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Butterfly Garden


Plumbago auriculata

  • ​Common name: Cape leadwort, blue plumbago, cape plumbago, blister leaf
  • Scientific name: Plumbago auriculata
  • Family name: Plumbaginaceae
  • Origin: South Africa
  • Height: 4-10 ft
  • Width: 4-8 ft
  • Growth: Fast
  • Zone: 9-11
  • Light needs: Full Sun to Partial Shade
  • Salt Tolerance: Low
  • Soil/pH/Texture: Prefers well-drained, sandy soils, and acidic to slightly alkaline soil (pH 6.1-7.5)
  • Moisture: Newly planted Plumbago should be watered twice a week; once established, watering is only needed once per week. Water more if conditions are especially dry.
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Pests/Disease: Scale and mites; not especially susceptible to diseases
  • Growing conditions: Best grown in warm, sunny, relatively dry areas with well-drained, sandy soil. Can be grown in the ground or in a large container. Plumbago is very drought-tolerant, so it can also be used for xeriscaping. It may be killed when temperatures drop too low (mid 20s), but it grows back from the roots.
  • Characteristics: Plumbago has simple, smooth, oblong leaves, 1-3 inches in length, which grow alternately along the stem. Flowers range from periwinkle-blue to white in color, and bloom throughout the year. The flowers have five petals and tend to be 1-3 inches in diameter, and they grow in clusters at the ends of stems. Every part of the plant is poisonous and should not be ingested; contact with it may cause dermatitis.
  • Propagation: By stem cuttings or dividing the rootball.
  • Wildlife: The flowers attract pollinators, such as butterflies and bees.
  • Facts: Plumbago’s tendency to cause rashes gives the plant one of its common names, blister leaf. It gets its toxic properties from the chemical compound Plumbagin, which it produces in its roots. Plumbagin is currently being studied as a cancer treatment. Although most Plumbago varieties have blue flowers, some cultivars may have white or even pinkish flowers.
  • Designer considerations: Due to its high drought tolerance, it’s a great addition to dry, sunny areas, as a hedge or for mass planting. It’s a good choice for butterfly gardens as well because of its bright, attractive flowers. Plumbago blooms throughout the year, so it can make a garden look lively even when other plants have stopped blooming.