The Tibouchina tree or botanically Tibouchina Urvilleana goes by many names. This lush tropical blooming bush may look or sound familiar because of its common names:
- Velvet-Leaf Tibouchina
- Purple Glory Trees
- Princess Flower Tree
- Spider Flower
- Brazilian Glory Bush
Tibouchina urvilleana, I remember when I first encountered the purple glory Princess flower. It was over 35 years ago, in West Palm Beach, Florida, when I met my wife’s grandmother for the first time.
She was visiting friends and they had a Tibouchina plant in full sun blooming away in the backyard.
The felt-like leaves with prominent longitudinal veins and deep royal purple flowers pulled me toward it like a bee to honey.
An evergreen shrub, from the family Melastomataceae, is native to South America, especially Guiana and Brazil.
The Tibouchina plant does well in warm climates. You may keep this plant as a carefully pruned houseplant, a flowering shrub, or a small tree.
The versatility of the bush or tree Tibouchina makes it a popular choice in landscaping.
In this article, we will discuss the various types of Tibouchina and provide advice to make the most out of this lovely plant in your home, yard or garden. Read on to learn more.
The Various Species Of Tibouchina
Around 350 distinct tibouchina princess flower species exist. However, only a few of them are under cultivation.
All varieties hold unique, beautiful, thick leaves with a velvety texture. The leaves vary in size from one type to another. Also, its flower equals the size of its leaf.
In their natural setting in South America, wild species produce flowers in various shades of white, pink, and purple.
Those under cultivation, for the most part, produce purple blooms while others bear pink flowers.
Because they are native to South America, these plants do well in warmer climates. However, due to its versatility and adaptability, they fit perfectly in colder climates or inside as house plants during the winter.
Top Characteristics Of Tibouchina
Tibouchina Urvilleana shares some remarkable qualities. At a glance, one can easily say this plant stands out among different types of bushes that exist. Ultimately, tibouchina possesses numerous noteworthy features and listing their best characteristics gives enough reason for anyone to fall for it.
Popular And Hardy
Tibouchina Urvilleana appears as the most popular version of glory bush, a large species producing leaves of about six inches in length.
Its purple and violet flowers grow up to three inches across. Moreover, this purple glory species puts on a fabulous show throughout the summer and may blossom spontaneously at other times.
Tibouchina can grow to be fifteen feet high and twelve feet wide given a warm climate, good soil conditions, and plenty of space.
Tibouchina plants grow successfully in US Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 8-12. In zone 8, it dies back after the first frost but revives in the springtime.
Dazzling Flower Color
Athens Blue, known as a cultivar of Tibouchina urvilleana grows hardy in zones 10-11. This plant produces attractive, dark purple flowers.
Tibouchina lepidota, a heavily flowering species does well when trained as a tree.
Throughout its blooming season, the vibrant blooms of Tibouchina lepidota present an almost solid showing of purple.
In addition, this species may thrive in zones 10-11, and may even bloom all year round in warmer areas.
Tibouchina grandiflora (also known as Tibouchina heteromalla) boasts deep and interesting leaves. They appear quite large, velvety, and presentable in an attractive shade of silvery-green.
Grandiflora, a moderately sized bush usually stays between five and eight feet high.
In ideal conditions, the plant may reach a maximum of ten feet high. It may grow robustly in USDA hardiness zones 9-11.
The long blooming season of Grandiflora presents large clusters of dark purple flowers throughout the spring and summer and well into autumn.
Throughout the rest of the year, the foliage adds texture and interest to your garden setting.
Tibouchina granulosa grows tough in zones 10b-11 and can rise up to twenty feet high. Its flowers measure up to two inches wide and grow in loose clusters from early spring until well into the fall.
Although pruning the plant as a shrub may seem possible, the plant actually falls under the tree category, and it will grow best if left alone so it can rise as one.
The other varieties of tibouchina indeed present plenty of opportunities for growing shrubs and container plants.
