Sclerochiton harveyanus flower from mid-summer till autumn.

Sclerochiton harveyanus, Blue Lips or Bloulippe, is a hardy, evergreen shrub that may grow up to 3m tall but in Gauteng is typically around 1,5 to 2 m tall. It is happy growing in either partial or deep shade. The attractive small leaves are almost variegated. It gets lovely but interesting, broadly lipped, blue to purple flowers from December through March.

Family:               Acanthaceae        (Mackaya family)

Name Derivation:

  • Sclerochiton – from Greek, “skleros” hard and “chiton” covering, referring to the woody seed capsules.
  • harveyanus  – after William Harvey (1811 – 1866), who was the professor of botany at Trinity College, Dublin. He also co-authored the first 3 volumes of the Flora Capensis.

Common Names:          Blue-lips (Eng) and Bloulippe (Afr).

SAF Number:                  681.4                      Z Number:                  928

Form:           A medium to large, evergreen, rounded shrub.

Size:               1.5 – 2 m (<3 m) by 1.5 – 2 m.


  • Strangely shaped, 3-lobed tube that flares out only on the lower side.
  • Flowers borne singly in scattered leaf axils.

Colour:                             Blueish-mauve, blue to purple.

Flowering Months:     Dec – May.

Fragrance:                      No scent.


Sclerochiton harveyanus, Blue Lips or Bloulippe, flowers have an unusual but attractive shape.

The leaves of Sclerochiton harveyanus are dark green with pale, yellowish veins that make them look almost variegated.


  • Evergreen.
  • Simple, opposite leaves are elliptic to broadly-elliptic.
  • Leaves in each pair are often of different sizes, up to 6 by 3 cm.
  • The leaves have a variegated appearance, as they are dark green but the veins are pale.
  • Margins may be entire or bluntly toothed.

Thorns:                          No thorns.


  • A pointed, oblong capsule, 1 to 1.5 cm long.
  • The capsule forcefully splits into 5 compartments, ejecting the seeds.
  • The fruit are borne between Mar and Jul.

Stem and Bark:

  • Multiple stemmed.
  • The stems and branches are red-brown maturing to pale brown.
  • Old bark flake into thin strips.

In the Garden:

  • Sclerochiton harveyanus is an attractive, evergreen shrub.
  • It is especially desirable because it is one of the few shade loving plants with coloured flowers.
  • Group planting in large beneath large trees will produce a lovely lush, forest feel.
  • A wildlife friendly shrub, attracting insects and birds.
  • Suitable pot plant for shady patios.

A group of 3 Sclerochiton harveyanus plants used in a garden as a border to larger trees and shrubs below a large,Combretum erythrophylum and a Ziziphus mucronata.

Sclerochiton harveyanus planted alongside a narrow, straight wooden parthway in shade between 2 walls to eventually add height and to break the monotany of the walls.

Soil Needs:                         Most soil types, best in a good loamy soil.


  • A low maintenance plant.
  • Feed with organic fertilizer and mulch with compost.
  • May need some pruning to retain the required shape.
  • Protect young plants against the cold in winter.

Cold Hardiness:                Cold hardy, but protect young plants.

Water Requirements:          Quite drought hardy, but thrives on regular summer water.

Light Requirements:        Shade or partial shade.

Roots:                                  The roots are not aggressive.


  • Insect-eating birds are attracted to the insects that visit these shrubs.


  • Larva of some moths of the genus Ectropina feed on Sclerochitons.


  • No records of use for medicinal purposes were found.

Poisonous:                       Not poisonous.

Natural Distribution:

  • Found in EC, KZN, Esw, M, L, a small isolated population in central Zim, and far eastern Zim and central Moz.
  • Endemic to southern Africa.

Natural Habitat:

  • Under storey in forest and forest margins.
  • Often forms colonies.

Picture of a Sclerochiton harveyanus, Blue Lips of Bloulippe, flower photographed from the side to show the unusual wide lower lip.

© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2019