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If you are looking for a plant that loves the heat, doesn't mind long, humid summers, and is reasonably drought tolerant, then consider plumbago (Plumbago auriculata {p. capenis} Plumbaginacceae). Plumbago is a tender perennial that has lovely flowers of blue. There is a white form which mixes well in plantings with the blue. The plumbago blooms non-stop from summer until first frost. It seems to have no diseases or pests -- even deer and other varmints will not eat it in some neighborhoods. Although it blooms best in full sun, the plumbago can take considerable shade and still have an abundance of blooms. It will keep your yard full of butterflies all summer. In South Texas , the plumbago is an evergreen that will reach two to three feet high and three to four feet wide. It should be cut to the ground every fall or winter. Plumbago will flower profusely after being cut back or after a growth flush, as it bears flowers on new wood. Plumbago should be pruned heavily to keep it neat and within bounds and to make it bushy to maximize the number of flowers. It is fast growing, drought resistant and will grow in any soil but will perform best if planted and mulched heavily.

The Plumbago is native to South Africa. The name Plumbago is derived from plumbum meaning lead - referring to it being a supposed cure for lead poisoning. Auriculata means ear shaped and refers to the leaf base. Plumbago auriculata was known as P. capensis, which was the name given by the botanist, Thunberg in 1794. However, the plant had already been named auriculata by Lamarck in 1786 in what was known as the East Indies where it had been taken as a garden plant! The Dutch East India Company trade routes included the Cape and this was most likely how the plant reached the East Indies. It is also known as Skyflower because of its sky-blue color.

Children often make "earrings" with the sticky flowers - letting them stick to their earlobes. There are sticky, gland tipped hairs on the flower calyx. The seed capsule retains the stickiness which presumably helps disperse the seed by attaching to animals. The top of the capsule splits opens and drops the seed out.
Plumbago is used traditionally to treat warts, broken bones and wounds. It is taken as a snuff for headaches and as an emetic to dispel bad dreams. A stick of the plant is placed in the thatch of huts to ward off lightning.

Use plumbago in borders and for color massed in beds. Many gardeners use plumbago as a background or filler plant under and in front of shrubs that have stronger frameworks. Its rambling habit makes plumbago highly suitable for use as a flowering groundwave. Plumbago also is used as a porch or patio container plant that spills over the sides and is covered with the showy blue flowers.

Plumbago makes a good, fast growing "exclusion zone" or bush-clump plant for attracting birds which like dense plant growth. I have mentioned that butterflies love to gather on the plumbago so your landscape can easily be transformed into a nature preserve simply by planting this newest Texas SuperStar called plumbago. Enjoy!!


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