If you want a more classic multi-trunk tree shape, prune the lower limbs of the trunks of the young tree regular. Check out our favorite pruners here!
This will encourage the plant to produce foliage and blossoms in the upper limbs.
Manageable Size And Habits
Tibouchina also comes in a dwarf variety, but it presents large, abundant flowers. Some bear blossoms as wide as six inches across. Both pink and purple varieties exist.
One of the small varieties, tibouchina organensis, holds minuscule leaves which only sizes up to three inches. Its blossoms only grow for about two inches in width.
These little dynamos make a marvelous choice due to their kind of sterile hybrids, and they do not spread as well. Furthermore, they thrive in smaller settings outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 10-11, and they can live as indoor container plants in any environment.
These little wonders grow to a maximum of 2 ½ feet high and even make a nice ground cover.
Princess Flower In The Landscape
Various species of tibouchina thrive in the US from zones 8-12. The plant grows vigorously with species ranging in size from two to twenty feet high.
All varieties sport velvety, silver, green leaves and sometimes a bit of the fall color. Flowers look attractive and abundant in various shades of pink and purple.
Generally, tibouchina trees contain non-toxic substances and serves different uses in the landscape. Depending upon the species you select and your pruning methods, you can use this attractive plant as:
- Multi-Trunk Tree
- Container Plant
- Ground Cover
- Border Plant
- House Plant
Its vibrant colors, lush foliage, and attracting bark add visual elements to tropical garden settings. As container specimens, these plants make a bright addition to your sunroom or greenhouse.
Princess Flower fares well as a marvelous addition to a butterfly garden (like the Buddleia butterfly bush).
In fact, they attract hosts of butterflies, bees, and other crucial pollinators. In warm climates, these lovely plants remain evergreen.
Areas with freezing winters see the princess flower as a perennial plant.
On the other hand, like full sun, do best when placed in a sheltered area not subject to freezing and high winds.
Planting And Care Instructions
Care instructions for all 350 varieties of Tibouchina appear somewhat similar. Despite the unusual structure and appearance, growing tibouchina plant only requires a few simple things.
They also like lots of sunlight and rich, fertile, well-draining soil and respond well to liquid fertilizer.
All varieties benefit from regular pruning and consistent fertilizing. As with most plants, you need to provide Tibouchina with well prepared, rich, and organic soil capable of holding moisture appropriately and drains well. Avoid wet roots at all times.
Glory bush enjoys the direct sunlight. However, if you live in an area with sweltering summer, plant in an area with an afternoon shade.
Practice Regular And Judicious Watering
Glory bushes need watering on a regular basis making a deep, weekly watering an ideal system. The soil surrounding the plant should always look springy and never rock hard or soggy.
Additionally, a thick layer of mulch around your tibouchina helps hold moisture in and protects the roots against extremes of temperature.
Pruning The Tibouchina Tree
Tibouchina usually grows in a rampant tangle which makes pruning a bit of a chore. After the growing season, provide your bushes and trees a good pruning to control its growth and define the shape.
Pruning the plant before the winter months set in will help your plants prepare and survive the cooler weather.
When you prune in the autumn or winter in areas that do not exude too much cold, carefully remove any damaged, diseased, or dead limbs.
Strive to remove limbs growing in an asymmetrical fashion or those moving toward the center of the plant. Create a silhouette with the ability to stretch gracefully outward and upward.
Taller species do very well when grown as trees. This kind of pruning adds interest due to the lovely foliage and bounteous blossoms apart from very attractive rust-colored bark.
When you train a glory bush as a tree, cut unwanted limbs flushed with the trunk for best appearance and to avoid the development of diseases.
Adding Fertilizers To Your Tibouchina
Early in the spring, fertilize your tibouchina with a controlled-release fertilizer (15-9-12).
Scatter dry fertilizer evenly around the base of the plant, using a little over a pound of fertilizer per hundred square feet.
