13 February 2023
As we all enjoy the welcome winter breeze following what is usually a very busy time of year for most, there is another sentiment drifting through the air. The one that coincides with Valentine’s Day in the month of February — love. Love is a fundamental part of our lives: love for the sea, love for the earth and all its beings, love for one another and love for the gift of life. But with love comes some not-so-pleasant feelings too: loss, longing and sometimes even heartbreak.
Once you’ve set your sights on bleeding heart vine, the common name becomes self-explanatory. The deep red corolla emerges from the calyx, which is white at first, and the calyx undergoes a spectacular transformation to a beautiful lavender, then eventually brown as it ages. The unique liana, which refers to bleeding heart’s growth habit as a vine, or a twining shrub, Clerodendron thomsoniae, has very few varieties in comparison to some other tropical lianas, which makes it quite the exclusive statement piece.
Native to tropical West Africa, it is widely used in the tropics and subtropics as an ornamental. Not to be confused with Dicentra spectabilis, a lovely woodland plant in temperate climates, which is also called bleeding heart – unfortunately, the two are not related. If grown as a vine, bleeding heart does appreciate some type of structure to climb on and should be cut back somewhat frequently to reduce crowding and improve air flow; however, it is meaningful to remember that this liana blooms on new growth.
In being consistent with frequent pruning, the bleeding heart vine will be less likely to fall victim to mealybug and spider mite, which are both known pests of this charming plant. It appreciates a rich, but well-draining soil and needs to be kept evenly moist, but not wet. Growing up to 15 feet (sometimes higher) in height, with a spread roughly one-third the size of its height, it thrives in full, direct sun. The blooms will appear year-round and are typically most prolific in the summer months.
Quite effortlessly propagated by cuttings rooted in water or soil, it is an appealing addition to any garden space. In Camana Bay, bleeding heart vine can be found in Gardenia Court climbing nearly as high as the buildings it uses for support.
This article was originally published in the February 2023 edition of Camana Bay Times.