Tibouchina urvilleana (Princess Flower)
A spectacular sight when in full bloom, Tibouchina urvilleana (Princess Flower) is a large, sprawling, tropical, evergreen shrub or small tree boasting a lush foliage of elliptic, softly hairy leaves, 2-4 in. long (5-10 cm), sometimes edged in red, with prominent longitudinal veins. In summer, ravishing royal purple flowers, 3-4 in. across (7-10 cm), with long purple stamens bloom singly or in clusters. In tropical areas, Princess Flower will bloom sporadically throughout the year. Versatile, Tibouchina urvilleana can be trained as a standard or espaliered against a west-facing wall receiving at least five hours of full sun. It can also be trained on a trellis or arbor as a vine. Great for containers, as a houseplant and in Mediterranean gardens.
- Recipient of the prestigious Award of Garden Merit of the Royal Horticultural Society.
- Grows up to 10-20 ft. tall (3-6 m) and 6-10 ft. wide (2-3 m). This plant will spread in the garden by suckers and can form dense thickets.
- A full sun lover, this plant is best grown in moist, fertile, well-drained soils. Prefers some afternoon shade in hot summer climates. Protect from strong winds and apply mulch to keep the roots cool.
- Can be grown outdoors in frost-free area. In colder areas, this plant should be grown in containers and brought indoors for overwintering before the first fall frost. In zone 8, this plant is root hardy and will typically die to the ground in winter but will return each spring.
- Perfect for Mediterranean gardens, city gardens, wall-side borders and containers.
- Plants grown under glass may need restrictive pruning in late winter.
- Propagate by seed sown at 16°C in spring or strike softwood cuttings in late spring and semi-hardwood cuttings in summer, both with bottom heat.
- This evergreen shrub blooms on the previous or current year’s growth. It needs little pruning. Prune lightly removing unsightly shoots as required.
- Pinching new growth helps increase branching and will enhance the floral display.
- Keep an eye out for aphids, mealybugs, glasshouse whitefly and oedema under glass.
- This shrub is considered to be a noxious weed in Hawaii where it has escaped gardens and naturalized.
- Native to southern Brazil.
Scientific Name: Tibouchina urvilleana
Common Names: Princess-flower, Glorybush, Lasiandra, Princess Flower, Purple Glory Bush, Tibouchina
Growth Habit: Tree, Shrub
Hawaii Native Status: Introduced. This naturalized ornamental garden plant is native to Brazil.
Flower Color: Royal purple with a dark blue sheen
Height: To 15 feet (4.6 m) tall
Description: The beautiful flowers are 3-5 inches (8-13 cm) across and have 5 broad petals and 5 bright reddish sepals. The leaves have usually 5 parallel lengthwise veins and are green in color, narrowly edged in red, hairy, opposite, and narrowly oval to lance-shaped. Mature plants form large mounds and multiple plants can form dense thickets.
Legal Status – Hawaii State-listed Noxious Weed. Although Princess-flowers make nice garden plants elsewhere, here in Hawaii, these common and conspicuous plants are major thicket-forming weeds that invade forests and displace native plants.
Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Family: Melastomataceae – Melastome family
Genus: Tibouchina Aubl. – glorytree
Species: Tibouchina urvilleana (DC.) Cogn. – princess-flower
More About This Plant
Hawaii County Distribution Map
Tibouchina heteromalla (Silver leafed Princess Flower) – This evergreen shrub has an upright growth habit to 8-10 feet tall with velvety silver-green 4-6 inch long leaves, with prominent veins that are puffed up in the middle and old leaves will often turn a beautiful orange color just prior to dropping off. The 1 1/2 inch wide violet flowers on long spikes bloom mid-summer and last until fall. Loves full sun and moist soil during the growing season but tolerates regular to only occasional irrigation in our coastal gardens. Has proven hardy in our nursery garden to 30 F with only slight young growth tips being damaged. In our January 2007 cold snap with temperatures to 25° F several nights this plant was frozen back but rebounded by the following year. Cutting back plants occasionally helps maintain good form as it does get a little top heavy and spent flower stems are best removed in the fall, lest they detract from the beautiful foliage in winter and early spring. Tibouchina heteromalla is endemic to Brazil, where it occurs in rocky areas in small scattered populations in the southern area in the state of Minas Gerais. The specific epithet is a combination of the Greek words ‘heteros’ meaning “other party” or “another” indicating dissimilarity and ‘mallos’ which means “wool” in reference to the different types of hairs on the leaves of this species. This plant is sometimes sold as Tibouchina grandifolia. Another common name for this plant is glory bush. The information on this page is based on research conducted in our nursery library and from online sources as well as from observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery, in the nursery’s garden and in other gardens that we have observed it in. We also will incorporate comments received from others and always appreciate getting feedback of any kind from those who have additional information, particularly if this information is contrary to what we have written or includes additional cultural tips that might aid others in growing Tibouchina heteromalla.
Princess flower offers landscapes the color of royalty
The princess flower loads up with uncountable blossoms of royal purple, making it unchallenged as the most beautiful plant in the late summer garden.
Botanically speaking, the princess flower is known as Tibouchina urvilleana and is native to Brazil – the site of the 2016 Olympics. The family name is Melastomataceae and is most likely quite rare at your local garden center. If you can name even one more member, you are most likely a horticulturist.
