How to Grow and Care for Harlequin Glorybower

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Harlequin glorybower is a deciduous shrub that produces racemes of showy flowers in the Summer. Despite having beautiful and sweet-smelling flowers, the leaves, if crushed, emit a pungent odor not unlike that of peanut butter. 

Hence, one of the harlequin glorybower’s common names is – unsurprisingly – peanut butter bush.

Native to parts of Asia, including China and India, this plant commonly grows in tropical regions, but certain cultivars are hardier and will thrive in cooler sites, down to USDA zone 6b.  

This fast-growing perennial vine is also known as the bleeding heart vine. Clerodeondrum trichotomum is grown as an ornamental for its colorful floral display, which is prolonged due to the berries that follow the clusters of flowers. 


Plant materials from the harlequin glorybower were collected from Japan by a Russian botanist in the mid-19th century.

Plant Facts

Scientific nameClerodendrum trichotomum
Common namesHarlequin glorybower, peanut butter bush, bleeding heart vine
FamilyFast-growing, fragrant flowers, wildlife friendly. Berries are toxic to humans, livestock and domestic animals.
Height10 to 15 feet (4.57 m)
Width10 to 15 feet (4.57 m)
USDA Plant Hardiness ZoneZones 7 to 9
Native toParts of Asia
Blooming seasonLate summer
Flower colorsWhite turning pink and red before blueberries appear
Plant specific featuresFast-growing, fragrant flowers, wildlife friendly. Berries are toxic to humans, livestock, and domestic animals.

How to Plant and Grow Harlequin Glorybower Bushes

Where to Plant

Find a planting site where you will be able to appreciate the late-season color of the berries. Remember that this is a shrub that produces suckers from its base that need to be cut off annually. C.trichotomum can become invasive, outcompeting neighboring plants if left unchecked.

It does best in a sunny position and in rich, well-draining soil.

When to Plant

This shrub should be planted in the Spring unless you are sowing seeds. Seeds should be sown s soon as they are harvested.

Harlequin Glorybower Shrub Care and Maintenance


Well-drained soil is essential, as the harlequin glorybower shrub’s roots are likely to rot if they are left sitting in waterlogged soil for extended periods.

For best results, provide the shrub with soil that is light and sandy.  If necessary, add a soil conditioner at the time of planting. 


All newly planted shrubs need regular watering for the first year or so. This gives their roots the best chance of establishing themselves. Once a robust root network has developed, the plant will be able to withstand dry periods better. 

An established peanut butter bush is fairly drought tolerant. It is only necessary to provide supplementary watering during very prolonged, hot, and dry spells.


An application of fertilizer in the Spring will encourage and promote better flowering. The best type of fertilizer to use is one designed for deciduous shrubs and that dilutes in water. 

Most importantly, don’t apply any fertilizer late in the season. This will result in tender new growth that will not have sufficient time to toughen up before the onset of the colder temperatures. 

As a rule of thumb, once the flowers have finished, stop feeding your harlequin glorybower.


For the very best floral display, give the harlequin glorybower as much sunlight as possible, unless you are in a very hot region. If this is the case, you might wish to provide slight protection from the strong afternoon sun, as this will help to prevent the flowers from fading too quickly.

Pruning and Repotting

Clerodendrum trichotomum is a shrub that self-propagates by sending out suckers from the base. These need to be removed either in the Spring or the fall. 

Failure to do so will result in diminished flower production. This shrub tends to be invasive, so it is essential to remove these suckers annually. 

If you wish to train the harlequin glorybower, you can have an elegant tree instead of a multi-trunked shrub. This pruning should be done early in the Spring.  Pruning involves removing the young shoots and suckers whilst they are still soft and flexible. 

You may, however, be happy to let the C. trichotomum grow freely, and if this is the case, only very minimal pruning will be necessary.

Keep a constant eye out for any damaged or diseased branches. Always remove dead wood promptly to keep damage from pests or diseases at bay. 


C. trichotomum is a shrub that propagates easily from cuttings. The most successful time to take cuttings is in the Spring. 

Choose pieces of stem that are just beginning to become woody but from the current season’s growth. These are known as semi-ripe or semi-hardwood cuttings. 

Before inserting the cutting into the pot containing the potting compost, dip the end of the cutting into rooting powder. Once the roots have developed (and there is resistance when you tug the stem gently) you can leave it to grow on. 

After a couple of months, you can plant it in open ground or in a larger pot. You should provide some protection over the first winter.

Overwintering is recommended since the shrub is not very frost-hardy. You can use a sunny, warm windowsill or a greenhouse. If you  have chosen to plant the seedling outdoors, you can place burlap or 

It is technically possible to propagate harlequin glorybower from seed, but success rates are low and the process is slow. It can take up to 3 months for germination to occur, and the seeds need a constant and very warm temperature in order to germinate.

Harlequin glorybower shrubs can also be multiplied by root cuttings. The shrub sends up suckers from the base, and these can be cut off and the sections of root planted.

Pests and diseases

A positive advantage of harlequin glorybower is its resistance to pests and diseases. As long as you provide the shrub with well-draining soil, you will avoid the dangers of root rot and other fungal diseases.

Temperature and Humidity

Harlequin glorybower shrubs are not very hardy plants. Early frosts in the Autumn or late Spring frosts can severely check their growth and flower production.

By the Spring, all the year’s flower buds will have developed, so if possible provide them with a protective covering if late frosts are forecast. This will help to ensure that you have flowers.

An early Autumn frost will do less damage to the plant and the following season’s flowering will not be affected. However, the plant will be stressed and probably lose its leaves early.

Other Uses for Harlequin glorybower

This is a plant that is sometimes found growing in public parks and gardens. It is selected for its low maintenance and high resistance to pests and diseases. 

Sometimes known as the bleeding heart vine, the Cleodendrum trichotomum is a good choice for a wildlife or nature garden as it attracts pollinating insects and birds. The flowers are rich in pollen, and the berries provide birds with a useful food source later in the year.

There are reports that in the past the leaves (which can cause skin irritation in some people), were used as an analgesic to treat skin conditions. The seeds from the berries were crushed and used to treat body and skin parasites, such as lice.

In Japan, the fruit from the harlequin glorybower is used as a traditional dye for fabric.

Essence from the flowers of harlequin glorybower is sold to relieve stress, to help appease the body, and to relax.

Types of Harlequin glorybower You Can Grow

C.thomsoniae variegatum is a lovely variation of the bleeding heart vine. Its leaves are green and cream and the white and red flowers contrast well against the variegated, green background.

C. trichotomum “Betty Stiles” is cold hardy in its growing zones and forms an attractive tree.


These large, deciduous shrubs deliver both color and fragrance. With their Autumnal fruits, they provide multi-seasonal interest. If planting in a confined space, choose a site with care; if left unpruned, a harlequin glorybower will reach 15 feet (4.57 meters), and it grows very fast!

*image by flafab53/depositphotos

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