Plumbago auriculata (Cape Leadwort, Blue/Cape Plumbago, Skyflower)
If you love blue flowers and butterflies, this easy-to-care Blue Plumbago plant is then a must in your garden. It is a vigorous grower and a non-stop bloomer, profusely flowering spectacularly all year round especially in the tropics. Early February this year, we came across a huge scrambling Plumbago cascading beautifully over a 10 feet retaining wall of a bungalow. It looked so strikingly stunning in that sea of sky-blue flowers! Simply splendiferous! A pity I was without a camera then!
Our potted Cape Plumbago shrubs with lovely pale-blue flowers are kept low and compact, with regular haircuts and they just love it! Each pruning always results with fabulous blue clusters to keep us as delightfully joyful as them! Plumbago loves our tropical sunny weather, but dislikes to be drenched by our tropical rain. Thus, we shade them under our porch but move them around when necessary to provide sufficient sunlight daily, to keep them happy and productive! :D
Plant Profile, Culture and Propagation :
- Botanical Name: Plumbago auriculata (synonym: Plumbago capensis)
- Common Name: Blue Plumbago, Cape Plumbago, Cape Leadwort, Skyflower
- Family name: Plumbaginaceae
- Plant type: Ornamental shrub, native to Tropical Africa.
- Light: Full sun to semi-shade, though flowers best in full sun.
- Moisture: Average water needs. Water regularly, but less once established. It is reasonably drought tolerant. It does not like wet feet, so do not overwater which may lead to root rot. Too much rain on its delicate flowers or leaves may quicken its death.
- Soil: Though adaptable to any kind of soil, it prefers a mixture of loamy and light sandy soil, slightly acidic pH, and with good drainage.
- Propagation: Easily propagated from seeds, semi-hardwood cuttings or division. The easiest method of propagation is by separating its root ball or remove rooted suckers from the mother plant.
- Features: Plumbago auriculata is an evergreen perennial shrub with vine-like habit. If unchecked, this fast-grower can reach 3-10 ft (0.9-3 m) high with a similar spread. It can be trained to grow like a scrambling vine on supports or allowed to sprawl on the ground with its long arching branches, or even pruned into a compact mounded shrub.
Plumbago has slender semi-woody stems that are typically multi-branched or clumping and covered with alternate 1.5 to 2-inch oblong leaves that are yellowish-green in color when young and darken to medium green when mature. Its undulate leaves are thinly textured and at each leaf’s base clasping the stem are little ears (winged-like leaflets), hence the name ‘auriculata’.
5-petaled tubular flowers are borne in rounded 4-6 inches wide showy clusters at terminal stems. There are sticky, gland tipped hairs on the flower calyx and stickiness on its seed capsule too.
Flower colors vary, ranging from pale blue to white or darker blue. The variety ‘Alba’ has pure white flowers, ‘Imperial Blue’ has royal blue or baby-blue flowers whilst ‘Royal Cape’ has intense cobalt blue flowers. The white variety is less prolific than the blue ones.
Plumbago blooms profusely throughout the year in the tropics, as well as in all temperate seasons except for the coldest winter months.
- Usage: Plumbago is popularly grown in garden borders and beds, in parks, or raised planters along sidewalks and road dividers. Its sprawling habit and vigorous growth makes Plumbago very popular in large gardens, slopes and landscapes, as it quickly covers large areas. Plumbago will be great for window boxes, and make wonderful porch or patio container plant as its arching branches of attractive blue flowers cascade over the sides.
Being hardy and resilient, Plumbago will be excellent as a formal or informal hedge as it responds well to pruning. Being vine-like, it is most suited to train on a chain link fence, trellises or espaliered against a garden wall for a dramatic blue effect. If you’re a nature lover, try mass planting Plumbago in your garden to attract birds and butterflies. It is the larval host plant and nectar source for several kinds of butterflies.
In some regions, Blue Plumbago is traditionally used to treat warts, broken bones and wounds, including a snuff for headaches and as an emetic to dispel bad dreams. As a fun object, its sticky flowers are often stuck to earlobes as earrings by children.
- Care: Blue Plumbago is a low maintenance plant that practically thrives on neglect. Locate it at sunny and warm sites for best growth and flowering. During watering, try not to wet its delicate flowers. Feed it every 3 weeks or so with a balanced fertilizer during the growing season. You may want to prune it after flowering to remove old stems, or at any time of the year to remove excessive growth and keep tidy. It is extremely resilient and will flower profusely after being cut back or after a growth flush, as it bears flowers on new growth. It is least bothered by pests and diseases.
- For temperate zones: Hardiness – USDA Zone 8b to 11. Plumbago is frost sensitive, though will quickly recover when killed to the ground. Best to protect the plant when frost occurs. More information at PlantzAfrica.com.
This luxuriant and amazingly large Blue Plumbago bush was seen growing at one of our relatives garden. Simply gorgeous! Think it’s about 1.5 meters tall and as wide.
The bush is planted in a large pot with its base removed and half-embedded into the ground. Looks happy and most contented growing this way and basked by the morning to early afternoon sun!
Last edit: April 27 2012