plumbago auriculata

How To Grow and Care For Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata)

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Plumbago is a beautiful blue flowering evergreen for warm and subtropical areas. These low-maintenance plants are naturally pest-resistant, making them a great choice for beginner gardeners looking to add color to the landscape. 

Read on to learn more about how to grow and care for this attractive and undemanding shrub. 

What Is A Plumbago Shrub?

Plumbago auriculata, or just Plumbago, as it’s usually known, is an evergreen shrub with climbing tendencies from the Plumbaginaceae family. These plants are also known as cape plumbago, blue plumbago, sky flower, leadwort, or cape leadwort. Along with P. auriculata, there are about 20 different plumbago species in the genus.

plumbago flowers

These very fast-growing shrubs are native to South Africa, and they usually grow to about 10 ft (3 m) tall and wide. The thinly textured leaves of this plant are bright green when young, darkening with age and can be anything from 1 to 3 inches (2.5 to 7.5 cm) long.

Plumbago Flowers

Plumbagos produce masses of beautiful sky blue flowers, or occasionally white flowers on new wood, each with 5 petals. These shrubs flower on new wood in spring, summer, and fall or at any time of the year in areas without frost.

The calyx of these flowers is covered in sticky hairs which are thought to help disperse the seeds when the flowers stick to the coats of passing animals. 

Some sources suggest that these plants may be carnivorous during flowering, although the sticky hairs may simply be a defense against insects.  

blue plumbago

Other Plumbago Species

P. zeylanica or the white leadwort or chitrak is a white flowering species that is found in tropical and subtropical areas throughout the world. This plant grows to about 5 ft (1.5 m) high, and a little wider. This species enjoys full sun and can be grown in zones 10 and 11.

P. indica, is another plumbago plant that is suitable for gardening. This plant is commonly known as the Indian or scarlet leadwort. These Southeast Asian plants produce beautiful red flowers and grow well in subtropical climates.

plumbago plant

How To Grow A Plumbago

The plumbago is a fast-growing plant that is quite easily grown from seed, sown in the spring. Growing from cuttings is another good option for propagating new plants, although probably the easiest method is to simply remove and replant suckers. (1)

These plants are quite tolerant of a variety of soil types, although they show a preference for slightly acidic well-drained sandy soil that is fertile and contains organic material. 

Plumbagos are adapted to grow in areas with a distinct rainy season. They have moderate water needs and can be quite drought-resistant once established. 

Just be sure to water your plant regularly for the first few weeks after planting to help it through the stress of planting. Plants grown in a container will usually need to be watered more regularly than those planted in the ground.

Plumbago shrub does best in full sun but will tolerate partial shade, so plant this shrub in a bright and sunny spot if you have one available. 

Choose a site that is protected from wind if possible and plant it somewhere with enough room for it to spread to its full size. Plumbago does best if grown in USDA zones 8 to 11. 

cape plumbago shrub

Care and Maintenance

Plumbagos are very low maintenance plants that are very tolerant of pruning, making them a great choice for a formal hedge. 

Frequent pruning may either stimulate, or diminish flowering depending on the timing, but it is often necessary to keep this spreading plant looking neat and compact.

Growth can be quite vigorous and this plant will climb structures and other plants so keep the shears at hand. This plant grows by suckers and can spread quite widely if left to naturalize. Simply remove these suckers to keep your plant contained. Plants can be cut right back in winter, or you can remove frost-damaged growth in spring. 

Plumbago is a plant that prefers a mild climate and will drop leaves if exposed to frost. In very cold areas, this plant might grow as a perennial or may even have to be grown as an annual.

Generally, additional fertilizing is not necessary when growing these plants but if you have very nutrient-deficient soil, and your plant is not blooming, you may wish to fertilize with an organic fertilizer in the warmer seasons.

These plants tend to be naturally pest and disease resistant but try to maintain good airflow between plants by spacing them adequately.

Uses

Horticultural Uses

Plumbago bush has many uses in the garden. These plants look great when grown in containers and allowed to hang over the edges of pots. Other common uses include growing as foundation plantings, ground cover, or even growing as a vine on arbors, on a trellis, or on fences. 

Human Uses

The roots and leaves of this plant have been used traditionally in South Africa as a treatment for headaches, warts, and fractures. (2) 

Wildlife Uses

Pollinators like butterflies enjoy visiting the blossoms of this plant. Fortunately, plumbago is considered to be a deer resistant shrub.


FAQs

Conclusion

As a beautiful, low-maintenance plant that can be used in a number of ways in the garden, plumbago is hard to beat. Provided you live in the right climate zones, consider this plant for the evergreen foliage and attractive blue floral accents it provides.

If you love blue flowering shrubs, check these plants with blue flowers.

References

Reference List:

(1) Aubrey, A. Plumbago auriculata.

(2) Van Wyk, B., van Oudtshoorn, B. & Gericke, N. Medicinal Plants Of South Africa.

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*image by eaglesky/depositphotos

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