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Duranta: A Golden Garden-Dweller

Duranta: A Golden Garden-Dweller

Duranta is one of the most rewarding shrubs not only in South Africa, but around the world. It is a versatile genus of some 30 species in the Verbenaceae family. This includes a number of tree and shrub species that originated in the tropical Americas.

D. erecta is a vine-like, evergreen shrub, widely cultivated as an ornamental, grown for their beautiful foliage and drooping clusters of violet, light blue, white or mauve flowers that bloom all summer (or year round in tropical and subtropical regions). Once flowering is over, you’ll be rewarded with clusters of orangey-yellow berries, and sometimes they’ll appear while still in flower, doubling the impact.

Many varieties these days sport variegated or colourful foliage and as they have fairly dense foliage, are perfect to grow as a quick-growing hedge or for topiaries and standards. However you use it though, you will need to do a spot of regular trimming to keep it in shape. 

One of South Africa’s favourites is ‘Sheena’s Gold’, initially thought to be a low-growing shrub, but if planted in the right conditions, it can get up to 4m in height. It’s also very rewarding, as it does grow so quickly and can handle a range of garden situations, except for those that are very dry. To get the rich golden foliage to shimmer and shine, a full sun position is optimal, but they can be planted out in semi-shade, although the foliage may not get quite as bright, with the leaves remaining more green than gold. Some frost cover will be needed come winter in cooler regions as the plant only copes with light frosts. When it’s cold, the foliage can turn purple, even black, and then drop – but that’s nothing to worry about. They’ll bounce back with some love and attention. Warm frost-free gardens, including those at the coast, are their happy place, and they’re equally content in large containers and in the garden itself.

 

Another firm favourite is ‘Gold Mine’, a dense, compact variety with leaves that are larger than those of other species – although this one doesn’t bear flowers that are worth mentioning. It’s the foliage that gets people going – a bright green with yellow edging which gets deeper gold in full sun. This variety will also get to around 3m in height, 2m wide in around three to four years.

 

If you’re after one with really showy flowers ‘Sapphire Showers’ is the cultivar to go for, with striking deep bluish-violet blooms with white edges. This variety also develops a ‘weeping’ habit when mature. Do prune it judiciously, as it can get to over 7m tall, but will be happy to be kept at around 2m in height.

To keep them in tip top condition, give them a monthly application from spring to autumn, with a balanced, organic fertiliser. They’ll need to be watered carefully in winter-rainfall areas to ensure they don’t dry out and drop their leaves during summer. Plant in a warm, sheltered spot and mulch them well throughout the year.

Duranta repens ‘Variegata’ can be used as a beautiful windbreak or hedge. It also stands out as an accent or contrast in a mixed border. In this position its foliage, striking blue flowers and golden–yellow berries complement other plants such as Delphiniums, agapanthus, or ageratum.


If you don’t have a Duranta in your space or are considering using plants for privacy, perhaps it's time you considered planting it. It is a golden garden-dweller offering year round beauty to marvel at.

Please bear in mind that the unripened berries and the leaves of all species are toxic, so best not to let the plants set seed if you have small children or pets. 
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