The curvy petals of Brazilian red cloak.
The curvy petals of Brazilian red cloak. portgrimes

Brazilian beauty a versatile plant

It can be a bit tricky to get good, dense growth and prolific flowering in a shaded or semi-shaded position. One of my favourite plants for this effect is Brazilian red cloak (megaskepasma erythrochlamys).

This is a tropical shrub, originating in South America, which grows quickly to about 3m tall and wide. It has large, bright green leaves which can be up to 30cm long, and large, striking heads of crimson bracts with small white flowers. It flowers sporadically throughout the year, especially in late summer, through autumn and into winter.

It is a very versatile plant, happily growing in full sun, where the foliage will become quite pale, or full shade, where the foliage colour will be deeper, or anywhere in between. It is one of the few shrubs that will grow and flower very successfully under large trees. The ideal spot would be in semi-shade, protected from the harsh afternoon sun that will bleach the colour from the foliage as well as the flowers.

It is not particularly fussy about soil or moisture, although extreme conditions will cause it to wilt, shed leaves and become a bit sparse.

This bushy habit of Brazilian red cloak makes it a great screen, even in quite shaded positions where other screening plants like lilly pillies might struggle, and the brilliant crimson bracts are a bonus. It does need a bit of room to look its best, so is not ideal in a very narrow position.

In my garden, it sets seed a bit too readily, so I make sure I prune it thoroughly after flowering to prevent it popping up unwanted. This pruning also produces very bushy plants with lots of branches and therefore lots of flowers.

This is an easy plant to look after. Enrich the soil with organic matter before planting, and keep it moist while it settles in. Fertilise with a complete organic plant food a couple of times a year, and prune after flowering. That's about it.