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BOTANIC NAME: Tibouchina

COMMON NAME: Tibouchina, Glory Bush, Lasiandra (this name is uniquely used in Australia and thought to be an Indigenous word)

FAMILY: MELASTOMACEAE

ORIGIN: TIBOUCHINA (neotropical parts of South America and Caribbean). MELASTOMA (SE Asia and Northern Australia)

WHAT: A spectacular group of plants with more than 350 species. They come in all shapes and sizes from 0.5 m compact shrubs to 25 m tall trees – with everything else in between. They are frost tender and happiest in slightly acid soils – which tells you north of Sydney, coastal, and up to the tropics.

I have been meaning to write this post for more than a year but, I have to admit, I got bogged down in confusion – there is such an increasing dizzying number of tibouchinas on the market with labels that gave no indication of what species they actually are. I was tied up in knots between my ‘Jules’ and my ‘Jazzie’s”? But, you will be pleased to hear that I think I have finally nailed it – so here goes. It’s also that time of year – late summer – when they are at their glorious best so they have been giving me a gentle visual dig in the ribs to get going. I will just add that most of the information, that I have looked at, on most websites is incorrect – buyer beware.

My knowledge is also limited to the ones I have used when I was landscaping and to the common ones that grow around me and that I have growing in my own garden (seven in all). However, there are literally hundreds of different cultivars available – with new ones coming onto the market all the time. So do your homework before you buy. Hopefully, this may help. Let’s start with the biggies.

What happens when I get a rainy day ‘visual nudge’

HOW: Tibouchinas are one of the easiest and most trouble free plants to grow. I have never seen them suffering from any pests or diseases. They just like a slightly acidic soil – SO FEED and MULCH them, and make sure the soil is not waterlogged. One thing they all benefit from IS A SEASONAL PRUNING – they will flower better and have a denser growth. Do this at the end of autumn. Don’t leave it until late spring or you will be cutting off the new flower buds. How simple is that? I think it is the shortest cultivation advice I have ever given for any plant.

Trees

Tibouchina granulosa

A small tree to 10 m, but usually from 3-5 m.

Considered to be one of the most ornamental species of all the tropical trees with several flushes of flowers throughout the year.

I have shown the flower of t.granulosa at the top of the page. It is a deep purple that fades to touches of magenta – there is no white in the middle.

Leaves can be hand sized, pointed and rough to touch.

Tibouchina granulosa ‘Kathleen

Known as the Pink Glory Tree it is a sister of granulosa that has a similar size, habit and flowering time.

(In our area I have only ever seen one other tree-sized tibouchina that starts out with white flowers that fade to pink – t. mutabilis.)

Shrubs

Tibouchina urvilleana ‘Jazzie’

A sprawling evergreen shrub 3-6m tall x 2-3m wide with clusters of brilliant purple flowers that put on quite a show from late summer to early winter.

This tibouchina is distinguished from granulosa by its: smaller leaves, shrubby habit AND flowers that have a white centre.

Tibouchina ‘Chameleon’

A fast growing small shrub – to 2m – that is a real show stopper.

It looks like it has multi-coloured flowers on the same bush but, in fact, they change colour over time. Opening blossoms are white then fade to pink and, lastly, magenta.

Flowering time is almost continuous throughout the warmer months.

Tibouchina heteromalla

I don’t know if this tibouchina has a common name but it’s known by my family as the toilet paper plant. It has gorgeous soft, velvety leaves that turn bright orange with age – and quite papery. With some irreverent humour it was considered a serious alternative during the recent pandemic bog roll rush.

I love the unusual panicles of flowers that stand up above the leaves like purple candles.

In 15 years in my garden it has never grown taller than 1.5m tall by 1.5m wide. – mind you, it does get an annual prune otherwise it gets quite leggy.

Tibouchina albo ’Elsa’

This is another rather unusual tibouchina – again, with lovely soft velvety leaves that make a fabulous texture and colour contrast in the garden. I love all the panicles standing to attention.

Again, it only grows to about 1.5 m and flowers through the late summer months.

Melastoma affine

Not strictly speaking a tibouchina it is a very close relative and in the same family. In fact, its common name is native lasiandra and comes from SE Asia and Australia.

A small shrub to 1.5m. I have it growing next to the ‘Silver Princess’ and they flower at the same time.

One thing I have noticed – in my quiet moments in the garden – is that the native blue banded bee is very attracted to it – which is rather exciting.

Small Shrubs

Tibouchina ‘Peace Baby’

I love this cultivar for its white blossoms and dense low growing habit – 1m max. It’s been used here to great effect as a feature border above a stone wall.

It has a long flowering period through all the warmer months.

Also useful as a pot specimen.

Tibouchina ‘Jules’

The lowest growing cultivar 0.5m and useful as a border, in a rockery or as a pot specimen.

You can see why you wouldn’t want to mix up your Jazzie (6m+) and your Jules (0.5m) ?