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How to Grow Spanish Shawl — Heterocentron

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Heterocentron–commonly called Spanish shawl–is a tropical trailing perennial with slender, reddish stems. It grows to just 4 inches (10cm) tall and has small leaves with prominent veins and bears white, pink, or purple flowers.

Heterocentron is grown as a groundcover in tropical regions. The slender stems of a single plant form a mat 18 inches (45cm) across. Where Heterocentron is not hardy, it can be grown as a houseplant or in a hanging basket set outdoors in summer.

Heterocentron is a genus of about 25 herbaceous perennials and low-growing evergreen shrubs. Heterocentron is native to open bush in Mexico, and Central and South America. One species, Heterocentron elegans, is commonly cultivated as a houseplant,

Get to know Heterocentron

  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 12-15
  • Hardiness: Tender
  • Height and width: 4 inches (10-cm) tall and 18 inches (45cm) wide
  • Foliage: Heart-shaped to lance-shaped, pale to dark green leaves
  • Flowers: Open, funnel-shaped, 4-petaled, white, pink, or mauve flowers, singlly or in panicles
  • Bloom time: Summer into autumn and winter
  • Uses: Groundcover in tropical regions; houseplant
  • Common name: Spanish shawl
  • Botanical name: Heterocentron
  • Family name: Melastomataceae
  • Origin: Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras
Spanish Shawl, Heterocentron elegans
Spanish Shawl, Heterocentron elegans

Where to plant Heterocentron

  • Light outdoors: Plant Heterocentron in full sun.
  • Soil outdoors: Grow in moderately fertile, well-drained soil.
  • Light indoors: Plant in full light
  • Soil indoors: Grow Heterocentron in a soil-based potting mix.

When to plant Heterocentron

  • Sow seed or set out plants in spring or early summer.

Planting and spacing Heterocentron

  • Space Heterocentron 18 inches (45cm) apart.

How to water and feed Heterocentron

  • Water Heterocentro to keep the soil evenly moist but not wet. Keep the soil moist in winter.
  • Fertilize Heterocentro monthly; apply a balanced liquied fertilizer.

Heterocentron care

  • Pinc h out growing tips to keep Heterocentron bushy.

Growing Heterocentron as a houseplant

  • Grow Heterocentron in averae temperatrue, bright light, and high humidity.
  • Grow in rich potting medium; keep the medium evenly moist.

Heterocentron pests and diseases

  • Heterocentron is rarely bothered by pests or diseases.

Heterocentron propagation

  • Sow seed in spring.
  • Divide or root softwood cuttinngs in spring or early summer.

Heterocentron varieties to grow

  • Heterocentron elegans, Spanish shawl. Carpet-forming, evergreen subshrub with dense, ovate to oblong, fristly to downy mid-green leaves to 1 inch long; funnel-shaped magentat flowers.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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