Tibouchina multiflora

Tibouchina multiflora

Tibouchina are warm-climate shrubs and trees which do very well in our Sydney climate. The big purple-flowered ones are the most well known, but there are some attactive smaller-growing types. One which I really like is Tibouchina multiflora, which has large, velvety leaves - which are attractive all year round - and upright sprays of small blue flowers in mid to late summer. There is a distinct white patch in the centre of the flower, and this ages to red. For this reason, it is sometimes called the 'today-tomorrow tibouchina'. The form of the flowers is the same as in the larger Tibouchina species and cultivars, with a rounded bloom and curved stamens.

Ageing Tibouchina multiflora flower

They flower best in a sunny spot, though they will still produce some blooms in semi-shade. They like to have organic matter dug into the soil at planting time and appreciate watering in their early years. Once established, they seem quite drought tolerant. I prune this one back in late winter to keep it compact - its height appears to be around 1.5-2m, and it can grow quite wide if not reined in. It can be grown from cuttings. I enjoy the colour of its flowers with silvery leaves, like that of Plectranthus argentatus and Buddleja crispa, and pale yellow flowers, such as from Phygelius 'Yellow Trumpet' and Abutilon cultivars.

The plant has an interesting history in Sydney gardens. It was spotted in the grounds of a nursing home in Turrammurra by a friend of well-known natural history writer and photographer Densey Clyne, some 50 years ago. Densey fell in love with the gorgeous blooms and propagated a plant from a cutting and distributed it to other keen gardeners. No one seemed to know what this plant was, and Densey finally identified the name in one of her reference books, called Cultivated Plants of the World. I have never seen it in a commercial nursery and all those grown in Sydney (and possibly elsewhere in NSW) are likely to have originated from Densey's cutting.

Flowers in January, February, March.