Botanical name: Radermacheria sinica
Common name: Canton Lace
Canton Lace is normally a house plant but responds remarkably well as a garden plant if care is taken hardening it off from inside conditions. This is best done in the early summer as the weather warms up.
This may be achieved by first placing it out on a semi-sheltered porch which allows it to get at least 2-3 hours of direct sunlight per day. As soon as new growth starts from the terminal buds, plant it out into the final position, and if any foliage is damaged from being in the new environment it will be quickly replaced.
Canton Lace is an evergreen tree which occasionally looses its leaves briefly in October-November if in an exposed situation. It develops into a round headed tree with large frond-like sets of lacy leaves.
In general terms it looks like Melia azedarach (the Indian Bean tree), but in February-March it produces the large white petunia-like trumpets as pictured. These are about 6-8cm across and sit above the foliage in bunches and open 2 or 3 at a time, and have a light vanilla fragrance if examined closely. It is surprisingly hardy and will stand temperatures of -3 or -4 C.
There is a variegated form that has been released recently, but I have no experience growing this outside, though it would be well worth experimenting with. It may produce pink tints in the new growth but it will most likely burn if grown in hot afternoon sun.
It is usually grown from seed and may be grown from cuttings of thinner growths.
Canton Lace is usually available in most garden centres, usually in the houseplant
section, but occasionally as a small tree in the outdoor section.