Friday, June 3, 2011

Low-Maintenance Plant of the Month

Star Flower (Grewia occidentalis, often misnamed in the nursery as G. cafra) is an 8 to 10 ft sprawling, open shrub (rarely forms a small tree).  Endemic to southern Africa, it is found in habitats ranging from open woodland to arid scrub or coastal dunes.  The leaves are deep apple green, sparsely hairy with small, rounded, marginal teeth.  Branches are long, slender and somewhat pliant. Flowers arise from leaf axils and are star shaped, about 1" across, with lavendar petals and a prominent boss of deep yellow stamens. Drought tolerant, this plant is particular to well drained soils, though it responds well to soil that has been enriched with organic matter.

While accepting some light shade, this plant flowers best in full sun. Star flower is most colorful from spring to mid-summer, and can be pruned fall to late winter as required. The lack of invasive roots makes it an excellent choice as an informal foundation plant for large buildings.  In addition, star flower's growth habit is ideal for use next to a sunny wall, or as a medium density informal screen. The related Grewia asiatica is a drought tolerant shrub from India grown for it's agreeable acidic fruit, and is occasionally seen in South Florida.

Got Plant Questions?
Send them to Dr. John McLaughlin
305-248-3311 ext. 228

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