunning if viewed from above. Plant them near a deck or patio as specimen or screening plants, or train them as standard plants for use in containers or above-ground planters.  They are wonderful in the mixed shrub border, and if planted in small groupings the impact of bloom-time will be compounded. The large velvety flowers and often gritty or hairy leaves of these plants make them valuable additions to sensory gardens. Larger growing species like Tibouchina granulosa can be shaped into lovely small trees, with some early pruning providing strong, upright trunks. The canopy will also need to be pruned regularly to keep the lower branches from drooping to the ground. Tibouchinas do not have aggressive roots and can be planted fairly close to foundations, but allow them space to spread.

Tibouchina elegans Picture courtesy www.steyns-nursery.co.zaTibouchina elegans Picture courtesy www.steyns-nursery.co.zaGlory bushes thrive in moist, humid, tropical, subtropical and warmly temperate regions. They are rather cold sensitive, but some varieties like Tibouchina urvilleana will tolerate light to moderate frost if they are planted in a very warm, protected part of the garden, are covered in winter, and the roots thickly mulched. If the plants are cut right back by frost they will usually grow back from the roots in spring. These plants are brittle and prone to breaking in the wind, so plant them in a sheltered position in the garden. They do however have a remarkable ability to re-grow from ground level after being snapped off, and consequently respond well to hard pruning.Their growth habit tends to become somewhat leggy if the plants are not frequently trimmed to keep them bushy; and because they bloom on new growth, trimming immediately after flowering will encourage more new growth and consequently more flowers.

Tibouchinas love full sun, but too much harsh sunlight can also be a problem; so if you live in a very hot or dry region plant them in a sunny location which is semi-shaded Tibouchina urvilleana Picture courtesy TuberfloraTibouchina urvilleana Picture courtesy Tuberfloraduring the hottest part of the day. They prefer slightly acidic soils with a good amount of organic matter and good drainage, but will adapt to most well-drained garden soils; from very acid to slightly alkaline. Tibouchinas will not thrive in soils that are too alkaline and will show signs of burn around the leaf margins and yellowing between the leaf veins. They are adapted to chalk, clay loam, loam, loamy sand, sandy clay loam and sandy loam soils; but if your soil is less than ideal, dig lots of acid compost into the planting hole and mulch the roots often. Water regularly during dry spells to prevent the plant from drying out, but don't keep the soil saturated or root rot can result.  Feed regularly with a balanced organic fertiliser to encourage new bud formation. Glory bushes can sometimes be difficult to establish, and after planting, they may seem to lack the will to grow for a season or two, but do not despair, once they are fully settled they  will suddenly 'take off'.

Propagation is by seed sown at 16°C in spring, or by softwood cuttings taken in late spring and semi-hardwood cuttings in summer, both with bottom heat.

Tibouchinas are occasionally attacked by aphids, scale and nematodes; and mushroom root-rot can occur if drainage is bad or the plants are over watered. If there is not sufficient air circulation, leaf spots and spider mites can be problematic.

(Tibouchina granulosa) is a small evergreen tree or large shrub with large velvety, rich purple blooms, fading to a soft mauve with age; and somewhat shiny leaves. The species name 'granulosa' refers to the grainy, gritty texture of the leaves. It can be pruned into a lovely small tree +-3 to 5m tall and +-1.5 to 2m wide.

(Tibouchina granulosa 'Rosea') is very similar to Tibouchina granulosa but produces its large, clear pink flowers several weeks earlier; and is somewhat less vigorous, growing +-3 to 4m tall and +-1 to 1.5m wide.

(Tibouchina urvilleana) is a small evergreen tree or large shrub, which if left un-pruned has an ultimate height of +-4.5m, with a 3m spread, but in the garden it is generally kept a lot smaller, +-3m. It is hardier too cold than other varieties, tolerating light to moderate frost if it is planted in a very warm, protected part of the garden and is covered and the roots thickly mulched in winter. The large vibrant purple blossoms 'bleed' to red in the centre, and the attractive dark green, softly hairy leaves are often edged in red.

(Tibouchina elegans) has rich green, slightly hairy leaves and large purple flowers; growing +- 1.5 to 2.5m tall.

(Tibouchina grandifolia) has large, velvety leaves and is a wide- spreading bush up to 3m, with a height of +-1.5m. It produces large purple-violet flowers with a white centre and will tolerate light frost.

(Tibouchina semidecandra) is a fast growing semi-evergreen +-2.5m tall with dark green velvety leaves and royal purple flowers.

(Tibouchina 'Jules') is a dwarf variety growing +-1m tall and +-1.2m wide. It has small velvet green leaves, and purple flowers, and grows quite happily in large tubs or in garden beds. It is the most sensitive of the Tibouchinas to cold and frost.

WARNING: Tibouchinas can become invasive species in tropical and subtropical environments outside of their normal range; and all Tibouchina species are considered noxious weeds in Hawaii.

Additional Info

  • Common Name: Tibouchina, Glory Tree, Glory Bush, Princess Flower
  • Latin Name: Tibouchina species