Have you heard of the plumbago plant – Ceratostigma plumbaginoides?
It’s a hardy, excellent choice for a landscape design in need of a groundcover type plant. The plant loves the heat, can survive long, humid summers, and is drought tolerant.
The blue plumbago auriculata native to South Africa is also known as plumbago capensis, the blue plumbago, Cape plumbago, or Cape leadwort.
The name “Plumbago” (pronounced – Plum-Bay’go) is derived from the Latin plumbum, which means lead. It is believed at one time to be a medicinal plant used as a cure for lead poisoning.
- What Is The Blue Plumbago?
- Planting Plumbago Ground Cover Or Beds
- Plumbago Quick Care Tips
- Blue Plumbago Care
- Can You Grow Plumbago On A Trellis?
- When And How To Prune Plumbago
- Species of The Plumbago Plant
What Is The Blue Plumbago?
People ask, “Is Plumbago a Perennial?” Yes, the plumbago is a perennial and has been described as a fast-growing and semi-woody shrub that produces phlox-like blue flowers almost all year round.
There are many uses in the landscape for the plumbego plant.
During the flowering stage, five petal phlox-like flowers (Phlox Drummondii) develop to form 6-inch star flower bloom clusters covering the whole plant.
The most common variety found in garden centers is plumbago auriculata, which has beautiful blooms and is light blue in color. Plumbago’s phlox-like blue or white flowers attract butterflies and give off a pleasant fragrance.
The different varieties and cultivars, like the “Cape Plumbago Imperial Blue” flowers, are slightly different, having a darker shade of blue.
When planted, the bush/shrub forms into loosely branched mounds that grow up to 36″ inches tall and wide.
Although the thin branches of Blue cape plumbago have an arching habit, the plant has oblong foliage about two inches in length.
These shrubs are considered to be deer-resistant (though we make no promises).
The bush with beautiful blue blooms not only attracts the eye, but its scent attracts butterflies. If you are a butterfly lover, you’ll love the plumbago to make your outdoors lively and beautiful.
Planting Plumbago Ground Cover Or Beds
The plant remains evergreen throughout the year in areas with no severe freezing temperatures or frost.
The perennial plumbago zone thrives in the south is USDA plant hardiness zones 8 – 11, where it is used extensively as an outdoor landscape plant, planted in partial shade but te exposure in full sun locations.
In the north, this woody tropical semi-climber is right at home in the cool greenhouse or sunny window in winter and in all kinds of container gardens in summer.
Depending on your garden’s specialized and individual climate, you might consider how to grow a plumbago blue in the ground.
When overwintering as a houseplant, bring it indoors to a bright sunny room before the first fall frost.
This evergreen shrub grows well when:
- Massed as a plumbago groundcover shrub for color beds
- Planted in borders or as a hedge
- Used in a foundation planting
- Planted in large pots or tubs (like the blue lily of the Nile – Agapanthus), used on patios and decks with the blue flowers spilling over the edge of the container.
Plumbago Quick Care Tips
- Botanical Name: Plumbago auriculata
- Common Name(s): Blue Flower Plumbago, Cape Leadwort
- Synonyms: Plumbago capensis
- Family & Origin: Plumbaginaceae family, native to South Africa
- Growability: Easy to grow
- Grow Zone: USDA zones 8-11
- Size: Grows up to 6′ feet tall and wide
- Flowering: Blooms from spring to fall with clusters of blue flowers
- Light: Full sun to partial shade
- Humidity: Tolerates low humidity
- Temperature: Tolerate temperatures down to 25°F
- Soil: Well-draining soil
- Water: Water regularly, but do not overwater
- Fertilizer: Fertilize once a month during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer
- Pests & Diseases: Susceptible to spider mites and whiteflies and may develop leaf spot or root rot if overwatered
- Propagation: Propagated through stem cuttings or by layering
- Plant Uses: Used as a hedge, ground cover, or in containers. Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.
The production of abundant clusters of attractive, cool pale blue flowers makes it a great choice for porch or patio use throughout the spring, late summer, and autumn months.
Blue Plumbago Care
When used as a groundcover or in beds, planting plumbago perennials in early autumn or spring is best. Select a suitable growing location with lots of partial sun at a minimum.
