Starburst or shooting star clerodendrum is so named for its flowers that resemble delicate white stars shooting forth with a lovely pink tail trailing in their wake. With smooth tan bark that becomes rough with age and dazzling end-of-winter blooms, this plant makes a lovely small specimen tree.
Starburst (Clerodendrum quadriloculare) is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae) and native to New Guinea and the Philippines.
Fast-growing starburst clerodendrum grows well in zones 9b to 11 and can be used as a shrub or tree. Typically reaching a height of 15 feet, this plant is most eye-catching in mid-winter and early spring when its showy tubular flowers—white tipped and pink below—appear in large clusters. Hummingbirds and long-tongued butterflies love to visit these tubular flowers for their sweet energizing nectar.
The rest of the year, it's the foliage that's the point of interest. The topsides of the leaves are green, with just a tinge of purple, while the undersides are a glossy, deep purple. During the wintertime, leaves may lose a bit of their luster, but take heart that blooming is just around the corner. With some searching, you may be able to find the cultivar with variegated leaves for even more pizazz.
Planting and Care
For the best flowering results, choose a location with full sun when planting starburst clerodendrum. While it will grow and even bloom some in shade, the display will not be as dramatic and the flowering period will be shorter. Light levels will also impact the canopy; in full sun, starburst clerodendrum forms a compact canopy, while shaded limbs are thin and widely spread.
This shrub prefers moist, well-drained soil; however, once established it's quite drought tolerant. Whether you are using it as a shrub or a small tree, starburst clerodendrum requires only minimal pruning to be shaped. If you feel a heavy pruning is necessary, this should be done after the plant has finished flowering.
While not considered invasive in Florida, it is in other parts of the world. This is in large part due to the root suckers it produces. These root suckers, which are found away from the mother plant, can be managed by hand pulling or mowing while they are small. If they are allowed to grow you may need to dig them out to remove them completely. Alternatively, you could allow some of these suckers to grow to form a clerodendrum "screen."
For more information on starburst clerodendrum, contact your county Extension office.