It seems that gardeners can never get enough blue flowers in the landscape, and the tropical duranta plant delivers scores of pale blue or violet blossom clusters all growing season long. The duranta has attractive evergreen foliage, and some varieties have gold or variegated leaves. A bonus is the appearance of ornamental berries in the fall. In warm areas, the duranta grows quickly into a large shrub or small tree over the course of a few seasons.
- Botanical Name: Duranta erecta
- Common Name: Duranta, sky flower, golden dewdrop, pigeon berry
- Plant Type: Tropical shrub
- Mature Size: 18 feet
- Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
- Soil Type: Rich loam is best, but tolerates rocky soil
- Soil pH: Acidic to slightly alkaline (5.6-7.5)
- Bloom Time: Spring through frost
- Flower Color: Blue, violet, white
- Hardiness Zones: USDA growing zones 10, 11
- Native Area: Mexico, Central and South America
Caring for Duranta Plants
Duranta plants are easy to grow in warm weather and full sun. They will quickly fill up a blank spot in the garden, and can also serve as a privacy screen in areas where they are winter hardy. In the container garden, you can grow the duranta as a long blooming annual for the patio, or even prune the plant into a topiary tree form.
Duranta plants need full light to get the energy they need to make blooms and berries. Plants growing in too much shade get lanky and sparse.
When growing duranta plants as annuals, provide rich, loamy soil to help plants reach their potential in one growing season. In an outdoor setting, duranta plants can grow in lean soil, as long as they have good drainage.
Duranta plants need a moderate amount of water. Plants growing outdoors need the equivalent of about an inch of rain per week. When growing in containers, water your duranta when the top of the soil feels dry.
Temperature and Humidity
Duranta plants like it hot, and even triple digit temperatures won't slow it down. If you are growing the plant in a container, bring it indoors when temperatures dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Duranta plants do well in both dry and humid situations. They also tolerate the salty air of beach climates.
Duranta plants are not heavy feeders, and can get by without any supplemental fertilizer in good soils. In lean or rocky soils, you can use an all-purpose general fertilizer once a month during the growing season.
Potting and Repotting
Pot up your duranta plant using any bagged potting soil mix. Take great care when repotting the duranta, as larger specimens will grow sharp spines that reach an inch long and pierce garden gloves and skin with ease. Younger plants have few or no spines.
Propagating is not only a cheap way to increase your duranta plant population, it's also a way to overwinter plants when the original specimen is too large to bring indoors. Duranta plants root easily from leaf cuttings, stem cuttings, and softwood cuttings. Take your cutting from plants in the spring, when growth hormones are active. Insert cuttings in moist perlite or sterile potting mix. Keep the cutting moist by covering with a clear container or cloche.
Varieties of Duranta
Violet blossomed duranta varieties like 'Sapphire Showers' remain the most popular in cultivation. A white cultivar 'Alba' also exists. If you see duanta plants with gold foliage like 'Variegata' or 'Gold Edge,' be aware that they may not produce as many flowers as the standard foliage plants.
Toxicity of Duranta
Although the pretty yellow berries of duranta look like a tempting summer treat, they are poisonous to people and pets. Some birds do use the berries as a food source, but you can remove developing fruits if children are present.
It's important to prune the duranta to keep it in bounds, especially in areas where it is winter hardy. Without pruning, plants grow out of bounds and take over paths, neighboring plants, or even structures. Because duranta plants form flowers on new growth, you can cut the plant back severely in winter in preparation for the burst of growth that occurs in spring.
Being Grown in Containers
Duranta plants adapt quite easily to container culture, and in fact may be tidier specimens when given the boundaries of a pot. Choose a large, 16-inch pot for this rapid growing plant. Any bagged potting mix will suit the growing needs of the duranta plant.
Growing From Seeds
You can collect seeds from ripe duranta berries in the fall. Press seeds lightly into sterile potting mix, and keep moist. Germination takes about 30-60 days at 70 degrees F.
Duranta plants growing outdoors don't experience any common pest or disease problems. White flies may be a problem on indoor plants.
Duranta vs Phlox
Some purple Phlox paniculata varieties have similar-looking flower clusters to the duranta plant. In fact, gardeners in northern growing zones who experience cool summers can try growing phlox as an alternative to duranta plants, which need warm temperatures to thrive. Unlike duranta plants, which do not tolerate frost, garden phlox grow in zones 4-8. Garden phlox bloom in the summer, reaching a mature height of about three to four feet. 'Laura' and 'Blue Paradise' are two varieties that deliver the same blue and lilac tones gardeners appreciate in their duranta plants.