Leea guineensis 'Rubra'
Common Name: leea
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Vitaceae
Zone: 10 to 11
Height: 4.00 to 8.00 feet
Spread: 4.00 to 5.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to August
Bloom Description: Red
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Evergreen
Fruit: Showy
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Heavy Shade

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-11. This shrub/tree should be planted outdoors only in frost free areas. It is best grown in rich, evenly moist but well-drained soils in part shade. Tolerates full shade. Avoid dry soils. Plants appreciate regular applications of fertilizer. Plants perform best in sheltered locations protected from drying winds. In St. Louis, they may be grown indoors as a houseplant, but this can be difficult. Plants need a humid environment which can be a challenge to achieve in winter in furnace-heated rooms (use of pebble trays, misting of foliage, and humidifiers helps). Indoor temperatures should not dip below 50 degrees F. Species plants may be propagated by seed, but cultivars must be propagated vegetatively.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Leea guineensis, commonly called, West Indian holly, Hawaiian holly or burgundy leea, is a tropical evergreen shrub to small tree that typically grows in outdoor, frost-free locations to 5-20’ tall. If grown indoors as a container plant, it typically grows to a much shorter 4-8’ tall. It is native from tropical West Africa east to the Caroline Islands, and from the Indian state of Sikkim south to New Guinea and Mauritius.

This is an understory species that typically grows in its native habitat on forest floors in shady locations under the cover of taller trees where it typically adapts well to low light levels. It features 2-3 odd pinnate compound leaves which emerge light green, sometimes with slight red tinges, but mature to a glossy green. Elliptic to lanceolate leaflets (each leaflet 2-6" long) have undulate margins and pointed tips. As the leaves mature, minute droplets of plant sap (called pearl glands) are exuded and congeal as tiny translucent pearls on the foliage. Tiny flowers (each to 1/2" wide) appear in domed, many-branched, terminal clusters (cymes to 3-5" wide). Flowers are reddish-orange outside and a paler yellowish-orange inside. Flowers may bloom throughout the year in ideal growing conditions. Flowers are followed by rounded purple fruits (to 3/8" diameter) which ripen to scarlet.

Leea cocinea is a synonym.

Genus name honors James Lee (1715-1795), nurseryman with Kennedy of Hammersmith, London.

‘Rubra’ is a cultivar that features dark red stems, bronze-red leaves, red flowers which are pinkish inside and scarlet fruits.

This shrub is primarily grown in residential areas as an indoor foliage plant. It is often grown in containers in both indoor and outdoor locations.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Leaves/berries are toxic if ingested and may cause skin irritations. Leaf spot may develop in plants grown in areas of excessive moisture.

Garden Uses

Where winter hardy, it is grown as an informal hedge, foundation plant, and specimen or container plant. Has been a popular plant for ornamental decoration in shopping malls. It is primarily grown for its attractive foliage.