Uncommon shrub has striking bloom
Description: A sprawling shrub with dark green, oval leaves with pointed apex. New leaves tend to cluster toward the top of the stems, spacing out as the plant grows. New branches, as well as veins on the leaves, are pinkish-red; as the branch becomes older it will turn woody. The flowers are most striking. They hang facing down on stems that extend past the leaves. Each flower is about 3/4-inch in diameter and is light maroon with dark maroon veins on each petal. I've seen individual branches with more than 20 flowers, and they look awesome!
Although this is a general description of the plant, don't be surprised if you see something different when hiking. They are highly variable, except for the flowers.
Distribution: This plant is not common, but is usually found in open areas of mesic to wet forests on the islands of Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai and Maui.
Cultural use: The longevity and unmatched beauty of the flowers make this an ideal plant for lei making.
Landscape use and care: If you are fortunate enough to find one of these plants, they look great just about anywhere. I suggest planting them in front of a dark backdrop such as a rock wall, green ti hedge or hapu'u ferns so that the flowers really stand out when blooming.
These plants prefer full sun to partial shade, with daily watering in well-drained soil. Few pests bother them, although I have seen scale and aphids on them from time to time. These bugs can be controlled either by applying a systemic pesticide such as Orthene or the more technical way of smooshing them with your fingers. Ants often bring scales and aphids to the plants to harvest a sugary substance that is consumed for food, so once you smoosh the bugs, look around for the ants and get rid of them, or they will just bring more scales and aphids and turn you into a bug-smooshing machine.
co-owns Hui Ku Maoli Ola, a native Hawaiian plant nursery, with Matt Schirman. Contact him at 259-6580 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org