Mussaenda philippica

Family: Rubiaceae
Common name: Mussaenda

All Indian gardens had a Mussaenda plant some time back, until fancy hybrid plants took over, and now they are rarely seen gardens and nurseries. Mussaenda plants are weighed down by flowers during the flowering season, and keep flowering all through the year.

But they are also deceptive. Those large clusters of pink or white flowers are not flowers at all; they are bracts or modified sepals. The actual flowers are the small yellow ones hidden inside all those bracts. Mussaenda flowers are yellow, with 5 distinct petals and a red center. Mussaenda plants grow to a height of 2-4 meters with a good, bushy spread.

There are about 200 species of Mussaenda plants in colors like white, light pink, dark pink, orange, red etc.

The common species are Mussaenda erythrophylla with deep red-colored sepals; Mussaenda frondosa with white sepals; Mussaenda incana which is a dwarf variety with creamish-yellow sepals; Mussaenda philippica, the commonly seen one with pink, white or orange sepals.

In addition to these, there are hybrids like Marmalade, Queen Sirikit and Dona Luz, some of them having multi-colored and shaded sepals.

Mussaenda plants prefer warm climates and is ideal for Indian gardens. Since they grow fast and bloom profusely, they need sufficient water and frequent fertilizaton to ensure healthy plants and flowers. It is good to prune these plants frequently, so that they don’t grow gangly and unruly. Mussaenda plants need good sunlight during most part of the day, and cannot be grown indoors.

Propagation is from stem cuttings, or through layering.

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