By Ralph E. Mitchell
One or two flowering plants hardly make an impact at a glance, but a whole line of them close to the road can make you put the brakes on! Once I saw this mass linear planting of flowering shrubs I had to turn around and get a closer look. It looked familiar from a distance and upon further investigation, I found the hedge to be made up of Panama rose. Also called “Bush Penta” because of its similarity to Penta flowers, the Panama rose is not a true rose, but a great flowering shrub and butterfly attracter.
These sprawling evergreen shrubs with lance-shaped leaves sport clusters of dark-pink tubular flowers with yellow centers. Blooming commences in December and continues on through May each year. As a bonus, blooms may occur and on and off the remainder of the season. The Panama rose is noted for its beautiful aroma as well. The scent of the flower is more intense at night, but butterflies favor them during the day when the fragrance is lighter. Best in full sun to part-shade, the Panama rose is moderately drought-tolerant once established and can be easily maintained at three to five feet tall with careful pruning best done in early summer. Make sure the soil is well-drained to avoid root rot. While the flowering hedge of Panama rose I saw in Port Charlotte was eye-catching, this plant can also be used as a single specimen, small mass plantings of three to five plants in butterfly gardens, near a patio to enjoy the evening fragrance, or even in a large container or planting box.
I seldom see Panama rose available at local box-store garden centers and have more often run into them at botanical gardens or established local gardens. As such, local family-run garden shops are more likely to carry this plant. A quick search revealed that the Panama rose does seem to be abundantly available through on-line plant mail order companies, so you may also want to look in that direction. Making your own cuttings from a friend’s specimen is another option with this easily propagated plant. However you find one, this is a worthy plant in your landscape! For more information on all types of flowering shrubs 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 – https://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/charlotteco/files/2018/03/Plant-Clinics-Schedule.pdf. Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for the Charlotte County Extension Service. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maccubbin, T. (2007) Panama rose. Orlando Sentinel. http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2007-05-05/news/PROFILE05_1_flowering-growing-plant
Landre, C. (2019) South-Florida-Plant-Guide – Panama Rose. South-Florida-Plant-Guide.com
Stallsmith, A. (2019) How to Grow a Panama Rose. https://homeguides.sfgate.com/grow-panama-rose-96266.html
Hubbuch, C. (2019) The Genus Rondeletia – Family Rubiaceae – Gardening in the Coastal Southeast. http://southeastgarden.com/rondeletia.html