Text & photographs by Dr. Mahadeswara Swamy, Scientist
Looking for a charming ornamental shrub with blooms round the year? Then opt for the ‘Golden Thryallis’, a gorgeous low-maintenance ornamental shrub. True to its name, this graceful shrub provides golden touch to any garden with its numerous yellow racemes and glittering foliage. It is also called ‘Golden Touch’, ‘Golden Shower’, ‘Slender Gold Shower’, ‘Rain of Gold’ or ‘Canary bush’.
The plant has also earned the name ‘Ice plant’ because of the brittle stem which snaps like an ‘icicle’ (if mishandled) and glistening foliage icy appearance. The botanical name is Galphimia gracilis (Syn. Galphimia glauca, Thryallis brasiliensis, Thryallis glauca, Thryallis gracilis) of Malpighiaceae family.
The plant, native to Mexico and Guatemala, is an evergreen shrub under tropical conditions but deciduous when planted in cooler areas. It grows up to 6 ft. tall into a neat rounded bush with a dense twiggy mass. Stems are slender & reddish; hairy when young. Leaves are elliptical to oval-shaped with two visible glands at the base. They are opposite in position, light green to bluish, smooth or waxy. The petioles (stalk) are reddish or reddish brown similar to stems.
The inflorescence in floral clusters called ‘racemes’ (a type of inflorescence in which the older flowers are at the bottom) are terminal. The small flowers with 5 petals are yellow with reddish centres dot the foliage like mini stars. The flower petals do not drop completely after maturing. Interestingly, three part capsules grow above them. These tiny fruits are oval shaped and green coloured.
This elegant plant can be grown in all types of soil. However, sandy loam with rich organic content is ideal. The recommended soil mixture is 1:1:2 (sand + soil + farmyard manure). Adding liberal doses of vermicompost or leaf mould is advantageous. The plant is generally free from pests. However, it is rarely affected by caterpillars and mites, which can be overcome by spraying neem-based bio-pesticides. The plant can be propagated either by seeds or stem cuttings. Germinate the seeds in bottom pots using sand and leaf mould under moist conditions. Sow the seeds while still green and water regularly. Transplant seedlings (one-month-old) into 6” pots and later on to pots of bigger size or on to the ground. Plants raised from seeds flower in the second year. For propagating plants from cuttings, use mature stems of 3” to 4” size. Dipping the cut end in root hormone powder ensures good success. Stem cuttings root properly under moist conditions.
- This versatile plant with multiple uses is a good candidate for low maintenance landscaping.
- The loose, open natural growth habit of the plant is also ideal for informal planting.
- It can be grown in pots, window boxes and patios.
- One can mass the shrub for ground cover around trees, as background plant in garden beds, formal hedge and for topiary.
- It makes an excellent specimen plant too when planted in a corner of the lawn.
- The plant prefers well-drained soil and bright sunlight, though semi shade is preferred during hot summer. However, when grown in shady locations it develops gangly open habit.
- It needs pruning to keep from being too leggy. Pruning in the early rain keeps the plant in good shape and the new shoots bear large racemes of flower. However, the sheared plants often thin out at the bottom but picks up quickly.
- I have observed in my home garden that it is a self-sowing garden plant. I mean it drops the seed capsules and few seeds germinate and grow into adult plants.
- The pretty flowers of Thryallis attract birds such as hummingbirds, bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
- In my view, this undemanding graceful shrub is a cheerful and glistening addition to your collection of plants bringing more colour and body to the garden.
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