How to grow and care for Mussaenda shrub

Mussaenda is among the most sought after tropical shrubs for intense beauty shown from highly colorful flower bracts blooming all warmer and hot months. We look at how to grow and care for this shrub.


  1. Dig holes or beds wide, not deep
  2. Lightly amend heavy clay or sandy soils with organic matter
  3. Gently remove plants from containers, keeping the root ball intact
  4. Loosen potting soil and roots around bottom and edges of root ball
  5. Plant level with surrounding soil, spreading roots outward
  6. Fill around roots with lightly amended native soil
  7. Water to settle soil around roots
  8. Cover the area with leaf or bark mulch 1 – 3 inches thick but not piled up onto the plant’s stem/trunk
  9. Water deeply
  10. Stake large shrubs or trees to prevent excess movement in strong winds


  1. Woody plants need watering less frequently than tender annuals or herbaceous plants
  2. Most established trees, shrubs, and vines can go weeks without supplemental watering except in extremely hot or windy weather
  3. Watering from a hose or sprinkler should be done slowly and deeply, not frequently, to avoid shallow root development or root diseases. Allow soil to dry several inches deep before irrigating
  4. When practical, especially in arid climates, use and maintain water-efficient soaker hoses or drip irrigation. Water briefly two or three times a week to keep soil moist, not wet
  5. Most winter injury is from drying out, not cold temperatures. Be prepared to water during prolonged sunny, windy, dry spells even in the winter.
  6. Mulches help prevent water loss during hot, windy, or sunny weather


  1. Prune for size control and pedestrian safety, to remove dead or diseased plant parts, or to shape or train plants into hedges, topiary, espalier, or other interesting shapes
  2. Broadleaf plants, both evergreen and deciduous, can be cut as hard as needed, even back to main trunks. New growth sprouts near the cut ends.
  3. Cutting plants back to knobby growth (“pollarding”), though not always acceptable to neighbors, does not seriously harm plants in the long run.


  1. Root stem cuttings of evergreen shrubs in the summer, taking short cuttings of mature new growth, stripping or pruning off the lower leaves, and sticking into moist potting soil or well-drained garden soil kept in bright indirect light and high humidity.
  2. Root stem cuttings of deciduous shrubs in the fall or late winter
  3. Keep cuttings moist 4-6 weeks until well rooted, then transplant into individual containers
  4. Rooting hormones increase the likelihood of rooting, but are not necessary for most plants.


Most plants need a regular “diet” of all-purpose plant food, either specialty (labeled for your specific plant type) or a generic N-P-K (nitrogen – phosphorus – potassium)

Fertilize early in the plant’s growing cycle – spring for summer plants, fall for winter plants

For leafy plants, use a fertilizer with a higher nitrogen content (first number)

For flowering or fruiting plants, use a fertilizer higher in phosphorous content (middle number)

If using a water soluble fertilizer:

  1. Mix as directed on container according to directions
  2. Wet the leaves and drench soil
  3. Repeat

If using a granulated fertilizer:

  1. Scatter a small amount of all-purpose fertilizer lightly under plants from the stem to beyond the outer spread of branches or foliage
  2. Water slowly and deeply

NOTE: Never over fertilize! You will see lots of weak, leafy growth and few flowers