Right now, most of my house plants are lush and green — a welcome compensation for the starkness of the outdoor landscape. One indoor plant, Clerodendrum thomsoniae, is bare and brown — a woody vine without leaves or flowers. I wonder why I’ve allowed it space in the limited sunny space in the house.
Then I remember the transformation that clerodendrum, also know as glory bower vine and bleeding heart, undergoes in spring. A few months after the vine leafs out, red and white heart-shaped blooms burst forth, reminding me of Valentine’s Day and little paper lanterns at the same time. The red part of the flower is the corolla and the white the calyx. After blooming is complete, each calyx turns pink and remains for several more weeks until falling. (What’s the plural of calyx? Calyxes? Calyces? I think it’s the latter).
Glory bower vine is native to Africa; its hardiness zone is 10-12. In warm states like Florida, it thrives outside. From what I’ve read, the vine can be highly invasive there; a good alternative is planting it in pots on a patio or deck. In my neck of the woods, glory bower should be cultivated as an indoor plant. It goes into a dormant stage in winter and it’s best to cut it back then. Since it blooms on the current season’s growth, this won’t affect flowering. I’m getting ready to do some heavy pruning today, so we’ll see.
Glory bower is supposed to be a heavy feeder when blooming (I never have fed mine) and needs lots of water during that period (that’s for sure). There are many species in the clerodendrum genus – most of them large shrubs. The ones I’ve seen have showy flowers; both leaves and form can look ragged in the landscape.
There is a variegated form of glory bower vine. To me, that would conflict with the showy, bountiful flowers, but some people go for anything variegated, I think.