Luculia (loo-kool-ee-a) is one of the most fragrant and delicately beautiful flowering shrubs. Luculias are subtroprical mostly evergreen shrubs native to the Himalayas from north India through Nepal, Assam, Tibet and west to Yunnan China and Vietnam. These are primarily bush and forest natives needing a warm position, sheltered from winds and frost.
They prefer freely draining, constantly moist, slightly acid soils rich in organic matter.
A good mulch, like a forest floor, provides the cool moist root-run they prefer and protects their shallow roots against drought and freezing. Avoid heavy, poorly drained land which will result in root rot.
In cold climates, Luculia makes a spectacular large-tub specimen for a sunny and sheltered glasshouse or conservatory.
Luculia gratissima is native to India, Nepal, China and Vietnam and is now grown throughout the world's subtropical and tropical zones. Luculia originates from the Nepalese 'Luculi Swa' and Gratissima is a Latin word meaning 'pleasing, very pleasant or agreeable'.
Most popular varieties include Luculia gratissima 'apple blossom'; 'pink lace'; 'rosea' and 'rubra'. These are open shrubs 2-4m (6-12 ft) and sometimes 6m (20ft) in the forest or when grown in sheltered partial shade.
Leaves are large simple and pointed with deep veining and evergreen, turning brilliant rustic autumnal tones as they age and drop. Luculia gratissima responds well to pruning which can transform it from a small tree into a much shorter,oval-shaped shrub densely flowering at eye-level. .
Luculia gratissima varieties flower during late autumn and winter when colour and fragrance are often scarce and offer a divine and alluring perfume, that deserves a planting position near a window, doorway or garden gate where they can be most appreciated for the gift they bring.
Luculia gratissima 'rosea' and 'rubra' feature rich pink deliciously fragrant dense floral clusters that smother the shrub from late autumn through winter Dense evergreen foliage sometimes reddens in winter; older leaves drop like colourful ornaments as they age or with drought. This variety has a somewhat spreading habit at 2-3m tall (6-10ft) and often as wide.
Luculia gratissima 'apple blossom' is a graceful winter-flowering, evergreen shrub 3-5m tall (10-15ft). It is a slightly tighter version of the more crepe-petaled L.g. 'Pink Lace'. Sweet, fruity and aromatically fragrant large clusters of delicate apple-blossom pink flowers cover the loosely open shrubs. Both of these varieties can be shaped into a small tree with softly arching branches or can be pruned to create a dense ball of sweetly fragrant apple blossoms. Excellent for tubs and containers.
Luculia grandifolia, the White Luculia, is native to Bhutan. This bold, robust, tall-growing species flowers late spring through autumn with very large open clusters of long white trumpet flowers carrying a lovely tropical perfume. Handsome dark green foliage often turns red in winter and may drop with frost. It is the most frost-tolerant species. While in the forest it can grow to a small tree of 20ft(6m) usually in cultivation it is shorter at 2-4m (6-12ft) tall and often spreading as broadly.
Other species include:
L. yunnanensis, from Yunnan province, China, is a similar winter-flowering species with long, trumpet, pure white fragrant blowsy flower clusters opening from soft pink buds. There is also a pure white variety. While robust in the wild, this variety is seldom yet seen in cultivation and usually is a smaller plant often grown in containers.
Luculia pinceana, from Nepal, is a less-well-know large robust branching shrub or small tree growing in the wild 4-5m (12-15ft) and 2.4-3m (8-10ft) in cultivation. Its leaves are evergreen and similar to other species in shape but somewhat smaller, glossy and almost leathery. L. pinceana features lovely fragrant clusters of trumpet flowers very similar to gratissima but with a whiter or creped central eye. Variety 'Fragrant Cloud' and 'Early Dawn' are winter-flowering in soft shadings of pink. Early Dawn has almost rose coloured buds. Variety 'Fragrant Pearl' features iridescent pearly white fragrant trumpets on a 3m x 3m (10ft x 10ft) shrub which flowers in autumn, March to June in the Southern Hemisphere.
Luculia intermedia, (Yunnan Luculia) from the Himalayas to west China, is autumn flowering, more densely shrubby up to 3m(10ft) with large handsome glossy evergreen leaves and even bigger pink fragrant flower clusters. It possibly originated as a seedling sport from L. pinceana which it closely resembles.
While enjoying full sun when planted in mild temperate climates, Luculias do not like scorching, burning sunlight, drought or hot, arid, drying winds. Luculia often look their best in sheltered part shade or indoors in colder regions as a spectacular glasshouse specimen. Because they originate from sheltered, frost-free forest positions, they thrive when planted in a well-mulched, moist, sheltered shrubbery or arboretum setting in a mixed tree and shrubbery border with a little overhanging protection. They are most at home in positions where Azalea, Camellia, Daphne, Fuschia or Rhododendron (Vireya and subtropical species) would grow. They make a striking and most complimentary combination when grown with a background of evergeens.
Where freezing could damage their beautiful foliage or ruin the floral display keep them well mulched but (winter) dry and/or sheltered during cold weather by positioning under the eaves of a house or shed. They do very well in the urban landscape environment especially when sheltered near walls, between buildings, or otherwise protected from severe cold, winds or wintry weather.
Luculia can be cut back heavily after flowering or in spring. This is necessary when grown in tubs or whenever the flowers are to be appreciated at a reasonable height. Canes can be reduced by one half or more. When weather remains mild, moist and conducive for new growth, old wood can be cut back to nearly the trunk and usually will quickly resprout. Heavy pruning after flowering can produce a shorter, more dense shrub with many flowering canes. Eliminate all weak or diseased growth and encourage strong, healthy canes which will bloom the next flowering season. When grown as a large arching shrub or small tree continue to tip prune and shape until late summer when buds begin to form.
Apply generous organic mulching combined with a light feeding with a commercial general plant food or one used for acid-loving plants after flowering, during growth and up to early budding. Light liquid or foliar feeding as buds swell will increase the quality and sizes of blooms.
Luculia is best planted in autumn, winter or spring and almost year-round in moderate, moist benevloent positions. Plan its planting position carefully as it can be temperamental to shift once established.
Seed and stem or tip cuttings usually start easily and quickly grow when taken during warm late spring and summer weather and maintained in a partly shaded, warm, humid environment. They also strike quickly with bottom heat in a propogating box or small terrarium-type environment.
Luculias are a small group of species within the massive Rubiaceae family of plants (also known as the Madder, Bedstraw or Coffee Family) containing over 13,000 species. Which includes: Coffee, New Zealand Comprosma, Gardenia, Ixora, Partridgeberry, Cinchona from which is derived Quinine, and Woodruff from which is derived Coumarin (Warfarin) and the medicinal Galium used in homeopathy.
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