by Matt Gibson
The Panama rose flower is a name that is shared by two distinctly different plants with a whole lot in common. Both plants produce beautiful blooms that look nothing like a rose. Both plants enjoy a tropical environment, and both can produce blooms for large portions of the year. The two species share plenty of similarities aside from the common name, including nearly identical growing condition preferences and care needs.
Rondeletia leucophylla, also commonly called the bush penta, is the larger of the two species, sprouting as high as 15 feet. The foliage of the shrub is long and lance-shaped, each leaf measures around four inches when fully matured. The evergreen shrub is adorned with star-shaped pink flowers that are grouped together in bundles that dwell just above the plant’s dark-green backdrop of leaves.
Rondeletia splendens is a sprawling shrub that only reaches heights of around three feet. The shrubs produce tubular-shaped flowers that range from orange (most common) to pink and red, each with yellow eyes.
Landscapers can use the versatile Panama rose for a variety of purposes. The small potted versions of the plants can be used to decorate a patio, porch, or deck. The large shrub can be used to flank the entryway into a house or building, or to surround tall palm trees. The large shrubs can also be used to line a walkway or driveway, or to decorate a blank wall or poolcage.
About Panama Rose Flowers
The main reason that both species of panama rose are cultivated in tropical climate regions is debatable, but it must have a lot to do with two of their characteristics in particular. Consider both its long blooming period and high production of beautiful bright flowers, and the distinctly unique and wonderful smell they emit lightly during the daytime, that grows stronger after the sun goes down. For this reason, they are often placed on a patio area where people tend to congregate in the evening hours, perhaps on the front porch, an upstairs patio area, or near an evening barbeque pit or outdoor cooking area where the flower’s scent can be enjoyed throughout the evening.
The Panama rose is a native to Mexico, and is cultivated widely in the southeastern US, especially in Florida. The tropical environment that the two species enjoy is typical of a frost-tender perennial. Mulching, wrapping, or bringing indoors during cooler months, especially when growing outside of the recommended hardiness zones, may be required to ensure your plants live through especially cold periods.
Growing Conditions for Panama Rose
Place either kind of Panama rose in a well-drained soil rich in organic material, in a location that receives morning sun and shade in the heat of the afternoon. Consider the late night scent when picking out a location as well, as the leucophylla starts to smell strongly just after sundown, and the splendens starts to emit smell late in the evening hours. The leucophylla prefers a slightly acidic soil, and each plant needs about 10 feet of space with no competition in the form of other shrubs or small plants. The splendens doesn’t have a pH preference and needs three feet of space to call its own.
Rondeletia leucophylla is hardy to USDA zones 9-11. Potted leucophylla could be grown indoors in other zones, or in a greenhouse, as long as a tropical environment is provided. Rondeletia splendens is hardy to zones 10-11, and can also be potted and brought indoors if a tropical environment can be maintained.
How To Plant Panama Rose Flowers
Plant each type of Panama rose into the ground in a well-draining soil, giving the smaller splendens three feet of space to grow into, and the larger leucophylla ten feet of space. The leucophylla is prone to root rot. If you notice it dropping all of its leaves in the wintertime, that is usually a sign of root problems.
Move leucophylla plants that are experiencing root issues to a large clay pot instead of leaving them in the ground. In a large pot, you should be able to better control the moisture levels and keep the roots from getting too much water, which should keep root rot away. It will most likely also have an effect on the mature size of your leucophylla shrub, which could end up being much smaller than an in-ground version. Typically, potted Rondeletia splendens will be no higher than 16 inches tall, while the massive Rondeletia leucophylla shrinks from 15 feet when planted in the ground to just around three feet when potted.
Consider adding topsoil or an organic peat moss to your containers or garden beds before planting. Adding a bit of composted cow manure can also help to enrich the soil around the root ball, which can help immensely.
Care of Panama Rose
Water your in-ground Panama rose plants deeply only once per week in the dry season and not at all during wet season. Leucophylla will produce blooms for an incredibly long period, from May to December, whereas splendas should produce flowers intermittently throughout the entire year. In cases of elongated dryness, give your Panama rose a healthy drink to keep it looking its best, but allow the soil to dry out completely in between waterings for best results.
Cut back your leucophylla by two-thirds after it completes its blooming cycle in the spring. Do not prune the leucophylla again until after midsummer, as it is busy making blooms for the upcoming winter. Cut back splendens by two-thirds whenever it begins to get to rangy.
Fertilize both types in March, June, and September with a 5-5-5, organic, granular fertilizer. Use a half a cup of fertilizer for a serving for a plant that is two feet high or less, and up to three cups of fertilizer for a full grown 15 foot plant. To apply the fertilizer, work it into the soil at the base of a plant above the roots just before watering, and water the area thoroughly just after the application.
How To Propagate Panama Rose Flowers
Both species of Panama rose can be propagated from softwood cuttings and from semi-hardwood cuttings of the stems and roots. Simply take your cuttings and place them about a half inch under the soil’s surface and keep out of direct sunlight for the first two weeks, watering deeply as soon as the cutting is planted, and again as the soil begins to dry out completely.
Beneficial Insects and Panama Rose
Panama rose is also cultivated to bring butterflies, moths, bees, hummingbirds, and other regional pollinators flocking to its blooming clusters. If you need more visits to your garden from your neighborhood pollinators, adding Panama rose to your repertoire can pay off in big ways. For other plants that will bring in the pollinators, follow this link.
Garden Pests and Diseases of Panama Rose
There are no known problems between either species of Panama rose and common garden pests, but the Rondeletia leucophylla does have a history of root rot issues, so be careful not to overwater leucophylla plants that are planted directly in the ground, moving them to pots if they start to experience root issues from overwatering.
Videos About Growing Panama Rose
This video, which highlights the Rondeletia leucophylla (The pink to red Panama Rose, or bush penta) but doesn’t do much in the way of passing along any growing tips or care instructions, but will help you to differentiate between the two types of Panama Rose:
This short tutorial video will give you more info than the one above in terms of passing along info on how to grow the Rondeletia leucophylla, or bush pentas indoors, specifically in a greenhouse setting: