Imagine a place where the ground touches the sky. A place where the trees catch passing clouds, hold them, and filter their moisture to the environment below. Sounds pretty mystical doesn't it? Well, in reality, there are a few places in the world where land and cloud converge to create what are known as cloud forests. One such place is Mexico. Cloud forests can be tropical or subtropical. But, in my opinion, it is where they are temperate that things become interesting, especially the plant life they produce. One such amazing specimen perennial shrub to come from the Mexican Cloud Forest is the electrifying Bartlettina sordida also commonly called the Purple Torch or Blue Mist Flower. Look at these flowers. They look like live wires of electric lilac loveliness. Oh, wait...what you are seeing above is only the start of the show.
SHAZAM! Here are the flowers heads of Bartlettina sordida in full, shag-a-delicately sumptuous, bloom! Seeing it bloom reminds me of watching a firework bursting in slow motion with the end result looking like a luminous cluster of colorful candy floss. The scent that unfurls from these filaments of fantasy is a heavenly combination of luscious lilac with the slightest tones of sweet and spicy honey. The butterflies go gaga for this plant!
I discovered Bartlettina sordida some years ago when I purchased it from Annies Annuals. I planted it in a bright but shady area with great air circulation. In one season it grew into a 4 foot tall and wide shrub. In its second season it grew 8 feet tall. It kicked out some lushly large plush tropical leaves etched in rich rosy purple venation. We're talking leaves the size of dinner plates! In spring, it produced clusters of tightly bound buds at the ends of its stems. Around April the buds began to burst open and by early May the flower heads were in full effect looking like an electric dream.
Now if you have a bright, shady place that gets good air circulation and has moist, rich, fertile, well-draining soil, then you've got a spot for a Bartlettina sordida. This plant likes regular water and appreciates a feeding of fertilizer during the warm, growing season. It is pretty hardy down to about 25/30 degrees fahrenheit or -1/-3 degrees celsius. One thing to note about this Bartlettina is that its foliage gets pretty beat up during the winter months. My suggestion is that come spring, prune any tall, gangly canes of the plant down to just above it's second stem node and strip any spent leaves. Give it some fertilizer and watch for new shoots. More than likely, it'll come back even more bushier and luscious than ever. More stem growth means more bloom.
I say, if you're interested in giving your situation some interesting tropical impact, find yourself a Bartlettina sordida and get growing. It is one plant that radiates a stylishly exotic allure like no other.