It seems gardeners can't ever get enough blue flowers in the landscape. And the tropical duranta plant (Duranta erecta) delivers scores of pale blue, white, or violet blossom clusters for the entire growing season. The duranta has attractive evergreen foliage, and some varieties have gold or variegated (different colored) leaves. A bonus is the appearance of ornamental berries in the fall. Planted in the spring, the duranta grows quickly in warm areas 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 sun|
|Soil Type||Rich loam; tolerates rocky soil|
|Soil pH||Acidic to slightly alkaline (5.6 to 7.5)|
|Bloom Time||Spring through frost|
|Flower Color||Blue, violet, white|
|Hardiness Zones||10, 11|
|Native Area||Central and South America|
How to Grow the Duranta Plant
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. Many gardeners have success bringing their containers indoors to continue growing their duranta as a winter houseplant. Plus, 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.
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. In their growing zones, duranta plants can tolerate lean soil, as long as they have good drainage.
Duranta plants require 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
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. Furthermore, 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.
Potting and Repotting
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 duranta 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.
Propagating the Duranta Plant
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 leaf cuttings, stem cuttings, and softwood cuttings. Take your cutting in the spring when growth hormones are active. Insert cuttings in moist perlite or sterile potting mix. Keep the cutting moist by covering it with a clear container or cloche.
Toxicity of the Duranta Plant
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 should remove developing fruits if children or pets are at risk of eating them.
Symptoms of Poisoning
Some symptoms of duranta toxicity in people and animals include nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, diarrhea, fatigue, fever, and seizures. You also might experience oral irritation and rashes or other allergic reactions on the body. Contact a medical professional immediately if you suspect poisoning.
It's important to prune the duranta to keep it in bounds, especially in areas where it is winter hardy. Without pruning, duranta 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.
Growing Duranta Plants in Containers
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.
Growing From Seeds
You can collect seeds from ripe duranta berries in the fall to grow new plants. Press the seeds lightly into sterile potting mix, and keep them moist. Germination takes about 30 to 60 days at 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Varieties of Duranta Plants
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.
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. Unlike duranta plants, which do not tolerate frost, garden phlox grow in zones 4 to 8. 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 their duranta plants.