Purple Wings (Dalechampia)
Imagine having large magenta coloured butterflies in your garden. And they won’t produce leaf munching grubs. That’s what it seems like when you grow the Dalechampia aristolochiifolia.
Commonly known as the Silk Crepe Flower this climber from the Euphorbiaceae family will produce its flowers throughout most of the year. And what stunning blooms they are. As with many plants in this family, it is not the petals which produce the display, rather the bracts, modified leaves just below the flower. The Poinsettia is a relative with similar features.
There are about 115 species of Dalechampia, originating from tropical and subtropical regions of the world, though most come from the Americas.
The Silk Crepe Flower is a relatively easy plant to grow. It can handle full sun or part shade. Provide it with a structure to grow over, such as an arbour or a trellis where it soft, pale green leaves will provide a perfect contrast to the showy blooms. Plant into a moist, humus rich soil and ensure a steady water flow. I have found that if my plant (which is in a large pot) dries out, the leaves and bracts burn and fall off. The plant recovers quickly when adequate water is supplied.
Being from the tropics it can handle high temperature, but it can also survive very low temperatures. Frosts will burn the leaves and younger shoots, though as long as the frost does not last the plant will recover. If frosts are a problem in your area, plant the Silk Crepe Flower with a north facing aspect or in a part of your property where the frost is less severe.
Dalechampia, as with all Euphorbia, produces a milky, caustic sap which can cause a reaction on sensitive skin. Wear gloves and avoid rubbing your eyes when handling the plant to be on the safe side.
When I discovered this plant in a friend’s garden, it was one of those moments when I thought, “Where has this plant been all my life?” I highly recommend you meet one this weekend.