Plant of the Month – October, 2007
Barleria cristata: Philippine violet
This is an uncommon perennial, but one well-worth the search. I first came across this interesting plant about 10 years ago while working at a wholesale perennial nursery. One of my customers brought me a small cutting of this and said it was a gorgeous fall-flowering perennial. She wasn’t exaggerating!
Philippine violet gets to about 3 to 4 feet tall, and starting in mid-October, covers itself in light lavender flowers. The flowers closely resemble one of its relatives, ruellia, but unlike ruellia, it is mannerly and does not spread by runners or seed. Philippine violet has wonderful dark-green foliage that is very attractive even when out of flower. Plants grow well in full sun or light afternoon shade. Since it is a native to the tropics, it can live easily in standing water, also. Plants are adaptable to alkaline/clay or acidic/sandy soils. I have had many reports of hardiness in Zone 7, but if we have a severe winter, you may lose this plant. If you purchase one this fall, buy 1-gallon or larger plants. Small, 4-inch plants will not have enough root mass to survive winter.
Check local nurseries for this plant now. Since it is in full flower, you should be able to locate it. Philippine violet is also available via mail-order from many companies – just type the botanical name into Google.
I have Barleria cristata planted along the back edge of the Jonsson Color Garden at the Dallas Arboretum. We are located at 8525 Garland Road, overlooking White Rock Lake. For more information, visit www.dallasarboretum.org.
About the author: Jimmy Turner is the Director of Horticulture Research at the Dallas Arboretum. For more plant profiles by Jimmy, subscribe to Neil Sperry’s GARDENS Magazine.