WORDS & PHOTOS: Duranta repens

‘Sky Flower’ is one of those plants that I’ve never bothered to grow because it was, supposedly, forbidden to me. It was one of those tropical plants they can grow down on the coast but we couldn’t. It was just too cold here, but this global warming thing has its advantages. I’ve begun to consider new plants as possibilities.

‘Sky Flower’ (Duranta repens), native to South America, has long been used in zone 10, south of Lufkin. It is fast growing evergreen shrub or small tree. Although there are cultivars that are decidedly smaller, most grow from ten to twenty-five feet and eight feet wide, forming multi-trunked clumps with stems that are sometimes armed with sharp spines.

There are named cultivars that have variegated foliage. Some are streaked with gold, others with white. Duranta’s flowers are blue and showy, followed by brightly yellow fruit.  There are white flower versions and cultivars that are called ‘grandi flora’ that exhibit slightly larger blooms. The blooms appear on new growth during the summer months; so, along the coastal south, early spring pruning does not hinder the elegant blue flowers that appear in late spring and summer.

Duranta is perfect for herbaceous and shrubby, perennial gardens. Here in Nacogdoches we must be prepared for an occasional freeze that will kill the plant right to the ground, but it will often come back from the roots. Or Duranta makes a beautiful plant for large pots, but the pots must be brought in for the winter and protected from hard freezes. Think of it this way, we should be able to grow Duranta as a tropical annual the way we now grow tropical hibiscus in pots. Duranta is surely showy enough to be grown as an accent plant on patios and at doorways.

This last summer I grew Duranta in the ground in my garden, and later this last winter one of the freezes killed it back to its roots. But it has reappeared and I am looking forward to its bloom this summer. So, look for Duranta at your local nursery. I know for sure that Naconiche Gardens had it last year, and King’s Nursery carried several versions last year, even a variegated one.

As it seems that our climate is warming (I will leave the causes of this to the experts- the politicians), we gardeners can begin to experiment with plants we formerly could not grow. So, behind the dark cloud of global warming is the bright and beautiful bloom of ‘Skyflower’.

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