Monday, 15 January 2024, 15:28
La Concepción historical botanical garden in Malaga has chosen Cestrum x cultum as its plant of the month for January as it is in flower at the moment. It is a hybrid cross between Cestrum elegans and Cestrum parqui and has pinkish or purplish flowers.
The genus Cestrum has around 170 species of shrubs native to Mexico. The most common species is Cestrum nocturnum, more familiar to most as dama de noche or lady of the night (the perfume of the flowers is strongest from dusk onwards).
Although Cestrum x cultum is unscented, it is a stunning plant with arching branches weighed down by racemes of tubular flowers at the ends of the stems.
One of its parents, Cestrum elegans, is lightly scented and has dark-red blooms. It will grow up to around three metres tall and is a good plant for informal hedging, cottage garden style plantings, patios and as a specimen plant in a large container.
It is not frost-hardy and will need some protection in the winter if the temperatures drop below freezing. Once established it will withstand some drought although watering at least twice a week in the summer will keep it healthier.
C. elegans needs free-draining soil, it will rot if left sitting in water. A liquid feed in autumn and spring is recommended and in mild climates it may flower all year.
Cestrum elegans can be grown in coastal gardens as it will tolerate some salt winds. However, it does need a little shade on hot summer afternoons to prevent scorching.
Propagation is by seeds or cuttings but if the parent plant is a hybrid, seeds are unlikely to come true; cuttings taken in spring or summer are a better way to produce identical plants. Wear gloves when handling this plant as the sap is an irritant and all parts of it are poisonous if consumed.
It can be pruned to maintain a compact shape if used for hedging etc but otherwise is best left to develop the elegant arching stems that are a characteristic of this plant.
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