"Autumn glory"

Tibouchina brings colour to autumn gardens.
Sunday, 26 April 2020        

Tibouchina Alstonville

Sometimes known as glory bushes, Tibouchina (previously called Lasiandra) have begun to show their big sumptuous purple flowers, which will continue all through autumn and sometimes into early winter in Sydney. The most commonly seen one is Tibouchina lepidota 'Alstonville', which throbs with opulent colour when back-lit by the autumnal sun. They open from attractive reddish buds and have curled stamens like claws. These plants became popular about fifteen or twenty years ago and so there are many mature specimens to be seen around nowadays, decorating streetscapes and gardens: Sydney seems to have the perfect climate for them, as it does for many South American plants.

They can be shaped as small trees by training to a single trunk, which is what I have done with mine, due to pure laziness, after years of cutting it back very heavily in late winter so that it would stay around 3 m in height. As a tree it gets to about 5 m; I do still prune it lightly to remove the spent flowers each year. It fits in well with my semitropical-style garden, and its large veined leaves provide welcome background greenery in every season. Tibouchina can be grown in many tasteful planting schemes of pinks, white, blues and other purples, such as with Camellia sasanqua, crepe myrtles, Salvia (especially some of the tall-growing autumn-flowering ones), and Brugmansia. True drama can be achieved by pairing the purple flowers with some of the brilliant orange or red blooms of autumn, such as Canna and Dahlia, the bird-like blooms of Strelitzia or red Pentas. They also look stunning grown against a background of autumn-colouring trees or near autumn-berrying trees or shrubs. Tibouchina flowers are also striking when paired with the foliage of red Iresine herbstii 'Brilliantissima', which glows like exotic cellophane, or the burgundy chenille tassels of annual Amaranthus caudatus, which achieves shrub-like stature by autumn.

There are other species of Tibouchina which grow well in Sydney, including Tibouchina urvilleana which usually has begins its long blooming period in summer and continues into autumn. Its leaves and flowers have a very velvety quality, but it is a more sparse and brittle plant, growing to 3 or 4m. There are also a low-growing forms such as 'Jules' (ht 1 m) and 'Sweet Petite' (ht 1.5 m) both with purple flowers, useful mixers with shrubby perennials, bringing rich autumn colour to smaller gardens.

A different species is Tibouchina multiflora grows to about 2 m tall and has sprays of small blue flowers, set amidst large silky leaves, which have a silvery sheen. It is a fabulous plant and blooms for a long period, from January to April. A taller shrub (ht 2.5 m) with similar panicles of white flowers later in autumn has been called Tibouchina clavata, though that name is not always agreed upon amongst my gardening friends, some of whom call it Miconia. Whatever its name, it is also a welcome addition to the autumn garden!

One of the best Tibouchina I have added to my garden in recent times is Tibouchina 'Jazzie'. I am not sure of its parentage but I first saw it in the garden of Pamela Wallace, where it was flowering magnificently. It grows to about 1.5 to 2 m tall, with stunning deep purple flowers, a white centre 'eye' and white stamens. It can be in bloom almost all year round, but it has its heaviest flush now. It can be trimmed back between flower flushes and pruned more heavily in late winter. It is a good size to form a good background shrub to lower plantings. I like to grow it with Salvia and Dahlia.

This blog was first posted on 9 April 2009; updated 26 April 2020.


 Reader Comments

1/7  Sheryl - 2153 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Saturday, 11 April 2009

My Strobilanthes anisophyllus are not happy and I have lost one and another is looking sick, so I was thinking more purple was in order and I love the idea of Jules as the height would suit my garden. WOuld the two plants be happy together? (hoping the rest of them survive) Sheryl

Sheryl - I think that Jules would look good with the Strobilanthes as long as there is enough sun. Deirdre


2/7  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Agree with Gillian your blogs are fantastic. Would love to grow tibouchinas, but where to fit them? The smaller ones you mentioned would be ideal. Will have to look at the rare plant fair on Saturday, to see if I can see any. Margaret


3/7  Bren - 2540 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 08 April 2019

Yes I love tibouchinas, particularly the ones with rich purple flowers. Unfortunately I bought a T. urvilleana "Olivia"when I moved to my current place. It has variegation in the leaves, and this, along with the sparse ad brittle look mentioned in the above blog, make it look scraggy and unattractive. Very disappointing!


4/7  Sue t. - 2566 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 27 April 2020

Not sure that Miconia is a good idea. Mine went well with the T. multiflora next to it for a while and then turned feral. The floppy ish stems lie on the ground and proceed to root at every node and send up a new shoot from every one. looks good but too thuggish for small spaces.definitely one to plant in a paddock. Thanks for that warning, Sue. I don"t know too much about it but maybe people should steer clear of it. Deirdre


5/7  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 27 April 2020

Do love Tibouchinas, but still have the problem of where to fit one. However I do have T. multiflora. It is planted near an apricot brugmansia on one side and an orange abutilon on the other. In the foreground there are peach coloured cannas. The whole makes an attractive picture. That colour combination must look amazing, Margaret. Deirdre


6/7  Pam - 2159 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 27 April 2020

Thanks Deirdre. My Tibouchina trees are are looking wonderful at the moment. One is looking very bright next to a flowering Camellia sasanqua, "Margaret Lyle" which is a vivid cerise. What a lovely combination! Deirdre


7/7  Pamela - 2158 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Thursday, 30 April 2020

Im glad youre enjoying Jazzie Deirdre.Mine are looking spectacular.Tibouchinas do so well in my garden - lucky Ive got the space.I nearly lost one in that dreadful storm, had to cut quite a few bud laden branches out of the middle to stop it blowing over. They are a fabulous injection of colour and look wonderful amongst the Salvias & pink roses. T.Peace Baby & Groovy Baby extend the show through to Spring although they all seem to grow much larger in my garden than the labels suggest! Yes I adore Jazzie, Pamela. They are wonderful with salvias and dahlias in my front garden. I have not grown those "small" ones you mention. Interesting they are growing taller than expected. Deirdre


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