In May, when my new, blue butterfly bush started to bloom, I realized it could be the focal point for a patriotic garden. It also was the season for patriotic sentiments with Memorial Day, Flag Day and the Fourth of July being celebrated in the next few weeks.

Red, white plants complement blue butterfly bush

My blue butterfly bush was already more three feet tall, and the garden area had room for a red and white border. For that, I selected white penta and red salvia plants.

Like the blue butterfly bush, the white penta is native to tropical Africa and will grow to a height of 12 to 15 inches. The red salvia is native to Brazil, and the one planted in my patriotic garden will grow 10 to 12 inches tall.

It is very important when planning a garden area for the variety of plants to have the same needs for soil, light and moisture. These plants complement the blue butterfly bush and grow well in full sun, loamy and consistently moist soil. All three of these plants attract bees and butterflies. The red salvia also appeals to hummingbirds.

Clerodendrum cultivars

Clerodendrum is a group of cultivars that are beneficial to butterflies and insects. Some common names that may be familiar are glory bower, bag flower, musical notes and bleeding hearts.

  • Native to tropical Africa/Asia

All clerodendrum are native to temperate warm regions around the world. They are most commonly found in tropical Africa and southern Asia. The blue butterfly bush is a perennial that occurs in Kenya and Uganda in East Africa.

  • Attract pollinators

All have lovely deep green leaves and delicate showers of flowers that call to pollinators.

Most varieties are frost-hardy in temperate zones and will come back with spring blooms.

Blue butterfly bush

Not surprisingly, my choice new plant for 2018 is the blue butterfly bush (Clerodendrum ugandense.) It’s my first blue flowering plant – and to quote my friend, Virginia, “I’m crazy about it.”

  • Shrub with little blue butterfly blooms

The blue butterfly bush is an open, sprawling evergreen shrub that can grow to 10 feet tall and wide. With careful pruning it can be kept much smaller.

  • Blue flowers bloom summer through fall

The flower is beautiful with four pale blue lobes and one violet blue lobe. The flowers look like little blue butterflies and bloom more or less continuously summer and fall.

  • Egg-shaped leaves resistant to bug infestations

The leaves are egg-shaped and about 3 to 4 inches long. They have a light, peppery scent that makes them resistant to bug infestations.

Growing conditions

The blue butterfly bush grows in most soils but will do best in a loamy, light soil.

  • Requires humidity, fertilizer in growing season

It should be watered thoroughly twice a week and fertilized twice a month during the growing season.

It prefers high humidity but will tolerate lower. Keep the soil evenly moist during the summer. During the winter, let the soil dry out between watering to prevent root rot and to let the plant rest.

  • Best in full sun to partial shade

It is recommended that the blue butterfly bush be grown in full sun to partial shade. Full sun helps the plant get fuller growth and more flowers. My plant receives morning sun and afternoon shade and is thriving.

  • Prefers frost-free climate

While the blue butterfly bush performs best in a frost-free climate, it is root-hardy in the Crossroads area. If left outside, it will freeze to the ground in the winter – but grow back from its roots in the spring.

If container-grown, the blue butterfly bush can be brought inside during the winter. With enough light, it will continue blooming.

  • Pruning can be anytime

This plant flowers on the current season’s growth, so it can be pruned anytime. Cut back old wood to a pair of buds to encourage flowering.

  • Easy to propagate

The blue butterfly bush is easy to propagate from stem cuttings, root divisions and air layering. It can be a favorite pass-a-long plant to share with friends.

Other clerodendrums also resonate Fourth of July

While I am delighted with my blue butterfly bush, two other clerodendrum plants that do well in this area are the bleeding heart (Clerodendrum thomsoniae) and musical notes (Clerodendrum incisum). See more about their highlights in the adjoining information with this article.

These, like the blue butterfly bush, can not only add a new look and life to your yard, but resonate patriotic ambiance for this time of year. Have a happy – and safe – upcoming Fourth of July in your garden or wherever you celebrate.

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The Gardeners’ Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901 or vcmga@vicad.com.

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