How to Care for Your Plumbago Auriculata

Updated on May 17, 2017
Plumbago auriculata
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.

Plumbago auriculata
Plumbago auriculata

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.

Propagation

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 auriculata
Plumbago auriculata

Fun Facts

  • 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.

Plumbago auriculata var. alba
Plumbago auriculata var. alba

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.

A 12" container of Cape plumbago can be bought at Amazon and is advertised as being great for erosion control in your garden.

  • 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.

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        Heather UK 

        4 months ago

        Just love mine they are much admired, to date they have been kept in the sun lounge and pruned back each winter. I hope to try a new plant a cutting from my old one outside in a sheltered place to see if it will survive the winter in the East Midlands, perhaps I should fleece over the winter months to be sure but worth a try.

      • profile image

        Pat in AZ 

        5 months ago

        Plumbago is a favorite of mine. It grows well in Arizona, and doesn't have to have full sun in the summer. In fact, with our heat it does better in partial or limited sun. It isn't very pretty in the winter, but it comes back as the weather warms. I've grown them in pots and in the ground. If you love Hydrangeas but live in a dry climate where they don't do well, this is the plant for you.

      • profile image

        Susan 

        6 months ago

        My plant is loosing all of its leaves Is this normal?

      • profile image

        Kip (Costa Brava, Spain) 

        9 months ago

        Tried the vine variety and it is not doing so well. I will be cutting it back today to see if it revives itself. I may have over watered it. We also planted two bush Plumbagos today. Unfortunately, there is no spot in our gardens that gets full sun all day, all year long. No frost problems where we live.

      • profile image

        Michelle (Trinidad) 

        11 months ago

        It is very beautiful. purchased two thus far and they are growing fine. Thanks for the additional information for I was unaware that they can grow so large, so one has to be moved to another spot. Thanks again.

      • Dolores Monet profile image

        Dolores Monet 

        3 years ago from East Coast, United States

        Hi Izzy, as a blue flower lover, I hate to admit that I do not know Plumbago. It is so beautiful! Too bad that it will not thrive in my area.

      • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR

        IzzyM 

        7 years ago from UK

        Yes it is beautiful. One of my favourites :)

      • LeanMan profile image

        Tony 

        7 years ago from At the Gemba

        I used to grow this in my conservatory in the UK, a magnificent plant.

      • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR

        IzzyM 

        7 years ago from UK

        Pinch a cutting from a neighbour if there is any growing near you. Take a woody branch about 4" - 6" long, remove lower leaves, shoots. Place in water until you have a pot prepared with a sandy potting compost mix. Dip in rooting powder and place in compost.Water well and keep in a light but shady place. Spray with water every day until you see new shoots appearing, then water as normal.

      • Jane@CM profile image

        Jane@CM 

        7 years ago

        I love the colors - the blue flowers are beautiful. I think I shall plant these next year! Thanks Ms. Iz!

      • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR

        IzzyM 

        7 years ago from UK

        Thanks Wendy! I don't even think that any of these photos truly do this flower justice. It is especially pretty and the camera, even on close-up, just doesn't quite capture it.

      • Wendy Krick profile image

        Wendy Krick 

        7 years ago from Maryland

        So beautiful!

      • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR

        IzzyM 

        7 years ago from UK

        Thanks D.A.L :)

        When I first saw it growing here in Spain, I just had to find out its name! The flowers are gorgeous. I now have several rooted cuttings growing away quite happily in containers. I have a really dry border in the garden that is suffering from erosion being next to a steep embankment. Am considering plantng one of my cuttings there. Just 'considering' at this stage as almost everything else I have planted there dies. I have cactus that would do well, but I prefer flowering shrubs.

      • D.A.L. profile image

        Dave 

        7 years ago from Lancashire north west England

        Hi, beautiful photographs enhance you very informative hub . A pleasure to read. rated useful and beautiful.

      • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR

        IzzyM 

        7 years ago from UK

        yes these are gorgeous colors to grow :)

      • suziecat7 profile image

        suziecat7 

        7 years ago from Asheville, NC

        Beautiful plant. I love the combination of purple and white in a garden.

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