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Growing the tropical bleeding heart

One of the small flowering vine suited for beginners and ideal as a houseplant is the two colored white and red Bleeding Heart.  The Tropical Bleeding Heart vine, or scientifically known as Clerodendrum thomsoniae is a species of flowering plant in the genus Clerodendrum of the family Verbenaceae, a native to tropical west Africa from Cameroon west to Senegal.  It is an evergreen liana or forest vine growing to  about 4 meters tall, with ovate to oblong leaves  at about 8–17 centimeters long. The flowers are produced in cymes of 8-20 blooms altogether, with each flower having a pure white to pale purple five-lobed calyx  about 2.5 cm in diameter, and a red five-lobed corolla 2 cm long and in diameter.  This attractive  white and red floral color is one of the main feature of this beautiful plant.

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This plant, commonly called the bleeding glory-bower or glory-bower, is so easy to grow that in  regions it has escaped from cultivation and became naturalized in its new habitat.  The plant is easy to maintain and non-invasive. It was named at the request of Rev. William Cooper Thomson, a missionary and physician in Nigeria in the 1870’s, in honor of his late first wife.

The Bleeding Heart is grown as an ornamental plant for its decorative two-colored flowers. It thrives in areas with temperatures from 10 – 30 °C . For temperate areas, it requires shelter from frost.  Due to its beauty, this plant has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

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Cultural requirements

Light.  The Bleeding Heart Vine loves full sun and needs this condition in order to bloom profusely.  The plant needs to be trimmed regularly, especially the dried flowers, leaves and branches, for new flower spikes to come out.  Pruning will also make the plant neat and compact.

Watering.  The plant needs to be watered regularly, usually everyday or every other day.  Do not let the soil dry up as the plants will easily wilt when the soil becomes too dry.

Special Requirement.  Since this plant is a woody twining vine, it needs a wire support or a small trellis for it to climb, and spread its branches in order to produce numerous flowers.  For maintenance, the plant needs to be trimmed regularly to obtain its desired size, and to prevent it from growing wild.

Soil.  Bleeding heart vines thrive on fertile, well drained soil.  Use a potting mixture equal proportion of loamy garden soil, river sand and leaf compost. Use a 6-8 inches diameter pot for this.  Sow about 3 -5  seeds directly on the pot or rooted stem cuttings (usually in 2 weeks), water regularly and select a sunny area for the plant.  Seeds germinate in about more than a week’s time.  Repot and change the soil once in every 2 years.  For best results, apply an inch of  mulch of decomposed leaf litter for added nutrients.

Fertilization.  Apply a teaspoon of complete fertilizer like 14-14-14 or a controlled release fertilizer once the plant is already growing vigorously.  Apply fertilizer once every 3 months.

Propagation.  The Bleeding Heart is easy to propagate. The plant can be reproduced through stem cuttings or by seeds.  Pollinated flowers produce black fruits which contain black seeds.

Pest and Disease Control.  Bleeding hearts are  relatively pest-resistant, however it is susceptible to damage by mealybugs and spider mites.  Insecticidal soap spray is generally sufficient to keep the pests in check. Reapply the spray every seven to 10 days, or until the insects are eliminated.

This plant is easy and not very challenging to grow. For a beginner, it will reward its grower with a regular spray of flowers.  It is also ideal for places like a condominium or a small apartment.