Extend your application to just past the branches’ drip line. Turn the top layer of soil and water your plants thoroughly to help incorporate the fertilizer into the soil.
In a warm area, princess flowers undergo multiple blooming cycles. Prune and fertilize lightly after each cycle. Like rhododendrons and azaleas, tibouchina likes acidic soil so choose products for acid-loving plants.
When fertilizing several times annually, follow package directions in the springtime.
During the rest of the year, cut the dose in half. If your plants do not respond well to your fertilizing schedule, test your soil before making adjustments.
When actively growing, they respond very well to regular liquid feed.
If you discovered the excessive alkalinity of the soil, amend its top layer with redwood compost or pine needles to enhance acidity. These materials also make good mulch.
Use Dwarf Tibouchina In Container Planting
Naturally, dwarf tibouchina makes an excellent choice as a container plant. But if you enjoy pruning and shaping, smaller species of glory bush may serve as the perfect type of tibouchina for use as deck or patio plants.
It takes a bit of careful pruning to keep the growth under control and coax out the best shape, but the plant’s lush foliage and dark blue/purple flowers will make all your effort worthwhile.
For container planting, follow directions for soil preparation and placement of standard tibouchina. If you plant your tibouchina in a container, it will need fertilizing lightly on a seasonal basis, excluding winter.
Container Tibouchina responds well to deadheading. You can extend the blooming season indefinitely for houseplants with regular deadheading.
Problems With Pests And Diseases
Problems with pests and diseases while growing tibouchina may exist. When cultivated in these ideal conditions, glory bush resists most pests and disease.
If kept in poor soil, it will naturally lose resistance and may fall prey to pests.
If the soil lacks good drainage, root rot, and fungal infection may result. A glory bush with root rot usually ends up culled and disposed of. They do not recover well from this condition.
A glory bush with weak resistance may become plagued by:
In the garden setting, the introduction of beneficial insects preying on spider mites and scales handles the issue well. Severe infestations require an application of horticultural oil or insecticidal soap. These treatments are also effective indoors.
Dealing with nematodes spells a lengthy and complicated process. However, mostly involves sound gardening practices. If you provide your plants with proper care, you may likely avoid dealing with a nematode infestation.
Provide ample sun and light, loam or sandy loam soil with slight acidity. Water judiciously and on a regular basis. Protect your plants from high winds and sub-freezing temperatures.
In a northern setting, you can enjoy your tibouchina as a houseplant throughout the cold winter months and then let it luxuriate outdoors in the late spring, summer, and early autumn.
If you put your potted plant into the ground during the summer, you will need to dig it up and prune both the top and the roots before potting.
This will help it generate new growth and fit through the door.
Transplanting Tibouchina Indoors For The Winter
Take care when transplanting your Princess Flower from a garden to a container or vice-versa. The poor technique results in transplant stress. This shows up as lost leaves and failure to bloom. On the other hand, with proper care, the plant should eventually recover and thrive.
Dig With Care
To unearth tibouchina, place the sharp tip of your shovel far enough away from the base of the plant to avoid damaging the roots.
Push the shovel into the soil deeply enough to get the tip to the base of the root ball. Using leverage, tilt the plant up and out of the ground. Place your hand under the root ball to lift the plant up.
Trim The Roots And The Foliage
Shake off excess soil and massage the roots to loosen and prepare them for root pruning. Use sharp, clean scissors, or shears to trim about an inch off the root ball all the way around.
Prune back the foliage, excess limbs, and stems. If you keep the plant as a houseplant, it will grow. If you plan to keep the tree dormant, trim it down to about six inches high.
Contain Your Plant Well
When repotting the Princess Flower for the winter, do not use an excessively large pot. After pruning the roots, select a pot with no more than one or two inches larger in circumference than the remaining root ball.
You should ideally make use of just a couple of inches of new soil all around. This small amount of soil helps prevent root rot and excessive growth during the winter months.
