Harlequin Glorybower Info: Tips For Growing A Harlequin Glorybower Tree
The Harlequins are a family of flowering plants with white flowers, small green leaves and red berries. They grow wild in Europe and North America from southern Canada south to Florida. They have been cultivated since at least 1750. The name “harlot” comes from their bright yellow flowers which resemble tiny whores or prostitutes’ hair. The plant’s scientific name is Clerodendron trichotomum (the species name means “red-headed woman”).
Harlots are native to Europe and North America but they were introduced into Australia in 1887. They spread rapidly through New Zealand, South Africa and Madagascar before being eradicated in the latter two countries. By 1900 there were only about 100 left worldwide.
In the United States, harlequin glorybowers are found mainly in the Southern states. There are several varieties grown commercially. The plants are fast-growing, reaching 6 to 15 feet high, and grow well in full sun or partial shade. They thrive in most soils but need well-drained soil and do not like salty soil. They are drought-tolerant, but do better with some extra water during their first growing season.
Globally, there are about 300 species of glorybower that grow in Thailand, the Himalayas, New Zealand, Australia and South America. Most of these are found in the southern hemisphere. The flowers are usually red or yellow with a distinctive “glory” around the rim. The leaves are usually green with red spots, hence the species name. Some types flower all year round while others have multi-colored flowers.
Glorybower trees or shrubs grow well in full sun to partial shade. They thrive in most well-drained soil but prefer neutral to slightly acidic soil (pH 6.5). They grow in poor, rocky or sandy soil and can also be grown in containers. They do not tolerate water-logged soil but are drought-resistant once they are established.
Glorybower trees grow rapidly when young but grow slower when mature (up to 30 feet high). They flower in spring and autumn and the flowers attract bees, butterflies and birds. The berries are bright red and are also attractive to birds (they are edible for humans but have a bitter taste).
Harlequin glorybower is an evergreen tropical shrub or tree that grows to a height of 10 to 15 feet and a spread of 8 to 10 feet. It requires partial shade and thrives in acidic soil. In frost-prone areas, it should be grown under glass but can be kept outdoors in a container that can be moved into a garage or shed during cold periods. Cuttings of mature wood with at least three leaves can be taken in spring or summer.
These shrubs require a moderate amount of maintenance. They should be pruned in late winter just before they start into growth (early Spring) to force new growth and to keep them from getting leggy. The dead parts can also be cut out at this time. The other main task is to repot the plant every 2 to 3 years or when it has outgrown its pot. Re-potting can be done during the beginning of the growth season, just as the new leaves appear.
While Glorybower trees are fairly drought-tolerant plants, they still need regular water. During the summer, they should be watered whenever the soil feels dry on the surface. Established trees can survive on rainfall alone but will probably not grow as well without extra water. A thick layer of mulch around the base of the plant helps to retain moisture and prevent weeds.
Glorybower trees are hardy in USDA zones 8 through 11.
Glorybowers need full sun to light shade. In hot climates they should be planted in an area that is protected from the afternoon sun. The soil should be well drained, rich in organic matter and slightly acidic (pH 6 to 6.5). In containers, they need to be watered regularly and fertilized every four to six weeks.
They can tolerate drought but regular water will make the plants healthier and more tolerant of frosts.
Glorybowers grow well in almost any type of soil as long as it is well drained. They also do not like wet or poorly drained spaces. In areas where there is frost, they can be grown in large containers (at least 15 gallons) and moved indoors or under protection during winter. Outdoors they can be grown in large containers or in the ground. In areas with milder winters, they can be planted directly in the ground.
They also do well in raised beds and walled gardens.
Glorybower trees should be planted 2 to 3 feet apart. The best time to plant them is in early spring or late fall. They should be placed in an area that gets full sun or light shade. They can be propagated by seed, container grown plants, cuttings and layering.
Cutting off the flowers when they are just beginning to open will cause the plant to produce more leaves and promote thicker stems. This will make the stems and branches stronger and less likely to break under the weight of the flowers.
The plants can reach a height of 10 to 15 feet with a slightly larger spread. They should not be trimmed or cut back hard. They can also be grown as standards, which are trees that are grown in a container shorter than their potential size so that they are kept at a height of about 5 feet tall or so. This makes them easier to move and manage. They do best when planted in large containers for stability.
The flowers are large and come in a wide range of colors, mainly pinks, reds and purples. They are edible and have a sweet flavor. The fruit is small and sour. It contains several large seeds. The flowers and fruit can be eaten raw or cooked into jams, jellies and preserves.
In South Africa the bark is used to make a herbal tea that is high in vitamin C. An infusion of the flowers can be added to shampoo and used as an extra conditioning treatment for hair. The flowers are also used in herbal medicines for, among other things, stomach aches, skin diseases, malaria, fevers, sore throats and diarrhea.
In some Asian countries, the flowers are used to make a non-alcoholic wine. The flowers can also be candied and eaten directly or used in desserts and baked goods. The flowers can be preserved by drying them or by candying them.
The wood from the tree is used to make furniture, flooring and other items that are exposed to weather. It is not a strong wood and must be reinforced with metal or other durable woods. It is very resistant to decay and weathering, especially if the tree is grown in its native climate and not imported.
In some parts of South America, the bark and leaves are made into a treatment for malaria. The bark is also used to tan leather.
The oil from the seeds can be used for cooking, as a bio-diesel fuel and as a lubricant for machinery.
In traditional medicine, the crushed seeds are used to treat stomach aches and pains.
In some places in South America, the crushed seeds are used as an additive to coca leaves to make Coca-Cola.
