Plectranthus ecklonii, “”Medley Wood”, the purple-blue coloured form adds vibrancy to shady gardens.
One of the most colourful and showy of shade loving plants, it is no wonder that Plectranthus ecklonii, the Large Spurflower Bush or Persmuishondblaar was among the first plants cultivated in the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. With three attractive colour forms, purple blue, pink and white, they are a popular choice today for shady gardens. They may be planted singly or mass planted to great effect.
Family: LAMIACEAE (Mint family)
- Plectranthus – from the Greek words “plektron”, a spur, and “anthos”, flower. Referring to the spur at the base of the floral tube.
- ecklonii – named in honour of a Danish apothecary and plant collector, Christian Friedrich Ecklon (1795 – 1868), who travelled and collected plants in South Africa.
Common Names: Large Spurflower Bush (Eng) and Persmuishondblaar (Afr)
Form: A small, erect softwooded shrub.
Size: 1 – 2 m by 1 – 2 m.
- The flowers are tubular, about 2 cm long.
- The tube broadens to the mouth with an upper and lower lip.
- Flowers are borne on multi-flowered inflorescence spikes between 12 and 25 cm long.
- 2 to 4 inflorescences are borne together at the end of branches.
Colour: purple-blue, white or pink.
Flowering Months: Feb – May.
- Flowers are not scented.
- Crushed leaves have a pungent smell.
The the inflorescences are borne in groups of up to 4 at the end of the branches.
The simple, elliptic to oblong leaves are either opposite or 3-whorled.
- Simple leaves ovate to elliptic with dentate margins.
- The leaves are relativly large, from 6 – 17 by 4 – 10 cm.
- The upper surface is thinly hairy and the prominent veins are submerged
- The lower surface is velvety and tinged reddish-brown.
Thorns: No thorns.
Seeds: Small (2mm) dark brown or black nutlets.
- Mostly single stemmed with many branches from close to the ground.
- Stems are four-angled.
- Young branches have tufts of purplish hairs at the nodes.
In the Garden:
- This is a showy and desirable garden plant.
- Very showy when in full flower.
- 3 colour forms, ‘Medley Wood’ (blue), ‘Tommy’ (white) and ‘Erma’ (pink) are commonly cultivated.
- The 3 colours can be planted together very effectively.
- May also be planted together with other Plectranthus species for contrast of size, colour and textures.
- A good plant choice for small townhouse gardens.
- Plant as a specimen plant or in mass for effect.
- Space at 0.5 to 0.75m when mass planting.
- Happiest in a well composted, loamy soil.
- Prune back harshly in early spring after the threat of frost.
- Mulch well regularly with good compost.
- Can be trained to produce the required shape.
- Do not prune in late summer or autumn, or they will not flower.
- They survive Gauteng winters by being protected by tree and shrub canopies.
Plectranthus ecklonii “Tommy”, white (top left), and “Medley Wood”, purple-blue, grown together in a garden in Roodepoort.
Plectranthus ciliatus and P. ecklonii grown together for a pleasing contrast in flower shape and colour, leaf texture and colour as well as growth forms.
Plectranthus ecklonii “Erma” has lovely pastel pink flowers.
- Water wise plants.
- Like water in the summer months.
- Take strain in lengthy periods of drought but quickly recover after good rains.
- Partial to quite deep shade.
- Will be happy in morning sun.
Roots: Not aggressive.
- Insect eating birds will feed on the insects attracted to the flowers
- Bees and butterflies feed from the flowers.
- At least one species of moth (Trichoplusia sestertia) larvae feed on this Plectranthus.
- Possibly up to 9 species of butterflies’ larvae may feed on it.
Medicinal: Used in traditional medicine to treat headaches and hay fever.
Poisonous: Not poisonous.
Notes of Interest:
- First collected by William Burchell in 1813.
- Named after Ecklon by Bentham in 1848 who was unaware of Burchell’s discovery.
- Ecklon had collected specimens in the Katberg
Plectranthus ecklonii “Tommy” has white flowers.
- Occurs naturally in the EC, KZN, ESW and into the extreme south of M.
- Endemic to southern Africa.
Habitat: Found in coastal and afromontane forests and forest margins.
© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2019.