Use A High-Quality Potting Medium
Prepare a light potting soil using peat, coco coir, perlite, vermiculite, or sand. Mix all of your ingredients thoroughly.
Prepare your pot by putting a layer of pebbles or Styrofoam packing peanuts in the bottom to facilitate proper drainage. Add a couple of inches of your prepared potting mix and then center your plant.
Keep the top of the root ball about an inch from the top of the pot. Fill in all around the root ball with your prepared potting mix. Press the mix down lightly as you work, and bring the soil level even with the top of the root ball.
Water lightly to settle the soil and add more as needed to fill in settled areas. Keep a container of your prepared potting mix on hand through the winter to top up the soil in case it settles.
Keeping Your Princess Bush Happy In Winter
Glory bush loves full sun all day. Alternatively, leaving them outside for six hours under direct sunlight will suffice.
These plants also do well if supplemented with artificial light.
However, this will not work during winter time. As you need to keep the plant safe until spring, consider not letting your plant grow too large so transferring them won’t cause a problem.
Keep your tibouchina in a well-lit area with temperatures consistently ranging between 55° and 70° degrees Fahrenheit.
Water lightly and don’t fertilize potted tibouchina during the winter months to keep their height minimal during winter.
Let an open container of water stay near your princess bushes at all times. In this way, room temperature and chemical free water remain accessible when you water your plants.
Most chlorine and other chemicals will dissipate from water left sitting for 24 hours. Room temperature water will not shock the roots of your plants.
Keeping Your Plant Dormant Through Winter
Being an excellent potted plant candidate, means it can enjoy summers out on the patio up north and overwinter indoors.
To maintain your potted plant during the winter months, prune the plant enough for it to fit the available window space.
Through the winter months do not fertilize, until the warm spring weather arrives and growth begins. Water sparingly only when the surface of the soil is dry.
While indoors try to keep the plant in as bright an area as possible with temperatures between 55-70 degrees. If you’re lucky… you may even get a flower while indoors. What a treat that is!
However, some choose to over-winter plants in a dark, cool areas such as a basement in places without a sunlight-rich place.
If you do this, your plants will go completely dormant. You will need to check from time-to-time and water very sparingly to keep the plants alive until springtime.
Transitioning To Outdoors
Take your over-wintered glory bush back outside in the spring after the signs of frost completely subside. Keep the temperatures above 50° degrees Fahrenheit.
Transition your plant to outdoors over a period of a couple of weeks.
Give it short visits outside in the sunshine during the warmest part of the day. Extend its time outside bit-by-bit to acclimate it to being outdoors once more.
Keep Tibouchina Under Control
Tibouchina shrubs do well in cool Mediterranean climates and coastal southern California.
Princess plants do remarkably well in tropical areas of the US, such as Hawaii and Florida. Due to this, you must act responsibly to keep their growth under control.
Control propagation. Tibouchina, as a vigorous plant, can spread rapidly under ideal conditions.
In fact, these plants grow uncontrollably in some places due to its weather, soil quality, and other factors. In Hawaii, Tibouchina is listed as a “noxious weed.”
If you live in a warm, accommodating climate, harvest your tibouchina seed pods when they develop. Otherwise, the plants will self-seed, and you will soon find a tibouchina forest instead of a garden.
Tibouchina dwarf appears as a remarkably beautiful plant, and caring for it may seem like a chore or a breeze. A lot depends on the steps you take when selecting and growing tipochina plants.
Choose the right size plant for your setting and provide a perfect place for your plant to thrive, while monitoring their everyday status.
Question: Will purple “bouchina” or Mexican Princess grow in New Orleans? – WF, New Orleans, LA.
Answer: I expect the plant you are asking about is Tibouchina semidecandra. It has large purple flowers and can stand a few degrees of frost. Train against a wall. It is sometimes grown as a tub specimen for summer bloom and put inside in a cool, well-lighted place for the winter.