Mussaenda frondosa

Mussaenda frondosa

This unusual shrub hails from India, with a height and width of around 1.8 m. It has small, orange, star-shaped flowers in summer and large, white bracts that look like leaves. One common name for the plant is the white flag bush, and the bracts do look as if bunting has been draped amongst the branches. There are other species with pink, yellow or red bracts, but they seem to be too cold-sensitive to survive well in Sydney gardens, except for those in warm, coastal areas. They will grow in sun or part-shade - a site protected by trees will provide frost protection in winter. The shrubs can become quite straggly, so prune them at the end of winter, cutting back quite hard. They can be propagated from seeds or cuttings in autumn or spring.

Mussaenda frondosa looks good if grown near dainty-white flowered shrubs such as Pentas (which interestingly, belongs to the same plant family as Mussaenda, the family Rubiaceae, as can be noted with the similar shape of the flowers), to provide a contrast of form, or with the white spires of Justicia betonica, also in bloom at the same time, and with white-variegated plants such as ornamental grasses and the white-splashed form of Plectranthus parviflorus. I also think it would look good underplanted with a large form of white-spathed Spathiphyllum to echo the form of its bracts.

Flowers in January, December.