Portlandia Grandiflora Care: Growing The Jamaican Bell Flower

Portlandia grandiflora, or the Jamaican Bell Flower, is a rare yet beautiful flower that thrives in humid environments. Native to Jamaica and Cuba, it is also found in Trinidad and Tobago.

Part of the Rubiaceae family, Portlandia grandiflora is a tree that produces white, leathery, trumpet-shaped flowers. These flowers exude a chocolate fragrance that is most potent in the evening.

Flowering Portlandia Grandiflora Jamaican Bell Flower
Flowers of Jamaican Bell Flower (Portlandia Grandiflora)

The Jamaican Bell Flower starts with a single stem but behaves more like a shrub as it continues to grow. When mature, these trees can be an average of six feet tall and grow as tall as fifteen feet.

According to The National Gardening Association, this plant is a perennial, which affects Portlandia plant care. If planted outside, the flowers will bloom whenever the weather is warm. 

If you live in a more northern climate, they will bloom only during the spring and summer months.

Portlandia grandiflora also goes by:

  • Jamaican Bell Flower
  • Bell Flower
  • Tree Lily
  • Glorious Flower of Cuba
  • Cuba White Horse Flower

Portlandia Grandiflora Bell Flower Care

Luckily, Portlandia plant care is relatively low maintenance. As long as they have the right amount of sun, water, and humidity, they will enjoy steady growth from year to year.

If you would like, you can choose a slow-release, non-acidic fertilizer to use in the spring.

Size & Growth

Jamaican Bell Flowers is a slow-growing small tree eventually reaching six to ten feet in height. Trees as tall as fifteen feet are on record.

The most growth occurs in warm, humid environments where the plant can take advantage of year-round growth. 

This shrub-like tree can vary in width from four to eight feet. You can control how wide it gets through controlled pruning.

With a hardiness zone of 10-11, these trees also grow well in tropical environments like the Caribbean or greenhouses.

Flowering and Fragrance

The trumpet-shaped fragrant flowers are 5″-6″ inches long. Each bloom consists of five lobes that flare outwards before curling back at the tips.

Most fragrant in the evenings, these blossoms release a scent reminiscent of creamy chocolate. Some people say it reminds them of vanilla.

Light & Temperature

Portlandia grandiflora grows best in partial shade or dappled shade in warm, humid environments. 

They need temperatures of at least 50° degrees Fahrenheit year-round. They can tolerate temperatures as low as the 30s for short periods.

Be sure to keep them sheltered from cold winds if you live in a seasonal environment.

Without a suitable partially-shaded area, consider growing them beneath a lattice-type structure in an area with full sun.

Another option is to grow them indoors. Jamaican Bell Flowers will need a larger pot with excellent drainage. When grown indoors, they will usually bloom only in spring and summer. 

Don’t place them near drafty areas, vents, or directly in front of a window.

Water Needs and Feeding

Jamaican Bell Flowers grow best in moist soil. Depending on where you live, you may need to water every few days.

Push your finger into the soil a few inches away from the stem about 2″-3″ inches down. Water if the ground feels dry. 

Test again in a few days if the soil feels damp or moist. Don’t water for a while if you feel a puddle.

If you live in a climate with heavy rainfall, make sure your soil has good drainage. Too much water can damage the roots and affect growth.

They will require little in the way of feeding. Use a non-acidic, slow-release fertilizer in the spring.

Soil & Transplanting

These trees are one of the few plants that thrive in alkaline soils. Sometimes referred to as sweet soil, alkaline soil has a soil pH above 7.

Alkaline soil is rich in magnesium, calcium, and sodium. It lacks other nutrients, which can lead to slow growth, but that isn’t a problem for the Jamaican Bell Flower.

Be careful not to use any acidic fertilizer. It will throw off the plant’s preferred pH and can cause damage.

Jamaican Bell Flowers can be transplanted, though it is best to do it when they are young and more closely resemble a tree than a shrub.

Make sure the soil you are moving the tree to is alkaline. Remove the plant from its pot, making sure to keep the existing soil around the roots intact. 

Gently fill in the hole and lightly pat the soil down. You don’t want to press too hard.

Water amply once transplanting is complete. Don’t apply any fertilizer for two-three months while the plant adjusts to its new location.

Grooming and Maintenance

This tree has no thorns or sharp edges, so pruning and trimming are safe and easy. Use sharp garden shears to trim the buds at the first sign of new growth to control the tree’s height and width.

Avoid using hedge trimmers or chainsaws. Instead, aim to make small changes over time to develop your desired shape.

Remember, if you cut too much or make a mistake, it will take a long time for the plant to regrow.

How To Propagate Portlandia Grandiflora

The sweet scent of the blossoms attracts pollinating moths. Once pollination is complete, you will notice the development of plump, wood-like pods that turn black when ripened.

Each of these black pods is packed full of seeds. They are easy to germinate when fresh.

Portlandia Grandiflora Pests or Diseases

The Jamaican Bell Flower experiences few issues with diseases and pests due to its sturdy nature. 

Watch out for acidic soil or fertilizers.

If you notice any issues or signs of sickness, reach out to your local landscaper or garden center. They can help you identify the problem and guide you towards the best treatment plan.

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