By Jennifer Poindexter
The Panama rose (Rondeletia leucophylla) is a scented bush with beautiful flowers that create an even stronger scent during the evening hours. It’s also sometimes called bush penta because of its penta-like clusters of flowers. It’s not actually a rose, or a penta. It’s related to coffee plants, and native to Panama and parts of Mexico. It attracts butterflies, hummingbirds and bees and works well in a butterfly garden.
This plant is known for being a sprawling evergreen shrub with long, pointed lance-shaped leaves that remains evergreen in the right planting zones. It’s a unique plant due to its blooming schedule as well and is a great flowering shrub to consider for your yard.
If I’ve piqued your interest in growing this plant, come along with me as I walk you through what you should know to provide adequate care to a Panama rose bush.
Here’s what you should know when growing this plant around your home or garden:
Growing Conditions for the Panama Rose
The Panama rose has two different sets of growing conditions depending upon the method you choose to grow this plant.
You should only grow the Panama rose outdoors if you live in USDA planting zones nine through eleven. These are the only zones this plant remains hardy in as it won’t tolerate freezing temperatures.
If growing the plant outdoors, select a growing location with morning sunlight and afternoon part-shade to protect it from harsh rays during warmer days. Ideal spots could be near a fence, where it can receive some shade, or a sunny spot with some filtered light.
You may also grow this plant indoors if you live in other planting zones. Feel free to move the plant outdoors during the warmer times of the year selecting a growing location per the specifications stated above.
However, when the plant is indoors, select a warm room that receives full sunlight. Full sun means six or more hours of direct, bright lighting.
If you don’t have a growing location which receives this much sunlight, you’ll need growing lights to fulfill this need.
Whether the plant is growing indoors or outdoors, it’s important to provide rich, well-draining soil. Be sure to amend the soil prior to planting. It’s also essential to test the soil’s pH level, as Panama rose prefers a slightly acidic to neutral pH range of 6.0 to 7.0.
The butterfly plant can become as tall as five feet with an equal width. If growing it in a container, be sure to select an option which can support a plant of this size. A patio can be an excellent spot for growing Panama rose in a container, allowing it to be easily moved and enjoyed.
As you grow the Panama rose, expect to see rich, dark-green foliage with clusters of dark pink blooms. What sets this plant apart is it tends to bloom over the winter, so expect a display of color from December until the early summer months.
You now have a general understanding of what the Panama rose needs in a growing location. Ensure you can meet these needs before growing this plant to encourage a positive experience.
How to Plant the Panama Rose
There are two common ways to plant Panama roses. The first option is to purchase a plant from a local nursery and transplant it around your home.
This is the easiest method but the least cost effective. When transplanting a Panama rose, ensure you find the ideal growing location and dig a hole.
The hole should be large enough to support the root system of the plant. Drop the plant gently into the hole and backfill it.
Water the plant to ensure it has what is needed to help the roots become established in a new location. If you’re growing multiple plants, leave three feet of space between each.
The other method to planting Panama roses is from cuttings. To do this, remove a soft portion of a stem of an established plant.
Then plant the cutting in a container filled with well-draining and nutritious soil. Keep the soil consistently damp and ensure the pot is in a location with bright, indirect light.
In approximately one month the cutting should form roots. Once the plant is established and there’s no risk of freezing, transplant it into a new growing location.
You may also repot the plant and move it to its permanent indoor growing location if you live outside of the hardiness zones.
These are a couple of ways you can grow Panama rose bushes around your home. Pick the method which works best for your skill level and add these beautiful plants to your home or landscape.
Caring for the Panama Rose
The Panama rose bush requires only a few basic things to thrive in your care. The first item on your to-do list for this plant is to water it correctly.
Watering this plant deeply is your best bet as this encourages it to develop a deep root system while also avoiding overwatering.
When watering the plant, do so for longer periods of time but for fewer days of the week. This will allow the water to reach the roots at the time of watering.
However, it also saturates the ground around the plant. As the days progress and the plant needs more water, it’ll dig its roots deeper into the soil to retrieve it. This could make for a healthier plant in the long run.
Also, you shouldn’t water the plant again until you test the soil. Insert your finger into the soil. When it’s dry to your second knuckle, apply water deeply around the plant again.
The next thing you should do is fertilize the Panama rose. It needs an all-purpose fertilizer applied three times per year: early spring, early summer, and early fall. This should provide all the nutrients the plant needs throughout the year.
Next, prune the plant as needed. In the later winter months, for outdoor plants, remove any foliage that’s damaged from the cold.
After the plant has ceased blooming, you may shape it up. Be mindful not to prune after late summer as the plant is developing buds to bloom over the winter.
Finally, if you’re growing a Panama rose bush indoors, be sure to provide humidity. You may do this by growing the plant in a naturally humid room of your home such as a bathroom, laundry room, or near the stove in your kitchen.
There are other ways to add humidity around the plant as well. You may spritz the plant with a bottle of water each day.
You can also place a tray beneath the container where the plant grows. Fill the tray with pebbles and enough water to cover the pebbles without saturating the growing container. This moisture should keep the humidity levels up around your plant.
Finally, it’s important to provide the Panama rose with the proper nutrients to thrive. Applying a granular fertilizer according to the manufacturer’s instructions will ensure your plant receives the nutrients it needs throughout the growing season. Remember to fertilize three times per year: early spring, early summer, and early fall.
These are the only things your Panama rose bush should need from you. Take these tips into consideration to encourage good health from your plant.
Garden Pests and Diseases Which Could Impact the Panama Rose
The last things we’ll discuss about growing a Panama rose bush are the things which threaten it. This plant has only one main issue with disease that’s simple to avoid.
This issue is root rot. You can expect this fungal issue to develop when you grow a Panama rose in areas with poor drainage and cold temperatures. This is a recipe for fungal disease.
Avoid this issue by planting in well-draining soil and in a warm growing location. If you see root rot developing, dig up the plant and move it to an area with the right growing conditions.
Also, be mindful that you aren’t overwatering it by always testing the soil prior to adding more water. When you move a plant that has root rot, be sure to give it time to dry out prior to transplanting it.
You should also trim the rotten roots from the root system. Be mindful that all plants don’t bounce back from root rot, so it’s best to avoid this problem altogether when possible.
Be mindful to treat these issues at the first sign of a problem to avoid large amounts of damage to your plant. This will give it the greatest chance of surviving these common garden pests and diseases.
You now have a basic overview of what you’ll need to grow the Panama rose as part of your landscape or when incorporated into your home as a houseplant.
Utilize these tips to help you plant, grow, care for, and protect your Panama rose. The beauty and fragrance it produces is well worth the effort to keep it happy and thriving.