The Chinese Hat Plant

When I was in HortPark late last year for GardenTech 2007, I was surprised to see a flowering shrub that bear orangey flowers shaped like an interesting way. The plant, apparently, is not a commonly grown plant in our local streetscape. Hence I am not surprised to see its absence from the 1001 Garden Plants in Singapore book by NParks.

Just yesterday evening, I happened to be browsing a book at the Orchard Road Kinokuninya bookstore and pounced upon a profile of this plant. I breathed a sigh of relief and told myself, “Ah… I have found the identity of this plant. At last!” Knowing the exact and correct botanical name of a plant is important, I feel, because it can help us to understand the plant and its growth requirements better.

A member of the Verbenaceae family, this flowering shrub is known by a number of common names, all inspired by the appearance of the flowers – Chinese Hat, Mandarin’s Hat, Cup and Saucer and Parasol Flower, depending on how you want to imagine the flower to look like. Botanically, it is known as Holmskioldia sanguinea. The cultivar grown in HortPark’s Flower Walk appears to be ‘Bronze’.

The plant is a scrambling shrub and hence not a well-behaved tidy plant. It calls for frequent pruning to keep it in shape and form. If left on its own, it can become a straggly eyesore. On the other hand, the long, trailing stems also make the plant suitable for growing over planter boxes.

The flowers are prominent as they appear in dense clusters and luckily, the plant’s small oval leaves do not fight with the flowers for attention. There are also yellow- and bronze-flowered forms.

Like most woody flowering shrubs, Holmskioldia sanguinea prefers to grow in full sun. Direct light is essential for its flowering.

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5 responses to “The Chinese Hat Plant

  1. Hi Wilson,

    Actually this plant is found in 1001! its found under the climbers section! :)

    We met last year during Gardentech. I was working HortPark then. You visited the cold rooms with Sean & i joined you soon after that. Ring a bell yet? On that same day, you told me that we had named one of the plants wrongly at the ‘water garden’. I later corrected to Colocasia esculenta’Coffecup’. Remember? :)

    I enjoyed reading your website. I’m keen to find out more about what Green Culture is all about.

    Seems like you visit HortPark very often from your blog. I have left HortPark this year and went over to Fort Canning Park. You been there before?

  2. Hi Natalie,

    Thanks for pointing it out! I just could not find this plant in the same book under the shrubs section as it seems to me to be more like a shrub than a climber!

    Oh yes, HortPark is a nice place to visit, especially for plant people like me. It is beautifully landscaped and nice to walk around in. Thanks for all the work to make things as correct as possible. NParks need people like you.

    Thanks for your compliments for this blog and I hope it will continue to interest people with plants and gardening in general. Keep in touch!!! :)

  3. Holmskioldia sanguinea can be described as a scandant shrub or a scrambling climber. It is grown as a shrub in HortPark.

    Incidentally, while it is not a new plant in S’pore, according to an old-timer in the landscape industry, it was already being planted along roadsides some 20 years ago. Perhaps one of the reasons that this plant has not been popularized here is that it could be relatively high-maintenance to keep it tidy.

  4. Hi Pat,

    Thanks for the additional knowledge you have added to this blog post.

    Now, many of us know why certain plants are taken off from our streetscapes because of their high need for maintenance to keep them looking good.

    After I have made this post on Holmskioldia sanguinea on my blog, it has generated some interest to grow it in the gardens belonging to my Green Culture Singapore members.

    HortPark is a great venue for many people to learn more about plants and to display them.


  5. Hi Wilson
    I actually have a different question for you about the chinese jade plant which is said to have a history that will bring you wealth if planted by your front door. Id like to know if this is a chinese proverb or just rumor.

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