by Matt Gibson
The tall evergreen shrub known as Rondeletia amoena is a perfect addition to the garden as a border to fill in the background or as an informal hedge. Rondeletia flowers every spring, then flowers again for four months in the fall from August to November, producing tiny rounded clusters of sweet-smelling salmon-pink flowers.
Native to Central America, Rondeletia amoena is a drought-tolerant plant that has all but disappeared from modern gardens. With its pleasant green foliage that provides dense, year-round green mound and beautiful, fragrant flowers that do the double duty of blooming twice annually (throughout the spring and the fall), it’s no wonder that the Rondeletia is starting to make a comeback.
Rondeletia’s foliage is oval- to oblong-shaped and appears somewhat glossy from a distance, but upon closer inspection, the shrub’s leaves are actually covered in tiny hairs. This texture is why the leaves seem to shine and glimmer when the sunlight strikes them. The flowers of this shrub are terminal multi-branching panicles that feature dainty white, pink, or salmon-colored flowers with yellow bearded throats. These blossoms form in clusters at the top of each branch of the small tree or shrub. Rondeletia produces flowers that are dripping with nectar, which makes them highly attractive to pollinators such as bees and butterflies.
Rondeletia grows best in the warm and frost-free landscape of Australia, and USDA climate zones 10 and 11. This flexible shrub can be adapted to similar growing environments as long as it’s given a sunny spot and protected from frost. Rondeletia is originally from Central America, in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and Mexico, and it still grows plentifully all across these territories.
Rondeletia is deer tolerant and conveniently resistant to most pests and diseases, making it easy to care for in the garden. The genus name, Rondeletia, is in memory of Guillaume Rondelet, a French naturalist from the 16th century. Amoena, the species name, is from Latin, and translates to mean “lovely.”
Varieties of Rondeletia
Rondeletia amoena is only available in one variety, but there are a few other Rondeletia plants available for gardeners to grow in their collections. Rondeletia leucophylla and Rondeletia splendens are both flowering plants that are also known as the Panama Rose, and these two varieties are relatively common to gardens in warm climate areas around the world. There are actually between 125 and 150 other species of Rondeletia, but most of these types are rarely ever grown by home gardeners.
Rondeletia leucophylla is the larger of Rondeletia amoena’s two most common relatives. It can skyrocket up as high as 15 feet and is covered in lance-shaped leaves that grow up to four inches long. Blooming from December through May, the leucophylla variety produces clusters of bright pink flowers that each have four petals. The petals of leucophylla’s blooms fold backward, away from the eye of the flowerhead. Rondeletia leucophylla is hardy in USDA zones 9 through 11.
Rondeletia splendens is a sprawling, ground-covering shrub that grows about three feet high and produces large clusters of dark pink to rose red tubular flowers that have a bright yellow eye and bloom intermittently throughout the year. The slendens variety of this shrub can be grown in the ground or in a container, and it is hardy in USDA zones 10 and 11.
Though all three Rondeletia plants come from Central America and thrive in similar growing conditions and with similar care, this article will focus on teaching you how to grow Rondeletia amoena specifically—not the amoena’s close relatives we’ve discussed in this section. To learn how to grow the two species listed here, you’ll have more success doing a Google search for “how to grow Panama rose” instead.
Growing Conditions for Rondeletia Amoena
In the frost-free USDA zones 10 and 11, gardeners should give Rondeletia amoena full sunlight and plenty of warmth as well as providing lots of hydration during the warmer months of the year. Rondeletia shrubs prefer slightly acidic well-drained soil that is rich with organic material, preferably in a base of sandy loam or clay loam. For optimal results, the soil where Rondeletia amoena is grown will have a pH balance ranging from 5.5 to 6.5.
How to Plant Rondeletia Amoena
Rondeletia amoena is usually available at nurseries in the areas where this shrub grows easily. Those who can’t find it at their local garden center can also grow Rondeletia amoena directly from hardwood cuttings.
It is best to take the cuttings in late October or November. Plant the cuttings in the ground immediately after they are taken, if possible, and water them deeply until the roots start to take hold. Give these young plants ample space, as Rondeletia amoena tends to grow rather large.
Trim your bushes back when necessary to maintain the desired shape and to keep the foliage from getting out of hand. Each shrub can grow to be 15 feet tall and wide, but most gardeners like to keep their Rondeletia amoena plants at a more manageable size of five by five or six by six feet. Pruning your shrubbery back to this size will keep it healthy and flowering profusely.
Care for Rondeletia Amoena
Prune your Rondeletia amoena shrubs after they flower to promote foliage density as well as to help the plant maintain the proper size and shape. Cut flowering shoots back to within just a few nodes of last year’s growth after the season’s blooms fade away.
It’s up to each gardener to decide how tall and wide they would like their shrubs to grow, as Rondeletia amoena can reach giant proportions if left untrained. This plant’s width can reach anywhere from five to 15 feet as well, so be sure to prune your shrubbery back when you feel like it’s stretching out too far in any direction.
Once your Rondeletia amoena is established, the shrub can benefit greatly from a light application of fertilizer. It is best to apply fertilizer to Rondeletia amoena early in its growing season, as fertilizing too late will promote a lot of new foliage growth that will not have time to get strong enough to survive the coming winter temperatures.
Use a fertilizer that has a low amount of nitrogen once every two or three years. High levels of nitrogen in your soil will cause the shrubs to put more energy into leafy growth instead of focusing on abundant flowering. Adding a three-inch layer of mulch will help your Rondeletia amoena plants to retain moisture as well as protecting them against invasive neighbors and frosts.
Pruning Tips for Rondeletia Amoena
Pruning encourages new growth and increased flower production as well as increasing the air flow circulating through Rondeletia amoena’s foliage, which helps to prevent diseases. Do all of the easy trimming during the first few weeks of spring. Take out all dead, dying, diseased, damaged, or crossed branches at this time.
After the spring flowering period ends in mid to late summer, cut back your shrubbery’s flower shoots, and take out some of the old growth. The summer months are also when you should remove all dead, damaged, or diseased wood, then thin out the shrub if needed. Thinning should only occur every few years, and should be done by removing just a few branches all the way down to the ground.
Each year, cut back flowered stems by half in order to produce strong new shoots. Also cut half of the remaining flowered stems all the way down to the ground. Pruning your plants correctly and at the right times will keep your Rondeletia amoena flowering and growing strong for many years to come.
Companion Planting With Rondeletia Amoena
As a background shrub, Rondeletia amoena goes well with just about every plant it’s possible to partner with. When it’s in bloom, though, this mini-tree is a star all on her own. Plant some shade-loving plants underneath your Rondeletia amoena, where more sun-loving specimens would not thrive. Surround your shrubbery with purple and blue flowers, as these hues won’t distract from Rondeletia’s beauty but will be a complementary pairing against its salmon-hued flowers.
Garden Pests and Diseases of Rondeletia Amoena
Rondeletia shrubs are deer tolerant and are usually pest and disease-free. The plant is drought tolerant, but it does die off in extreme cold. Though it’s uncommon, Rondeletia amoena is occasionally troubled by spider mites, mealy bugs, and whiteflies.
Videos More About Rondeletia Amoena
First, check out this quick video to learn how to correctly pronounce the name:
This video shows a nice full-size shot as well as closeups of the Rondeletia as a mature tree in full bloom: