Plant Common Name
Shooting Star, Starburst Clerodendrum
This is one of the tropic's most beautiful flowering shrubs. Large, dark-green and burgundy leaves are the backdrop for firework-resembling, pink and white flower clusters in late winter and early spring. A large, frost-tender shrub from the Philippines, shooting star is typically evergreen but will lose foliage if the dry season is exceptionally cool or dry. The leaves can grow quite long, being oval to oblong in shape, a dull, dark green above with a glossy, purple to burgundy underside.
Depending on the individual plant, the flower clusters appear as early as midwinter or as tardy as late spring, always lasting for a couple of weeks. Clusters of white buds show first on the purplish young branch tips. The buds continue to elongate, and reveal a bouquet of deep coral-pink tubes that open into five, recurving, light pink or white petals. The massive flower heads can weigh down the branches and are visited by both hummingbirds and long-tongued butterflies.
Grow shooting star in a fertile, well-drained acidic or neutral soil that is moist in the heat of summer but slightly drier in the winter. Sandy and alkaline soils must be amended with organic matter to prevent leafs scald or scraggly plants. Full sun guarantees the best flowering display, but a partial sun exposure is okay. After flowering, the shrub can be pruned back harshly and allowed to regrow over the summer to maintain a rounded, thickly-leaved plant. Otherwise, it will form a tall tree in frost-free gardens that may need staking to keep it from toppling in windstorms. Also, take time to pull up suckering plants that pop up around the parent plant. Although not overly invasive, these little sprouts soon have a taproot. If they grow too large, they can create a nuisance later on.
Grow shooting star as a specimen shrub near the house foundation or as an anchoring plant for the rear of the mixed border. It can be pinched back to create a lush, large container specimen. Magnificently stunning when in flower, it belongs in the tropical border to enliven the late winter months. Cultivar 'Brandonii' is particularly beautiful year-round with its variegated light yellow, cream, burgundy and dark green foliage.