Plumbago auriculata is one of our most versatile garden plants, that can be used in so many different ways, and it is beautiful.

A scrambling shrub with large clusters of attractive, sky-blue or white flowers, Plumbago auriculata has become one of southern Africa’s best loved garden plants. Besides its showy display when in flower, it is a very versatile garden subject. It can be used in mass plantings, can be allowed to scramble in woolly gardens or pruned into shape in formal gardens. It will also attract birds and insects into your garden. 

Family:                       PLUMBAGINACEAE       (Plumbago family). Name Derivation:
  • Plumbago  – from the Latin word ‘plumbum’, lead, as it was believed members of this genus could be used to cure lead poisoning.
  • ariculata – ‘ear-shaped’ in reference to the leaf base.
Common Names:          Plumbago, Cape leadwort (Eng), blousyselbos (Afr), umahophe (Xho) and utshilitshili (Zul).

Plumbaga auriculata has thin, tubular flowers with relatively wide, five lobed ‘faces’, the flowers are bunched in terminal clusters.

Form:                            An evergreen, scrambling shrub. Size:                               1 – 5 m (–12 m) by 1 – 5 m. Flowers:
  • Thinly tubular (3 cm long) with wide, 5 lobed mouth (2cm).
  • The flower tubes are glandular and sticky.
  • Flowers in terminal clusters.
Colour:                                White or pale blue to sky blue. Flowering Months:          Sep – May.
Fragrance:                        Not fragrant. Foliage:
  • Evergreen.
  • The simple leaves are oblong or wedge-shaped, up to 10 by 2.5 cm.
  • The leaf stalk (petiole) is winged at the base and partly wraps around the stem.
  • Leaves are thin, green above and grey-green below.
  • Leaves are often dotted with tiny glands.

Plumbago ariculata may be pruned to to control its size and shape.

Thorns:                          No thorns. Fruit:
  • The Fruit is a grooved capsule that is sticky.
  • The top of the capsule splits open like a tin’s lid.
Bark:                            Stems are grey-green.
In the Garden:
  • Free flowering and very showy.
  • Can be used to good effect planted en mass, especially on sloping banks.
  • In small gardens it can contained by pruning, but do not prune in summer or it won’t flower very well.
  • Can easily be pruned to form a formal hedge.
  • A wildlife friendly plant, attracting insects and birds.
  • Makes a good subject in a planter, where it can trail over the sides.
  • Water-wise.
  • Can be used to great effect with plants like Bauhinia galpinii and Tecomaria capensis.
  • Fast growing.
Soil Needs:                Will tolerate poor soil, best in a humus rich soil. Care:
  • A low maintenance plant.
  • May be pruned in Sep – Oct to neaten and shape.
  • Feed with organic fertilizer and mulch with compost.
  • Protect young plants against cold.
Plumbago auriculata can be combined to great effect with Bauhinia galpinii, the Pride of de Kaap, the blue of Plumbago contrasting nicely with the brick-red of the Bauhinia.
There is a white flowered form available to gardeners, known as Plumbago auriculata ‘alba’, that is also very spectacular.
Cold Hardiness:                  Cold hardy, if it does frost it normally recovers quickly in spring. Water Requirements:        
  • Drought hardy, but thrives on regular summer water.
  • Water-wise.
Light Requirements:           Full sun. Roots:             The roots are not aggressive. Birds:­­­­
  • Insectivorous birds are attracted to the insects that come to the flowers and leaves.
  • Sunbirds are known to visit the flowers.
Insects and Butterflies:
  • Adult butterflies feed on nectar from the flowers.
  • The larva of Short-toothed Blue and Common Zebra Blue feed on Plumbago auriculata.
Medicinal:
  • Powdered leaves and roots are used as a snuff to relieve headaches.
  • Plumbago auriculata is also used to treat warts and broken bones.
Many adult butterflies, like this Citrus Swallowtail, visit Plumbago flowers for nectar.

Plumbago auriculata is a host plant to the larvae of the Common Zebra Blue.

Poisonous:                       Not poisonous. Notes of interest:
  • Traditionally it is used as a charm to ward off evil.
  • It is a popular garden plant around the world in suitable climates.
  • Flowers may be cut and used in a vase.
Natural Distribution:
  • Found in the EC, KZN, Les, northern FS, NWP, G, and central M.
  • This beautiful plant is endemic to southern Africa.
Natural Habitat:
  • May be found in thickets and valley bushveld.
Mass planting of Plumbago on embankments can be very showy.

© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2012 & 2018.