Coleonema Pulchrum - Knowledgebase Question

McKinleyville, CA
Avatar for abquilts
Question by abquilts
September 24, 2009
Good morning,

I'm back! I recently noticed that my 'pink breath of heaven' that I love, was bending all the way over. I thought perhaps it need watering, so I watered it. I waited till the next day to see if that would right it. It didn't, so I continued to speculate. Perhaps it was too heavy. It's a beautiful plant. It stands 5 feet, and very full. So, I thought thinning it would make sense. It helped, but not completely, so I thought of you. I don't want to top it because it's so beautiful. Is that a possibility?

I just went out and counted the amount of stalks I cut. There were 32, some fatter than others. I tried to evenly distribute the amount cut.

If it's not one thing, it's another! This one surprised me. It happens to be one of my favorite plants (I have 2). I love the way it sways in the wind, and the tiny pink flowers are a delight.

Help me, please.

With much appreciation, Alix

Avatar for GeneTC
A comment from GeneTC
December 26, 2022
I have the exact same (and recent) issue with my Coleonemas. I'm in the Sacramento, CA area. I use Coleonemas as hedges and normally trim them every year. In the many years I have had them, they have grown fairly vertically with a little bit of horizontal spread. Their growth style is well known to me over the years. However this year, starting in about October to November, both bushes that I have (separated by about 100 feet), identically started to wilt over. The bending over process happened over about 2 weeks, as I have an outdoor camera that records daily conditions. My first thought was a neighbor had jumped into the bushes damaging them, but the camera showed they just started bending over all on their own. They have not turned brown or have any other signs of disease, it just is no longer vertical. In fact, the plants continue to flower. All the stems, on both plants, are just highly bent outward, instead of rising vertically at a 75-90 degree angle, they are spreading out more at a 30-45 degree angle. And this has happened on two plants that are about 100 feet distant from one another. They have never done this in the 10 years I have had them, so this is unusual behavior. I read elsewhere in this forum that someone else in CA had plants die from Verticillium Wilt, but so far the plants do not seem to be dead or dying, just bent over as if someone jumped into them squashing the branches outward. This summer was particularly hot, and I attributed that heat as the reason some potted Chinese junipers started to die and turn brown, but the Coleonemas did not show any issue until Oct-Nov. Is this a disease rather than some environmental factor?

Answer from NGA
September 24, 2009
Sounds as though you did everything right in your pruning session. How could you not love a plant that's called pink breath of heaven?? They are beautiful when in bloom. 5-6 feet tall and wide is about average for this shrub and you can prune it back and thin it as necessary. In general, it blooms winter through spring and sporadically throughout the year. The best advice I can give is to shear it lightly after first bloom, and thin out old wood (which you have done). The stems can get wispy which might account for yours bending over. When the foliage and flowers get wet from rain or heavy from morning dew, they can certainly bend over. They usually go back upright after the moisture has dried and the flowers and leaves are not quite so heavy. I wouldn't top it per se but I would selectively reduce the length of some of the stems and branches. Choose random lengths so the result is a normal, natural form. Usually wherever you make a pruning cut you'll get two new stems so keep that in mind when you prune and be brave - prune it back several inches further down than your first thought when you look at a stem and begin to prune. You'll be glad you did. Your pruning will renew the plant and keep it under control, full, and full of flowers. Enjoy!

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