Titi smoothers itself in fragrant flower clusters at the beginning of the summer. Click to download a large version of the titi.
Titi (rhymes with bye-bye) is a shrub or small tree that commonly grows in dense thickets due to the many stems that sprout from shallow horizontal roots. Individual specimens can reach over 30 ft (9 m) in height, but are usually only 7-15 ft (2-4.5 m) tall. Grown in the open, rather than in a thicket, titi develops a rounded, spreading crown. The leaves are deciduous in the north, semi-evergreen in the south. They are shiny and variable in size and shape, usually about 1-3 in (2.5-7.5 cm) long. In warmer parts of its range, the leaves often remain on the plant for two years, eventually turning red or orange before dropping in late autumn. Specimens with the smallest leaves were once thought to be a different species: Cyrilla parviflora. The tiny flowers are borne in horizontal whorls of elongated clusters just below the season's new growth. Each of the many fragrant flowers has five white or cream colored petals which are only about a tenth of an inch (2.5 mm) long. Titi blooms in late spring and early summer.
Location Cyrilla racemiflora is native to the southeastern U.S. from Virginia to central Florida and the West Indies, and west to eastern Texas, thence south through Central America to northern South America. Titi occurs in wet places, especially pocosins, acid shrub bogs, wet pine flatwoods, swamps, cypress domes and on stream banks. Titi often forms impenetrable thickets along the edges of wetlands, and sometimes encroaches upslope into the pine flatwoods when natural fires have been excluded.
A dense stand of titi covers the far side of Jack's Catfish Pond and stretches over the water to form a shady shelter for the fish on hot days.
Titi grows naturally on acidic, wetland soils, but, like many wetland species, it can tolerate dry soils once it has become well established. Until then, water frequently. Light: Grow titi in full sun for the fullest, bushiest specimens. Those grown in partial shade will tend to be leggy. Moisture: Titi grows naturally on acidic, wetland soils, but, like many wetland species, it can tolerate dry soils once it has become well established. Until then, water frequently. Hardiness: USDA Zones 6-11. Titi is quite cold hardy and can be grown farther north than it occurs naturally. Select plants from close to your area: those from northern South America probably won't tolerate zone 6 winters, and plants from Virginia might not like Florida summers! Propagation: Titi is easy to propagate: it sends up suckers from its roots. Tip cuttings can be started in spring. Root cuttings can be taken any time. Seeds can be sown without any pretreatment.
Titi's gnarled and twisty stems are very decorative and look great in landscapes and natural gardens.
Titi is an excellent shrub for wet areas in the landscape. This is a very attractive bush with its dense canopy of shiny leaves and abundant, fragrant flowers. Titi makes a fine shrub for the mixed border and is especially well suited for naturalizing in the woodland garden. A hedge of titi bushes makes an excellent screen for a retention pond. If you expose the twisted, gnarly trunk with its smooth brown bark by pruning back the lower branches and suckers, you will have a very handsome specimen shrub or small tree. Titi's flowers produce large quantities of nectar that bees turn into honey.
Titi isn't often found in the home landscape, but it should be! Check with your local native plant nursery.