Sunday, 26 February 2017

Rangoon Creeper putting on a show!

This plant seems to have had more name changes than Elizabeth Taylor has had husbands - I know it as Quisqualis indica, but apparently the proper name today is Cobretum indica. As for common names, you have a choice of many - Drunken Sailors, Red Honeysuckle, Chinese Jasmine - although Rangoon Creeper seems to be the name of choice for most when referring to this plant.

Native to tropical Africa, the plant is now well distributed across tropical and subtropical areas around the world. The fragrant, drooping racemes comprise a number of individual blooms of various colours - bright red, pink and white. They start out white and gradually colour up as they age. The flowers are produced all throughout the warmer months.

These blooms are older as they have turned red
Technically a climber, in tropical areas the plant is often spindly and can reach great heights as it climbs through nearby trees. Stems can be thick and inflexible, so it also lends itself to being grown as a weeping shrub (much like a bougainvillea). While I have seen it looking great growing untamed through a large poinciana tree, I think it looks great when grown as a shrub (as seen in this specimen in a garden in Marrickville, Sydney:

This plant is one of those 'love it or loathe it' types. People are either coaxing it to grow or rueing the day they planted it. In the tropics, it suckers prolifically - left unchecked you will find them sprouting everywhere. I found in Darwin that mine wasn't too hard to keep in check - I just pulled up suckers every now and then whenever they appeared (most of which were always close to the parent).

The rangoon creeper is very cold tolerant and will still thrive and flower in any frost free garden - I am told from a reliable source that there are some flowering specimens in Melbourne! In cooler areas, it does seem to grow more shrubby then vine-like, allowing the plant to be used as an exotic shrub in the garden. In Sydney, it is favoured by the large Polynesian community who often plant it by entrance ways and front doors.

Recently, a double-flowered hybrid has been released from Thailand and is still fairly hard to find. I grow this in my Sydney garden and it seems a little more cold sensitive than the single-flowered type, defoliating every winter. Once established, however, it more than makes up for this, putting out rampant growth and flowering readily.
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