Gardeners living in frost-free areas of the United States can liven up their gardens with dwarf tibouchina (Tibouchina spp.). The short-growing plant is hardy in United States Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 11. Those living in cooler regions should treat the flowering plant as an annual. This Brazilian native is hardy and will flourish with little care.
Dwarf tibouchina is related to the Tibouchina urvilleana, which grows much larger than the dwarf. It belongs within the family Melastomataceae. The plant averages up to 6 inches in height and spreads up to 18 inches. It forms into a dense mat, with a moderately fast growth rate. Plants are evergreen, with fuzzy, oval foliage approximately 2 inches long. Its foliage is green, and it does not change colors in autumn. Small purple flowers fill the plant from summer through fall. Dwarf tibouchina flowers are not as large and showy as larger varieties of tibouchina.
The plant's trailing habit makes it suitable as a border plant or as a dense ground cover. Its growth habit makes it a colorful addition used on walls or balconies. It is also grown inside in pots or hanging baskets. Utilize the plant in taller containers where the thin branches can cascade over the sides.
Dwarf tibouchina tolerates a variety of soil types. It grows well outdoors in well-drained and slightly acidic sandy, loam or clay soils. It has a poor tolerance to salt spray, so it is not a good choice for gardeners living directly along coastal waters. Dwarf tibouchina grown in sunnier conditions produce the most colorful display of flowers. When planting multiple plants in the same area, space them approximately 18 to 24 inches apart. This allows proper circulation of air and cuts down on overcrowding. If planting it inside a container, use one with drainage that is approximately two times larger than the dwarf tibouchina’s root ball. This allows room for the plant to grow, and the roots will not be crowded inside the container. Use a well-drained potting mix.
Pest problems are usually not a concern to dwarf tibouchina plants according to University of Florida IFAS Extension. If problems do occur, use an insecticide labeled as safe for use on the tibouchina plants. Water the plants once to twice weekly to keep the soil moist. Feel the soil of potted plants regularly. If the first inch or two is dry, irrigate it with water. Trim it only to control the dwarf tibouchina’s size and shape. Use hand pruners and snip off the branches where needed. Gardeners can use a water-soluble fertilizer monthly during the growing season. Bring container-grown tibouchinas indoors to avoid frosts.
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