Our choices of flowering shrubs are fortunately plentiful. But a multicolored shrub is a rarety; in fact, this plant is rare, unique, and beautiful! Furthermore, this one, with the long name, gives you all this:
- Yesterday–purple flowers on day one,
- Today pale lavender on day two, and then
- Tomorrow bright white on the third day.
Then it gives you a repeat performance all season long so that you always have a tricolored plant all day every day. All three colors will appear each day. Here is how to identify the plant and raise it with success.
What is The Plant?
Brunfelsia latifolia– Also known as ‘Yesterday Today and Tomorrow, (Morning Noon and Night’ and a regional favorite ‘Kiss Me Quick’). If you want to know about this plant do not enter into your search engine ‘Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow! That is unless you want several reviews of an old Sophia Loren movie! Try it with the word ‘plant’ added and you will get much closer. (Although you might miss the movie review.)
Pronunciation: Brunfelsia= Broon-FELZ-e-uh. lati-FOLIA
Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow-What It Is
A medium to large, dense, and mounding shrub that is reliably blanketed in multi-colored flowers all season long.
Why Would A Flower Color Change?
We first heard about flower color changing 200 years ago from a letter written by Charles Darwin. It discussed the changing color of lantana flowers found in Brazil. Why does it happen?
Changes in pigment can cause it. A change in the pH of a flower can cause it. Sometimes it changes due to pollen or aging of the flower. For example, most flowers wilt after pollination but some will change color, which tells the pollinators where the good stuff is!
This piece from the NIH, gives credit to the decline of pigment.
How Can We Use The Plant?
Strikingly beautiful, lightly scented, and brilliantly colored, while performing in sun and partial shade there are lots of garden views you can beautify with this shrub. Plant it, ideally in partial sun, in well-drained soil, amended with organic matter. Use it in one of these ways:
- Plant it alone as a specimen.
- Use it to beautify an understory area, it’s hard to find something large enough to make an impression under tall trees.
- Use several as a group.
- Add them to a mixed border or hedge.
- It makes a unique container plant and you can bring it indoors for the winter.
The fascinating Brunfelsia latifolia is a dense tropical shrub that can reach 8+ feet in height and about as wide. The plant grows at an average pace and you can control the shape and size of your plant by pruning the longest stems. This is a simple process with this plant because of its dense growth habit. You won’t be making unsightly open spots.
One of its unique features is that it is a larger and brighter element to put under trees to add interest to the understory. If your climate will freeze use the Brunfelsia as a potted plant. Give it rich potting soil with superior drainage.
The plant has dense green leaves and in colder weather, the new leaves appear purple. Leaves are simple, alternately arranged, and customarily oval-shaped. The flowers change color each day with the result that the plant has a multicolored appearance.
You will notice a sweet scent from the flowers, plant it where you will pass it frequently.
Wildlife And Pollinators
The plant’s bloom and its scent will attract pollinators, butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees, and its nighttime scent will bring moths as pollinators.
The plant is resistant to deer and rabbits and is poisonous to animals.
How We Got This Plant
The plant and its relatives are native to South America, with the Brunfelsia latifolia originating in Brazil. Brunfelsia was named by Linnaeus and the name commemorates the early botanist Otto Brunfels, (1488-1534) a German monk.
We know that the plant was described in 1753 by another churchman the French botanist Charles Plumier. If you share the common view that early monks didn’t get out much, you will find him interesting. Expert in theology, botany, mathematics, and physics (artist and draftsman in his spare time) he made three trips to the West Indies and was an unusually prolific plant hunter.
About half of all Brunfelsia plants are native to south-central and eastern Brazil, they are also found between Panama and Uruguay. Another center of diversity is in the Antilles, Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico. (For more check the link below.)
In their natural environment, the plants are found in wooded areas as understory shrubs. As with other plants, understanding how they live in their native area is the best way to understand how to manage them in the garden.
The Plant Family
Brunfelsia is a genus of about 150 species of beautiful flowering tropical shrubs. The species called ‘Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow ( B. latifolia, B. australis, and B. grandiflora are the most commonly used. The plants are related to the Petunia and share its sweet scent.
Our plants are part of the Solanaceae (Nightshade) family. This makes the Brunfelsias relatives of tomato, eggplant, belladonna, and tobacco.
Your Choices: Varieties You Can Use
There are three species that share the common name ‘Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’ and all also share the three-color format. Look for these Botanical names.