Here at the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens, we do have two other family members, the big leaf or silver leafed princess flower, Tibouchina heteromalla, also from Brazil and the extraordinary pink lantern or Medinilla magnifica from the Philippines. Neither are as cold hardy as the regular princess flower but both are outstanding. The pink lantern, which we are growing in a large basket, has really captured my attention.
The princess flower is winter hardy in zones 9-11, but here in zone 8 where I garden, it dies to the ground returning with vigor in late spring. At my home, they are now 5 feet tall and loaded with an uncountable number of royal purple blossoms that glow almost iridescently and will dazzle and mesmerize until a killing frost.
While mine in zone 8 are 5 feet tall, in their native Brazil and similar climates, they will reach 12 to 18 feet, which is simply put a breathtaking site. The leaves are velvety, deep green and many times lined with orange along the margins. In the fall, the leaves will change to an orange bronze. It blooms best in full sun though a little afternoon shade is certainly no problem. The soil should be fertile, organic rich and very well drained. Soggy conditions quickly prove fatal, so plant on raised beds.
It is not very hard to grow one in a container or dig and overwinter the plant. The most serious requirement is to not overwater. Keep it dry during the winter. Those of you who like to propagate plants will find it easy to root from greenwood-type cuttings placed in moist sand in a shady location or separate spreading shoots that develop.
The purple is so vibrant that choosing your flower combinations is quite easy except for one thing, everything seems to look great. I am growing a half dozen of them, and each combination seems to be a Kodak moment. In one area I have the exotic flowered pink South Pacific sipper hibiscus. The pink and purple combination is eye-catching, to say the least.
In another area, I have a gold blooming milkweed for an actually superb complementary color scheme. But if you want to look like a landscape pro, try growing blue with the purple. I’m using Mystic Spires Blue salvia. There is just something special about putting blues and purples together. You’ve got to consider the golden thyrallis, Galphimia glauca, as a partner. With hundreds of small soft golden blooms, it seems as though it was created just for a princess flower marriage. It too is a zone 9-11 plant, root hardy in zone 8 and superb in a container for overwintering. Lastly, as fall planting time arrives, there are some great combinations to be had such as growing the tall cut flower Amazon rose magic dianthus as an understory planting to the taller princess flower.
If you are like us in Savannah, you are probably muttering that the summer has been relentless. Just about the time we feel like throwing in the proverbial ‘garden towel’ the princess flower starts to amaze and causes us to linger taking in all its beauty.
Information About Princess Flowers: Growing Princess Flower In The Garden
The princess flower plant, also known as lasiandra and purple glory bush, is an exotic shrub sometimes reaching the size of a small tree. When growing princess flower shrubs in the landscape, you’ll find they quickly reach a height of 7 feet and higher and may reach a spread just as wide. Care of princess flower is easy and uncomplicated.
About Princess Flowers
Large purple flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies to the garden all season long bloom in abundance from May through freezing weather. Botanically called Tibouchina urvilleana, blooms will appear throughout the year on the princess flower plant, with heaviest flowering from late spring and on into winter in tropical areas.
Hardy in USDA Zones 9-11, allow plenty of room when planting princess flower. If you’re already growing princess flower and find it is becoming overcrowded, pruning is appropriate. In fact, heavy pruning as part of the care of princess flower does not deter the abundant blooms of this plant. Prune in early spring to control growth. Otherwise, trim the plant as needed to keep it tidy.
Princess flower bushes that are not pruned usually develop a rounded form with age, but may take on a sprawling habit if pruned once and then not maintained. One note of caution: the plant spreads by suckers and can be rambunctious. It has escaped cultivation in Hawaii and is considered a noxious weed. If this is a concern, containers are a good option for preventing spread. Additionally, as the multiple stems are thin and vine-like, princess flower bush is a good candidate for a trellis.
Planting Princess Flower Bush
When you’re planning to grow princess flower in your landscape, choose a spot where it will be appreciated for yearly evergreen foliage and an attractive, upright habit. Site the plant in moist, well-drained soil that has been amended with manure, compost or other organic material. Plant the princess flower bush in a full to partially sunny location. In the hottest areas, this specimen prefers afternoon shade.
The princess flower plant needs regular watering to keep the soil evenly moist, particularly during hot spells in summer, but don’t allow the soil to become soggy. Although princess flower is relatively drought-tolerant, it will bloom better with sufficient moisture.
Fertilize every spring with a product formulated for azalea, rhododendronand other acid-loving plants. Reapply fertilizer in summer and autumn.
Remove blooms as soon as they wilt to encourage continued blooming.
Spread a little manure or compost around the plant every spring, as the plant thrives in rich soil. Also, mulch the area heavily to retain moisture, control weeds, and keep the roots cool.
Tibouchina is relatively pest-resistant, but watch for mealybugs and aphids. Both are easy to control with insecticidal soap spray.
Those living in Zone 8 may grow the princess flower plant, but expect the shrub to die back if freezing temperatures occur in winter. The princess flower bush usually recovers the following season to produce more of the brilliantly colored purple blooms. That said, Tibouchina is well suited for containers, so this is a good solution if you live in a cold climate; just bring the plant indoors before temperatures drop in autumn.
Princess flower bushes are easily multiplied from cuttings that can be overwintered in a greenhouse, or even indoors as a houseplant. In fact, don’t be surprised to see a few purple blooms on the princess flower plant indoors when it is happily located in a sunny window.