Plant in well-drained soil, full of organic material with a 1/3 of each – loam, peat moss, sand – consistency.
When trimming or brushing the plumbago shrub plant, expect to find little blue flower petals clinging to your skin or clothing.
After planting, water thoroughly and allow the soil to become nearly dry before watering again.
Cultural Requirements Include:
- Moderately cool temperatures in winter (50-65 degrees)
- Above-average humidity
- Any good but not overly rich, well-drained soil mixture
- All but the hottest summer sun for the full flowering
- Only moderate moisture
Fertilize the plumbago tree regularly for a strong root system and full flower heads.
Propagate by cuttings of nearly ripe wood in spring or fall, root division of old plants, and seeds.
Cut plumbago back severely in the fall, and top-dress with fresh soil or repot, according to need.
Store potted plants fairly cool and dry until days lengthen in the earliest spring. Then, raise the temperature and force spring flowers into full sun.
Whether you are planting the plant in a garden bed or in a container, applying the mulch will help reduce the growth of weeds and improve the retention of moisture.
A Guide To Watering Plumbago
When watering Plumbago flowers, ensure that you water thoroughly until all the soil around the plant(s) is moist. The plant does not require a lot of water. Allow the area to become dry before the next watering session.
Water container plants sparingly in the winter. If treated as a perennial, cut back in late winter to encourage new growth for the upcoming season.
Plumbagos are drought-tolerant plants, and they do not need watering more than twice a week during the warmer summer months. When the weather cools, and fall begins, reduce watering to once per week.
How Often Should You Fertilize Plumbago Plants?
Fertilize plumbago regularly when plants have a strong root system and full flower heads! Apply a balanced fertilizer at least once per month for the best results. Follow the labeled directions on the bag.
Remember, when plants start developing flowers, they use a lot of energy. Provide plants with all the necessary nutrients they need.
Pest and Disease On Plumbago
One of the biggest upsides to planting the celestina plant in the landscape goes beyond its many uses. Once established, plants experience really no diseases or pests to speak of.
Propagating The Blue Plumbago
These herbaceous plants easily grow from 4-inch cuttings taken from semi-ripe “wood” during the summer.
Dip the cutting in a rooting powder to stimulate root development, and the hormone also acts as an anti-fungicide that prevents the rotting of the cuttings.
Place cuttings in well-draining potting soil in the shade and water lightly. Keep the soil moist but not wet. Cuttings take 3 to 4 weeks to develop the roots.
Once roots develop, transplant them into larger pots with well-drained soil rich in organic material and feed them with an all-purpose fertilizer.
Can You Grow Plumbago On A Trellis?
Growing plumbago on a trellis creates a colorful conversation plant for a patio or deck. They can grow in many ways, but long shoots of the plumbago look terrific on a trellis or another type of support.
Indoors or in the greenhouse, it is particularly important to tie, train, and prune the vine to keep it in shape and suitable size. Set plants outdoors for the summer for continued bloom.
When And How To Prune Plumbago
The plumbago bush can become a scrawly, scraggly plant that will heap itself into a plumbago hedge-like mound in tropical gardens unless they are pruned and trained to shape.
Indoors and in the greenhouse, they should be cut back to a reasonable size.
Plumbago size can attain 6′-10′ feet in both height and width.
Since flowers are produced at the tip of new growth, pruning is done before spring for summer display and in early fall for winter bloom.
In tropical gardens, take your choice – train and prune each spring or let the stems wander in their own way.
Plumbago is highly suitable for use as a flowering ground cover because it beautifully showers the air with its pretty blue star-shaped flowers, making it one favorite of the butterfly.
Its fast and bushy growth habit makes it a perfect “exclusion zone” or bush-clump plant for attracting birds.
The Plumbago plant is simply a winner in the landscape and on the patio.
Species of The Plumbago Plant
Plumbago auriculata – Plumbago capensis – Best-known species, with two-inch fresh green leaves and deep sky-blue flowers; refreshing when combined with the white-flowering variety, alba.
- Plumbago indica coccinea – Larger leaves and flowers of deep coral or carmine.
- Imperial Blue Plumbago – large clusters of deep sky-blue flowers.
Monrovia nursery offers dwarf plumbago varieties with electric blue blooms and dark green leaves.
Common Name: Leadwort plumbago