Tibouchina Urvilleana: Growing The Princess Flower, Glory Bush

Flower close Tibouchina urvilleana

Tibouchina urvilleana, I remember when I first encountered the purple Princess flower. It was over 35 years ago, in West Palm Beach, Florida, when I met my wife’s grandmother for the first time.

She was visiting friends and they had a Tibouchina plant growing in the back yard.

The felty leaves and deep purple flowers pulled me toward it like a bee to honey.

This Brazilian and Guiana native, also called the glory bush, princess flower or spider flower is a popular landscape plant in some areas of the world. In others, it is grown as a small shrub, as a houseplant or in a sunroom with lots of light.

Personally, I prefer a Tibouchina tree grown as a container plant for a patio or deck over one grown as a bushy shrub.

It could be because I am somewhat of a pruning nut and like to prune things into shape. The Tibouchina is somewhat of a gangly plant, which itches my pruning desires.

The leaves are unique, with pleats in its thick, velvety leaves ending in a point. The leaves are wonderful to touch, reminding me of Calathea warscewiczii.

There are many reasons to grow Tibouchina, the leaves for one are wonderful, but its the deep, vibrant, rich purple flowers that attract people to grow it.

Urvilleana and Organensis – The Miniature

Tibouchina urvilleana is sometimes sold as Tibouchina grandiflora but they are two different plants. Tibouchina grandiflora actually has much larger leaves almost 10 inches long.

But Tibouchina Urvilleana is a larger species than Tibouchina Organensis which looks exactly like urvilleana but in miniature form.

The leaves of Urvilleana when young are about 6 inches long and Organensis about three. Flowers demonstrate similar proportions. A four inch flower compared to a two inch flower.

Which plant is best comes down the the effect you want to create. I like the urvilleana because of our history!

Useful In The Landscape

Tibouchina belongs to the Melastomataceae family, are considered easy to grow and can be grown outdoors year round in USDA Zones 9 – 11.

The plant likes a rich soil that drains well, stays moist and the plant needs to be protected when temperatures fall below 45 degrees.

Tibouchina urvilleana growing in pot

It can be grown as a border plant, or as a potted tree. If left alone, Tibouchina can reach 10 – 20 feet in height with a 6 – 10 foot spread.

The colors of its leaves and flowers work well in sensory, tropical, and sub-tropical gardens.

With or without the flowers, this ornamental plant still looks beautiful outdoors. In cooler regions, it is actually grown as an indoors container plant in bright areas like sunrooms.

Easy Growers

All of the 350 species of the Tibouchina plant are easy growers, with very basic requirements – full sun and a good rich, fertile soil that drains well.

Excellent as container specimens, they want the same good very draining soil and hot sun. Pruning and pinching will keep the somewhat open and gangly growth in a more compact shape.

When actively growing, they respond very well to regular liquid feed.

Over Wintering Tibouchina

As mentioned above the Tibouchina is hardy in USDA Zone 10, basically southern Florida and Hawaii.

However, being an excellent potted plant candidate, means it can enjoy summers out on the patio up north and overwinter indoors.

To maintain your potted plant during the winter months, prune the plant enough for it to fit the available window space.

If the plants are grown in the ground they should be root pruned and the top pruned back. Then pot in a rich, well draining soil and move the plant indoors, in as much light as possible for maintenance.

Through the winter months do not fertilize, until the warm spring weather arrives and growth begins. Water sparingly only when the surface of the soil is dry.

While indoors try to keep the plant in as bright an area as possible with temperatures between 55-70 degrees. If you’re lucky… you may even get a flower while indoors. What a treat that is!

Growing Questions

Question: Will purple “bouchina” or Mexican Princess grow in New Orleans? – WF, New Orleans, LA.

Answer: I expect the plant you are asking about is Tibouchina semidecandra. It has large purple flowers and can stand a few degrees of frost. Train against a wall. It is sometimes grown as a tub specimen for summer bloom and put inside in a cool, well-lighted place for the winter.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Nina July 8, 2010 at 8:09 am

Hi I have a tibochina in a pot outside on our deck. It gets full sun most of the day.
The leaves look like they are dying. They are brown in some spots. Also some leaves are falling off. I’m afraid I have killed this beautiful plant. 🙁

What am I doing wrong? I do give it plenty of water. I even bought a ‘Moisture Meter”
A gage to tell me when to water. Can you please help me?

Thank you,