I was told by a colleague that there is a ‘musical note plant’ that grows in the one of the planter beds in the Carpark Garden of HortPark. I was made to guess what the plant was and I spent much effort in trying to identify which species of plant it really was. I have to admit that I am not good with imagination. Eventually, I gave up and was eventually given the answer. This ‘musical note plant’ was, in fact, a tropical flowering shrub known as Clerodendrum incisum!
A member of the Lamiaceae family, the musical note plant is botanically known as Clerodendrum incisum. It may also be known via various synonyms which include Clerodendrum macrosiphon and Clerodendrum incisum var. macrosiphon. Other common names of this plant include the morning kiss and witches’ tongue. How this plant earned its infamous name was due to the the shape of its flower buds. Each flower bud consists of a long and slender tube that ends with a flattened, oval-shaped club.
Botanical musical notes produced by Clerodendrum incisum seldom appear alone. The white coloured flower buds appear in an upright fashion in large numbers borne as a cluster. The club portion of the musical note splits to reveal an attractive flower that resembles a small white butterfly together with several red, thin and extremely long, yet, curly proboscis-like stamens.
This plant is a prolific bloomer if it is well-grown and allowed to grow as flowers are produced at the growing tips. The flowers, unfortunately, do not emit a fragrance and are rather short-lived, lasting at most for two days. The floral show will be cut short if heaven decides to pour and opened flowers will be washed off the plant, creating a white carpet of flowers which can be a chore to clear away.
A native of Africa, Clerodendrum incisum grows as a medium shrub with lanceoate, green leaves. It can be grown closely to form a short hedge or in small groupings in a flower/planter bed or even as a single specimen plant in the ground or containers! It is reported to be a fast-grower that prefers to be grown in well-draining, moist soil that is rich in nutrients and organic matter. Fertilise plants monthly with a balanced liquid fertiliser. Clerodendrum incisum is a highly versatile flowering shrub that can be planted in areas with full sun to partial shade and what’s more, it can tolerate short periods of drought once it is established in the garden.
In Singapore, Clerodendrum incisum is largely an evergreen shrub that is occasionally bothered by sucking insect pests such as whiteflies, mealybugs and aphids. Older specimens may also be affected by galls and cankers. Try to grow plants in a well-lit and ventilated space to reduce the likelihood of unappealing leaf spot disease. Propagate Clerodendrum incisum via herbaceous stem cuttings or semi-hardwood cuttings.