Group of about 60 species from tropical woodlands in many parts of the world. Of the two discussed here, one is grown for its colorful leaves, the other for its showy flowers. Plants thrive in fertile, well-drained soil free from nematodes. In areas where they aren't hardy, they make excellent container plants for deck, porch, or greenhouse. If you grow them in pots, give bright light (with protection from hot afternoon sun); let soil dry out somewhat between soakings, and feed monthly during active growth with a general-purpose liquid houseplant fertilizer.
P. carruthersii. From Polynesia. Upright, open-growing plant to 35 ft. tall, 12 ft. wide. Shiny, blackish purple leaves, sometimes spotted with pink, yellow, green, or white, are 46 in. long, broadly oval, and pointed. Tubular, inch-long white flowers appear occasionally in summer. Dark foliage is perfect for contrast with yellow or orange flowers or yellow or chartreuse leaves. Pinch back in youth to encourage bushiness. 'Variegatum' ('Tricolor') has bronzy purple leaves heavily marked with pink and creamy yellow; flowers are pink.
P. laxiflorum 'Shooting Stars'. SHOOTING STARS, AMETHYST STARS. Probably a selection of a Polynesian species. Upright and spreading, to 34 ft. tall, 23 ft. wide. Bright green, narrowly oval, pointed leaves to 3 in. long are good looking, but the inch-long, star-shaped purple blossoms provide the real show: They bloom profusely and almost continuously in warm weather and are attractive to hummingbirds.