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Leaves are thin, sometimes downy, and broadly elliptical with pointed tips; stems are protected by long narrow thorns, found at the leaf axils. Foliage is evergreen or deciduous, depending on the species and climate. True flowers, in groups of 1 to 3 are tubular, creamy white to yellow and around 1 inch wide, largely hidden by brightly colored petal-like bracts. In the St. Louis area, these plants are a shrubby vine that can be grown in greenhouses, sun porches or in containers or baskets outdoors in the summer months.
The 14 species of this South American genus in the four-o-clock family, seen in warm-temperate to tropical regions as spectacular climbers, are really scrambling shrubs and usually remain fairly compact or behave as ground covers if left free standing.