How to Care for Your Plumbago Auriculata
Plumbago auriculata grows in the warmer climates of the world. Originally discovered in South Africa in the 18th century, thanks to the Dutch East India Trade Company it has been taken around the world and now grows in Florida, California, Australia, Spain, and other countries around the Mediterranean basin.
Bearing sprays of beautiful pale blue flowers not unlike phlox, plumbago auriculata (also know as cape leadwort) is a popular garden plant that grows best in USDA zones 8B - 11.
Flowering all spring, summer and early autumn, it is cut down by frost but will regrow the following spring.
Flowers appear on the tips of new growth, and so can be hard pruned at any time of the year to keep it in shape. Left to its own devices, it can become straggly due to its spreading habit.
It is a bush that can grow to 10 feet high and 10 feet wide if left unchecked. It can also be treated as a climber but looks best when trailing down from walls and containers. Plumbago also makes great hedging.
Care of Your Plumbago Plant
- Plumbago grows best in full sun, and can be grown in warmer parts of the UK, or in conservatories in cooler parts.
- It prefers slightly acidic soil and is fairly drought-resistant once established.
- A harsh pruning will result in lots of new growth, and the flowers appear on new growth so expect a lovely display after it has been pruned.
- It makes a great plant for filling in spaces in flower borders, and is very fast-growing.
- Butterflies are attracted to plumbago, especially the common blue butterfly (Cyclyrius pirithous) which feeds off it nectar.
- It is considered by gardeners to be one of the easier plants to grow, so if you live in a warmer climate do not be afraid to try to grow this beautiful flowering plant.
Plumbago can be easily grown from seed, semi-ripe tip cuttings or, by the far the easiest way, is to take rooted offshoots from the parent plant. With a little care, it will bring you joy year after year with its beautiful sky blue flowers and happy disposition. Can be grown in containers, against trellises, over rocky ground, in fact anywhere you have the space. Cape Leadworts are largely disease and insect resistant.
- Plumbago attracts wildlife to your garden in the form of birds and butterflies who are attracted to the sticky sweet nectar on its flowers. Because of this stickiness, children sometimes take individual flowers and use them as earrings.
- The seeds of the plumbago stick to animals and birds which helps with dispersal.
- Plumbago is named from the Latin word plumbum, meaning lead. At one time it was thought of as a cure for lead poisoning.
- It had its place in traditional alternative medicine and was used to treat broken bones (how did that work?), wounds, and warts.
- It was also taken as a snuff for headaches and was recommended to stop nightmares.
- Native Afrikaans also used plumbago in the thatch of their huts to ward off lightening, but I doubt if this was successful.
As well as various shades of blue, there is a white version of plumbago auriculata available (P. auriculata var. alba). This flower is especially beautiful in twilight as it appears to glow in the half-dark.
- It is shipped as a 5 gallon plant in original pot and soil and has huge clusters of vivid deep blue flowers.
- Grows 4 to 5 feet tall and up to six feet wide.
- Likes high heat and full sun.
- Frost resistant down to 20o or 22oF.
There are very many varieties of Plumago auriculata, and as each one is slightly different, it is a good idea to read the instructions that come directly from the grower.