Duranta plant, also widely known as golden dewdrops, is a tropical broadleaf evergreen that is often grown as an annual outdoor shrub or potted houseplant outside its zone 10—11 hardiness range. A member of the verbena family, duranta plant typically grows 2 to 4 feet tall in regions where it dies back in the winter, but it can achieve heights of 15 feet or more in warm-winter environments. Duranta plant has attractive evergreen foliage with rounded or oval leaves about 2 inches long; some varieties have gold or variegated leaves. It delivers scores of pale blue, white, or violet blossom clusters for the entire growing season. A bonus is the appearance of drooping clusters of yellow or orange berries in the fall.
Normally planted in the spring, a duranta plant quickly becomes a small flowering shrub in its first season, and in warm climates, it can grow to a small tree size within a few years.
Although this plant is not included on many toxic plant lists, several academic sources confirm that the berries and leaves are seriously toxic to humans and to pets. Birds, however, eagerly eat the berries with no ill effects.
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|Botanical Name||Duranta erecta|
|Common Name||Duranta plant, duranta, golden dewdrops, sky flower, pigeon berry|
|Plant Type||Tropical broadleaf evergreen shrub|
|Mature Size||2-4 ft. tall, 1-2 feed wide (when grown as an annual); up to 18 feet tall as a perennial in warm-winter zones.|
|Soil Type||Rich loam; 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||10—11 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Central and South America|
|Toxicity||Leaves and berries are toxic to humans and pets|
Duranta plant prefers a full sun location and moist but well-drained soil, but it will tolerate some shade, albeit with reduced flowering and a lankier growth habit. In cold-winter zones, it is very easy to grow as an annual, since the plant will die back to the ground each winter. In warm-winter zones where it grows as a perennial, some additional care is needed—especially some annual pruning to keep the plant tidy and well-shaped.
Duranta plant often thrives with no feeding whatsoever, and its water needs are similar to most other landscape plants. It thrives in warm weather; in cold winter zones, it must be brought indoors to survive the cold months.
Carefully consider placement of duranta. This fast-growing plant with a semi-weeping habit can quickly take over a garden path or walkway. Plus, some varieties have small thorns, causing an surprise. Also, duranta can be invasive in tropical areas. Check with your local extension agent before planting.
Duranta plants need full sun to get the energy they need to make blooms and berries. Plants growing in too much shade often get lanky and sparse.
When growing duranta plants as annuals, provide rich, loamy soil to help the plants reach their potential in one growing season. Within their hardiness zone (10—11), duranta plants can tolerate lean soil, as long as they have good drainage.
Duranta plants require a moderate amount of water, especially before they become established. Plants growing outdoors need the equivalent of about an inch of rain per week. When growing in containers, water your duranta when the top inch of the soil feels dry.
Temperature and Humidity
The duranta likes 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 conditions. They also tolerate the salty air of beach climates.
Duranta plants are not heavy feeders and can get by without any supplemental fertilizer in rich soil. In lean or rocky soils, you can use an all-purpose general fertilizer once a month during the growing season.
Types of Duranta
There are several varieties of duranta that feature different color combinations. They include:
- 'Alba': This plant forms clusters of white flowers.
- 'Golden Edge': This variety sports bright gold and green foliage.
- 'Sapphire Showers': This variety features vivid violet blooms with white edges.
In regions where it is winter hardy, it's important to prune the duranta plant to keep it in bounds, Without pruning, a duranta plant can take over paths and structures, as well as choke out neighboring plants. Because duranta plants form flowers on new growth, you can cut them back severely in the winter in preparation for the burst of growth that occurs in the spring.
Propagating is not only a cheap way to increase your duranta plant population, but it's also a way to overwinter plants when the original specimen is too large to bring indoors. Duranta plants root easily from softwood stem cuttings.
- Take a 6-inch cutting of a woody stem in the summer.
- Dip the end of the cutting in rooting compound.
- Plant the cutting in a pot filled with well-drained potting mix and keep moist until the roots establish and new green growth starts.
- When well-rooted and actively growing, plant the sapling in the desired garden location, or in a large pot for growing indoors.
How to Grow Duranta From Seed
Because many duranta plants are hybrids, propagating from seed isn't recommended, as the plant may not come true to the parent. However, if you're not concerned about an exact match, you can collect seeds from ripe duranta berries in the fall to grow new plants. Remove the fleshy berry pulp to extract the seed. Press the seeds lightly into sterile potting mix, and keep them moist. Germination takes about 30 to 60 days at 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Potting and Repotting Duranta
Duranta plants adapt quite easily to container culture and, in fact, can be tidier specimens when given the boundaries of a pot. Choose a large, 16-inch pot for this rapidly growing plant, and make sure the pot has good drainage.
Pot your duranta plant using any quality bagged potting soil mix. If your plant is failing to thrive and you notice a plethora of roots coming out of the soil, the plant likely needs to go up a pot size. Take great care when repotting the duranta, as larger specimens will grow sharp spines that can reach an inch long and pierce garden gloves and skin with ease. Younger plants have few or no spines.
Potted duranta plants should be brought indoors before outdoor temps dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Grow them in a sunny window or provide plenty of artificial light. Pruning may be required to reduce the size of potted plants before you bring them indoors.
Garden plants in cold-winter zones are usually grown as annuals, and pulled up and discarded at the end of the growing season. For indoor plants or warm-winter outdoor perennials, cut back to a single feeding during the winter months to allow the plants to go semi-dormant through the winter.
How to Get Duranta to Bloom
Bloom problems are rare with duranta plants, but if problems do occur, make sure the plant is getting enough sun and water, and make sure it's getting a monthly feeding with a slow-release balanced fertilizer.
Common Problems With Duranta
Duranta plants are quite easy to grow, but a handful of problems can arise, often concurrently with moving potted plants indoors from the deck or patio.
It's common for duranta plants to drop its "outdoor leaves" when a potted plant is first brought indoors for the winter season. This is no cause for worry, as new "indoor leaves" will soon begin sprouting.
White Fly Infestation
A duranta plant that suffers a white fly infestation will become weak and show a sticky residue on the leaves; the tiny white insects are easily recognized. Spraying with a simple mixture of household dish soap and water often is a successful treatment; horticultural soaps and oils will also work.
What plants are similar to duranta?
Some purple Phlox paniculata varieties have similar-looking flower clusters to the duranta plant. In fact, gardeners in northern growing zones can try growing phlox as an alternative to duranta plant. Garden phlox bloom in the summer, reaching a mature height of about 3 to 4 feet. 'Laura' and 'Blue Paradise' are two varieties that deliver the same blue and lilac tones gardeners appreciate in duranta plants. Unlike duranta, which doesn't tolerate frost, garden phlox readily survives in zones 4 to 8.
How is duranta plant used in the landscape?
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 serve as a privacy screen in areas where they are winter hardy.
In a 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. If you live outside the plant's hardiness zones, you can still grow it in the ground as an annual. Plant it in the spring after the last frost has passed, and enjoy its blooms until cold weather returns in the fall. Many gardeners have success bringing containers indoors to continue growing their duranta plant as a winter houseplant.
Are there thornless varieties of duranta?
If the thorny stems found on most duranta plants are a problem, try 'Sweet Memories', which has purple flowers edged with white.