Medinilla cumingii: Chandelier Tree

Family: Melastomataceae
Common name: Chandelier Tree, Showy Medinilla, Showy Melastome, Rose Grape, Malaysian Orchid

Chandelier trees are beautiful showy ornamentals that grow to a height of 1.2 to 1.8 meters with large glossy, leathery leaves. They are semi-epiphytic, capable to growing on tree stems and rocky areas, but are mostly seen growing on the ground in gardens.

They can be grown in pots or even hanging baskets, with lovely drooping berries cascading over the edges of the pots. Chandelier tree leaves have parallel sunken veins, and form cup-shaped whorls around the stem. Young leaves are tinted orange-red in colour, becoming dark green as they grow older.

Flower buds are light pink to white in colour, opening into beautiful pink flowers with purple coloured stamens. These delicate, lovely flowers have 4 distinct petals and grow in large clusters.

Chandelier trees produce pink globose berries that darken as they become ripe, eventually turning deep magenta in colour. These berries stay on the plant for many weeks slowly darkening in colour over time.

The hardy plants flower almost throughout the year in warm, tropical weather. Good sunlight and frequent watering are essential for a healthy, flowering plant. Chandelier trees look good as border plants, or center pieces in gardens with their ever-green foliage, and contrasting flowers.

Stem is slightly woody at the base, and green towards the tips, with white and pink flower stalks that are 15-25 cm long. Their leathery leaves make the plants reasonably pest-resistant, but occasional spraying with neem oil can keep the plant healthy.

Although the Chandelier tree is native to The Philippines, it is grown in gardens all over the world due to its hardy nature, and year-round flowering. The name ‘Medinilla’ comes from the José de Medinilla, Spanish governor of the Mariannas in the mid-19th century. And ‘cumingii’ comes from from a famous British botanist, Hugh Cuming.

The brightly coloured flowers and fruits attract bees and birds, who help pollinate them. Birds also eat these berries helping in propagation.

Propagation is through seeds or stem cuttings.