Skip to main content
Brazilian red cloak

Behold, the Brazilian Red Cloak!

By Ralph E. Mitchell

As I mentioned last week, we just finished our 2018 Master Gardener Training activity called the “Parade of Plants” where Master Gardener Trainees pick a plant they like and then develop a short ten-minute presentation.  An additional presentation highlighted another good plant for any landscape – the Brazilian Red Cloak.  This stunning tropical plant produces red flower spikes up to twelve inches tall complete with rich, green tropical foliage.

While the Brazilian Red Cloak is native to Venezuela, it is also now found throughout tropical America.  Growing from six to eight feet tall and wide, this evergreen semi-woody perennial plant has large green leaves with especially noticeable venation.  These are topped in time by red bracts (the red “cloaks”) which hide and protect the curly white true flowers.  The bracts are not true flowers, but retain a brilliant, showy red color long after the white flowers have faded away.  While it can make a great container plant – even a houseplant – its real glory is revealed as a landscape plant in the right site conditions.   When planted in full morning sun to some afternoon shade, this plant will thrive and grow rapidly.  The right site is important – too much full afternoon sun can cause wilting and bleached flowers.  Fully mature plants can flower on and off year-round, but most abundant blooming will occur from late fall through early summer.  The red cloak is a very vigorous shrub, but can be managed by pruning to keep it bushy and within bounds.

Most red cloaks are used as a specimen plant, an informal hedge, or a screen.  As their growth rate is very fast, propagation by cuttings for additional plants can easily expand your stock.  While hardy in zones 9b/10, it can get zipped by frost on occasion in some locations.   The one specimen in our Demonstration Garden has been damaged a bit by frosts and freezes in the past, but it grows back with little lasting impact.  Large containerized specimens can be taken inside for protection during frosty weather.

Securing your own Brazilian Red Cloak may include propagating one from a friend, finding one at a local family-operated garden center , or through on-line mail order nurseries.  The Brazilian Red Cloak is a plant to have and behold!  For more information on all types of flowering plants suitable for our area, please call our Master Gardener volunteers on the Plant Lifeline on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer.  Don’t forget to visit our other County Plant Clinics in the area.  Please check this link for a complete list of site locations, dates and times – http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/charlotteco/files/2018/01/Plant-Clinics-Schedule.pdf .

Resources:

Missouri Botanical Garden – Megaskepasma erythrochlamys.  (2018) http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=e966

Haehle, R. (1998) Brazilian Red Cloak Can Be Spectacular.  http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1998-02-06/lifestyle/9802020306_1_plant-shrub-drought-tolerance

Hubbuch, C.  The Genus Megaskepasma Family Acanthaceae. Gardening in the Coastal Southeast – http://southeastgarden.com/megaskepasma.html.

2 Comments on “Behold, the Brazilian Red Cloak!

  1. My 4’ beautiful red brazilian cloake has been damaged badly by wind. It couldn’t have been more than 25 mph! Two branches broke and died. Then a week later two more branches were knocked to the ground and leaves wilted. They died also. I read a lot about this plant but saw nothing about having to protect it from strong breezes. I had been doing well in full all day sun until the 25 mph gust destroyed part of it. Have you ever heard of this kind of damage in southwest Florida? I have tied the rest of the branches together in hopes of protecting it from further winds. Is this a good idea or not? Please help! Thanks much!!!

    • Thank you for your inquiry! As Brazilian Cloaks have such large leaves, they would tend to act as sails in a breeze. That coupled with somewhat brittle branches, breakage can happen. I have one myself that does do this from time to time. I would recommend placing a number of strategically placed bamboo canes to help support these branches. Breakage also prunes the shrub in a way and makes for plenty of propagating materials! In March, you can begin to prune it to keep it in-bounds and in a manageable shape.

      All the best,
      Ralph

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *