Mussaenda is a wide-ranging group of species of perennials, climbing plants and shrubs.
The shrub forms are gaining in popularity throughout Asia and also suitable (hot) parts of the USA.
They can also be grown in the UK as large container plants as long as they are kept frost free in the winter months, and preferably dormant.
The shrub types of Mussaenda (erythrophylla) have colourful bracts - which look like flowers - but have a bit of an annoying growth habit of having pendant - even floppy 'flowers' which can make them look as though they are dying, or in urgent need of water.
Not so, that is how the Mussaenda grows.
Mussaenda e. Queen Sirikit - a favourite in Thailand where it grows profusely - can grow to several metres in height, with a similar spread.
Mussaenda are reasonably tolerant of semi-drought conditions, like full sunshine, and are robust growers once established.
In those areas where the Mussaenda is dormant in winter, losing its leaves or at least slow or non-existent growth, the shrubs can be pruned lightly - only if needed. If they have been planted in the right place, and given plenty of room to grow, then pruning should be kept to a minimum. If you really need to, then this is also a good time for some hard pruning - ouch!
In areas where the Mussaenda is grown as a large container plant, then water regularly, keep in full sunshine, but preferably shade the pot with some low-growing plants. feed with balanced, general fertiliser in growing season. Move to greenhouse or conservatory during winter months, and prune as required just before spring growth starts.
Once you have a Mussaenda - or maybe a few - you will almost certainly want more - even if just to satisfy friends! they can be propagated by semi-ripe cuttings in Mid to late summer, or can be quite easily grown from seed - sometimes with some interesting variations in colours.
By David Hughes - firstname.lastname@example.org