When grown as an ornamental bonsai myrtle tree, the tree itself can make a beautiful addition to any home or office and can be used to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in rooms, thereby making them healthier to inhabit. It is an excellent air purifier. It is also an excellent addition to any garden and can be a great source of food if grown for its flowers, fruit, leaves or seeds.
The myrtle tree does not tolerate any frost at all and will suffer damage if exposed to any temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It is native to the Southwestern United States and Mexico. It can grow to be about 30 feet tall. It prefers full sun but can survive with only 4 or 5 hours of sunlight each day. It is very drought tolerant.
It can survive long periods of time without any rain at all.
The myrtle tree can be grown from seed, but it takes a long time for the tree to reach a height that it can be pruned and trimmed into the characteristic shape of a bonsai. It is easier and quicker to grow the tree from cuttings. The branches are easily bent and shaped when the tree is young. As it gets older, the wood becomes harder and less pliable.
The myrtle tree attracts bees, birds and butterflies. The flowers are a source of nectar for the bees and the insects help to spread the seeds when they pass through their digestive systems and then deposit them elsewhere in their waste. The fallen leaves make a excellent mulch that can be used to feed many varieties of plants.
The myrtle can tolerate drought, heat, salty winds and even the occasional neglect by its owner. It is tolerant of other soil types as well as urban pollution. It is an excellent street tree and will help to stabilize the soil quality where it grows.
Internet sources state that the leaves and berries are poisonous to humans, but there are many websites that claim they are safe to eat in moderation. In any case, no part of the plant should be consumed during pregnancy.
The berries are not very attractive and it seems unlikely that birds would eat them, so they would have to pass through the digestive systems of other animals before they could be deposited elsewhere.
The berries can be used to make a purple dye for fabrics. The flowers can also be used to make a yellow dye.
The wood is very hard and can be used to make fine tools, spears, walking sticks, weapons and other items that require a sturdy hardwood.
The wood itself is a dark shade of brown when cut, but it naturally cures over time to a reddish-brown and will occasionally darken further with age. It can be polished to a high sheen or left with a more natural unpolished appearance.
The myrtle tree is closely related to the Olive tree and is often called the “Bonsai Olive”.
As with most “true bonsai” trees, the myrtle is designed to be a bound tree and should never be wired or shaped into a free-standing tree in the ground. It is normally grown in a shallow pot and the trunk is normally exposed. Most myrtle bonsai are grown this way. They are not normally grown with the roots covered by soil. They can survive in full sun or very little light.
The myrtle prefers a fast draining soil mix with a pH between 6 and 7. It should be watered frequently but allowed to dry out between waterings. This can be measured by sticking your finger into the soil. If it is dry a couple of inches down, it is time to water. Overwatering can be just as fatal as underwatering.
Some growers fertilize often, some only a few times a year and others not at all. Young trees can be fed every couple of weeks, but this is not necessary and should only be done during the growing season.
The myrtle will normally lose its leaves during the winter dormancy period.
The myrtle bonsai is native to the Mediterranean basin and as such, can tolerate temperatures down to 14 degrees F. They can be placed outside during the summer and should be put in a protected location during the winter. Even if temperatures do not drop this low in your area, it is best to restrict its exposure to freezing weather.
Famous varieties of myrtle bonsai are: the “Grizzly Adams” or “Long-haired” myrtle (Myrtus longifolia) and the “Lemon” myrtle (Myrtus communis).
The “Grizzly Adams” myrtle is a native of California and Mexico. It is recommended for people who only have room for one bonsai tree as it can reach a height of 15 feet in the wild and only grows to about 2 feet at maturity.
The green leaves are ovate, thick and leathery. They are not normally exposed to freezing temperatures. This variety is becoming more popular and is widely available from most bonsai nurseries.
The “Lemon” myrtle is native to the Mediterranean basin. It has yellow flowers and small oval leaves that are glossy green on the upper surface and densely white-tomentose (covered with dense soft hairs) underneath.
It is rare in the United States and most of them grown here have been smuggled out of the country of origin. As such, they are harder to find as nursery stock.
Several varieties of other myrtles can be found at most bonsai specialty nursery. These are usually less common and harder to find but worth the search, as they have different leaf shapes and colors that can add variety to your collection and creativity to your designs.
Sources & references used in this article:
Taylor’s Guide to Shrubs: How to Select and Grow More Than 500 Ornamental and Useful Shrubs for Privacy, Ground Covers, and Specimen Plantings by K Fisher – 2000 – books.google.com
Bulletin No. 3: A Plant Handbook, Lists of Plants for Specific Landscsape Uses by HB Creighton, P Pasco – 1940 – digitalcommons.conncoll.edu
Southwestern Oregon Tree Selection Guide for Coos, Curry, Douglas, Jackson, and Josephine Counties by J Maul – 1999 – ir.library.oregonstate.edu
CAN WE LANDSCAPE TO ACCOMMODATE DEER? THE TRACY ESTATE RESEARCH GARDEN by HH Heinrich, S Predl – Proceedings of the sixth Eastern Wildlife Damage …, 1995 – core.ac.uk
Plantiful: Start Small, Grow Big with 150 Plants that Spread, Self-sow, and Overwinter by K Green – 2014 – books.google.com
Can We Landscape to Accommodate Deer? The Tracy Estate Research Garden by HH Heinrich, S Predl – 1993 – digitalcommons.unl.edu
Foliage: Astonishing Color and Texture Beyond Flowers by NJ Ondra – 2007 – books.google.com