- Brunfelsia latifolia-the plant we are featuring.
- Brunfelsia pauciflora-less scent
- Brunfelsia australis-dwarf.
- Brunfelsia grandiflora-may grow too large for foundation planting.
A rounded, evergreen shrub for tropical gardens (zones 9-11). It will have a lovely scent and a very long bloom period and encompasses the late winter, a time when winter bloomers are slowing down and warmer weather alternatives have not started.
The flowers are slightly smaller and there is less scent. Pauciflora means few flowers but I would not notice a problem. Ornamental plants in the category include:
Brunfelsia pauciflora ‘Eximia’
Brunfellsia pauciflora ‘Floribunda’ with many, smaller flowers.
Brunfelsia pauciflora ‘Macrantha’ with larger flowers having white throats.
Brunfelsia giagantica Has 2″ white flowers with a noticeable sweet scent, that is particularly effective in a moonlight garden, and the scent is strongest at night.
Brunfelsia americana ‘Lady of the Night’ white flower with a rich scent.
Brunfelsia australis, a dwarf version.
How To Buy ‘Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow’
Do not expect to find ‘Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow’ or its relatives at your big box store or even in many good local garden centers. This is a truly unique feature in your garden. If your garden is in zones 9-11 you may find it at local growers and dealers who specialize in tropical plants. In colder zones, online specialty dealers may work best.
This is a prominent dealer in our area of SW Florida. The website has useful information you can use. If you search online for Brunfelsia plants or ‘Yesterday, Today, And Tomorrow,’ the most commonly used name you should find choices.
It looks today as if you should spend about $30.00 for a single one-gallon shrub. We run an annual garden show and sale for our volunteer Master Gardener organization in our area and our vendor sold very good plants for $25.00, which is the lowest price I have seen.
Getting Cool Blues and Purple In Your Garden
There are many colors for the garden, but shades of blue are the hardest to find, wherever you garden and tropical gardens are the hardest. Blue is the rarest flower color, in fact, with 280,000 plants only 10% are in the shade.
Why is that? The answer is that while there are many pigments in the plant world there is no blue pigment for flowers, and don’t depend on foliage for much blue/purple color it is even more rare in foliage.
Try these sources for more information on adding blue and purple:
How To Grow The Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow Plant
Growing In Containers
In zone 9a or colder you may choose to grow this plant in containers. All containerized plants are more sensitive to water and fertilizer than plants in the ground. Potted plants have access only to the water and nutrition within the pot. It cannot stretch its roots to reach what it needs.
The basic water rule is the same but essential in containers. Constantly moist, never saturated with water, or completely dry. Keep your fertilizer schedule and check your plants daily.
Keep the plant with its roots tightly filling the container all winter and trim the foliage to keep the size under control.
How And Where To Plant
In the climate where you can grow this plant outdoors (zones 9-11), you can plant it any time of year. Prepare your hole this way. Dig the hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. Add topsoil and organic matter to the hole and ensure that the plant is well watered. Ensure that you fill completely around the plant to avoid any (fatal) air pockets. Thorough watering will help.
These are dense plants and spacing is important.
- Plant three feet from the house.
- Plant three feet apart.
- Allow 3-4′ between a road, driveway, walkway, or garden bed.
Plant your Brunfelsia in moist, slightly acidic, fertile, and well-drained soil with organic matter.
Your Brunfelsia will grow in sun, to partial, or dappled sun. Perfection for these plants would be morning sun and some afternoon protection. They will however grow in some variations, you may see fewer blooms.
For best results, keep the soil steadily moist with good drainage, but never wet. This is a fine application for a drip system.
Fertilize about three times per year using a blooming fertilizer with a 20-20-20 NPK ratio. If your fertilizer is excessively heavy in nitrogen your plant will show beautiful green and shiny foliage but lack in flowers. If this happens phosphorous is needed for strong roots and flowers. Feed with a fertilizer designed for azaleas and camellias. It will work for Brunfelsia and is easy to find.
Brunfelsia is a naturally growing understory shrub with a remarkably long blooming season, very beautiful and unusual blooms, and a slow growth pattern and is relatively drought tolerant once established.
Your Brunfelsia will not require pruning for its shape, if you need to keep it smaller you can prune it lightly after its spring blooms finish by taking off the longest growth and removing spent flowers.
In containers, you will prune to control size.
Pests And Diseases
Other than mealy bugs this plant is rarely bothered by pests or diseases.