Those Marvelous, Mystifying Medinillas

Medinillas are in the same family as Tibouchina, Melastoma ( for which the family is named), and a number of other popular plant genera, most of which have attractive flowers. In the case of Medinilla, many of the cultivated species and selections are of special interest, since they are attractive plants, often bearing spectacular flowers heads. These plants are frequently tree dwellers, and are easily cultivated as basket plants. In the larger species such as M. magnifica, M. myrianthina, and M. miniata , the plants can form small trees ! Here in Miami, these species can be grown  with some success as either very large containerized plants, or in 20-30" diameter wire baskets filled with a moisture-retentive epiphytic mix suitable for Phalaenopsis. There are well over 100 species in the genus, some of which are very petite species that climb around on rocks, some of which reputedly attain tree status, with some eye-popping inflorescences. Most of them are appreciative of moderate temperatures, even if they come from wet tropical areas. A great many species come from moderate altitudes in tropical mountainous areas. In Europe, several species are cultivated as houseplants, which may indicate that the plants don't need hot, humid conditions, but rather, moderate, stable conditions with filtered light. Even in downtown metro areas in temperate cities, I see champion quality begonias and gesneriads growing in store windows with a little extra attention to watering; I believe many Medinillas willl grow in the same conditions.

M. magnifica

M. magnifica

M. magnifica

M. miniata

M. speciosa
courtesy Tropical Designs

M. alata, aka M. 'Lalique'

The stunning inflorescences on many species are actually aggregates of small flowers, often followed by numerous black berries containing minute seeds. The seeds often germinate well, but extra care needs to be taken to make sure they have stable conditions in which to germinate. Follow the same methods used for growing begonia seed or fern spores, and you should be quite successful. The plants do certainly appreciate calcium-free water when possible, and I've seen some fabulous plants grown in collections where rain water or distilled water was used as irrigation. Although the predominant color in the genus is pink-lavender, there are very pale pinks, a reputed pure white, and the relatively new-to-cultivation orange-red of M. miniata. In most species I know of in this area, the plants are fairly easy to cultivate, keeping in mind they are tropical ( they fizzle below 50 F), they like pure water, and they need ample growing room in a basket or pot of orchid mix.. The plants are becoming much more available due to tissue culture, and even grown as an annual in many states. The genus is worth a try in a plant collection, and is yet another option for color and style in the plant collector's array of  specimens.

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens      

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