Plumbago - The Plumbago Auriculata

Plumbago auriculata belongs to the Plumbaginaeae family and is also known as the Cape leadwort or Plumbago in English, and the blousyselbos in Afrikaans.

Did you know? The pretty blue flowers of the Plumbago auriculata are part of the appeal of this popular garden plant.

The Plumbago auriculata is a hardy plant that is characterised by its delicate blue flowers. The herbaceous shrubs reach heights of about three metres, with similar-sized spreads, depending on the particular species.

As new leaves and stems sprout, they are a vibrant green, which then darkens as they mature. It is a scrambling shrub that extends its reach quickly and naturally. The flowers range from pale blue to a much darker variety, and can sometimes be found in white too.

Flowering time

Although the main flowering time of the Plumbago auriculata is between November and May, the pretty flowers may actually make their appearance all year round.

Use in the garden

Although the Plumbago auriculata was long ago believed to cure lead poisoning, the theory of its success has been cast aside. Today, it is used to add a delicate prettiness to gardens. The sticky base of the flowers makes them stick to other surfaces, and children delight in playing with these, often using them as jewellery.

It is also a food source for butterflies, and attracts a host of these colourful guests to the garden. In addition, it is used by the world of traditional medicine to treat minor wounds and warts, headaches and even nightmares.

Natural distribution

The Plumbago auriculata is a scrub and thicket plant, favouring the beautiful valley bushveld of South Africa. It is commonly found in the Southern Cape and Eastern Cape, right through to the balmy subtropical province of KwaZulu-Natal.

Still, the Plumbago auriculata can be found throughout the country to a lesser degree and is not confined to these formal areas. It is often found sharing its habitat with the Cape honeysuckle.

Growing Plumbago in your garden

This is a fabulous plant for the garden as it can be pruned to a formal hedge, or can be allowed to take its own course (pruning will allow for far more flowering and is recommended). It will scramble up trees and walls; so, it will require some control.

Plumbago grows fast and is resistant to dry conditions and a variety of soil types. However, for best results, enrich the soil with compost on a regular basis. The flush of little flowers is always rewarding, and is a great way to cover unsightly walls or surfaces.

Propagation

Plumbago auriculata is easily propagated via a variety of methods. It can be grown by seed, which should be sown in trays in the spring months (September to November) and covered lightly by soil. The rooted suckers can also be removed from the host plant and planted. This method yields the best results in terms of ease and success. Cuttings can also be planted effectively.

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