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Bartlettina sordida.
Bartlettina sordida. / SUR

The mist flower

  • Bartlettina sordida is a warm climate shrub with large tropical-looking leaves and fragrant panicles of mauve flowers in spring

Fast growing, the mist flower is an evergreen perennial shrub reaching up to three metres high by about the same width in just a couple of years. This plant is known by two genus names; the most recent is Bartlettina sordida although it was previously called Eupatorium megalophyllum. Besides the common name 'mist flower' it is also sometimes known as 'Purple Torch'. It is native to Mexico and a member of the Asteraceae family.

It loves shade; hot sunshine will burn the large velvety leaves, and the deeper the shade, the more intense the colour of the flowers becomes. It must be kept moist as it will not tolerate drought. It can be grown in a container or in a flower bed but the soil should have plenty of organic material mixed in and be free draining.

Close up of flower.

Close up of flower. / SUR

The fluffy pinkish-mauve flower heads up to 30cm across and open in the spring releasing a sweet perfume which is said to resemble lilac or honey. The blooms which resemble a large blue ageratum, attract lots of butterflies and other pollinating insects. The mist flower has reddish branches which should be cut back hard to promote new growth after flowering is over. During the winter it is best to protect the plant in really cold weather as it is not frost hardy. Wrapping in fleece and adding a thick layer of organic mulch will help. Although it is a low maintenance plant, it will benefit from a top dressing of slow release fertiliser during the spring and summer, and regular watering.

Propagation is by cuttings or by layering the lower stems.

Bartlettina sordida is named after Harley Harris Bartlett (1886-1960), a botanist from Michigan USA. 'Sordida' is Latin for 'neglected' or 'dirty looking' although what it refers to is not clear.