Upon closer inspection, the plant turned out to be a tropical species, native to the Philippine Islands, Mussaenda philippica aurorae, probably "Dona Leonila." It is flashy with large creamy white "petals" which are, to be botanically accurate, the calyx, similar in structure to the poinsettia's flashy "flower" parts or bracts.
This species grows to 10 feet tall and has a moderately coarse texture with 2- to 3-inch long leaves. The cultivar "Dona Luz" has rose-purple "petals" or calyx parts.
Yellow Mussaenda, Mussaenda philippinensis, is a finer textured plant with yellow flowers, about one inch long white bracts and is usually shorter than the above species. It flowers from April through December.
Culture: Winter protection may be needed when temperatures get into the high 30 degree F range, so don't use these plants in key focal points. Plants tolerate harsh pruning in February or when the chance for low temperatures has passed.
Plants take medium shade to full sun, and are not picky about soil conditions, but they tend to dry out if there is too much sand, so added organic matter is beneficial. I'd say this plant requires a moderate amount of water and is not a "xeriscape" plant by any means. Try using the M. philippica aurorae in a large planter for a special tropical impact plant by your front door or in the lanai.
Pests: Keep an eye out for aphids on the developing flower buds.
For more information on home gardening, visit collier.ifas.ufl.edu or contact the University of Florida, Collier County Cooperative Extension Service, Master Gardener Plant Clinic at 353-2872. The Extension Plant Clinic at 14700 Immokalee Rd. is open 9 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m Monday, Wednesday and Friday.