Plumbago is a plant family that consists of many attractive shrubs and herbaceous plants that produce beautiful flowers. The easy-going Plumbago plants can easily be grown in Mediterranean gardens, cottage gardens, butterfly gardens, and other types of landscapes.
Big lovers of full sun, Plumbago plants can also tolerate some shade and are not picky in terms of soil. In warm climates, they can be cultivated outdoors and will easily adapt to any type of garden. In colder climates, they can also grow healthy and happy in containers. Plumbago is a low-maintenance plant family that thrives in many types of climates, is deer-resistant, pest-resistant, and attracts butterflies and other beneficial pollinators.
Keep reading to find out more about growing and caring for Plumbago a.k.a Leadwort plants.
- Plumbago, commonly referred to as leadwort, is a small genus that belongs to the plant family Pumbaginaceae and that consists of 10-20 species of flowering plants.
- The Plumbago plant family includes herbaceous plants and shrubs of different sizes.
- Plumbago is a perfect option if you’re looking for a plant that grows in bushes or thickets. A good option for cottage gardens and Mediterranean Gardens, Plumbago is a widespread ornamental plant in the Mediterranean region and other tropical and subtropical regions.
- The name of this plant family comes from the Latin word ‘plumbum’ (which means lead) and it might originate from the fact that people used to think this plant was an effective cure for lead poisoning (not scientifically proven). This name might also be linked to the practice of using Plumbago to make blueish paint colours.
- A very popular member of the Plumbago plant family is Plumbago auriculata, commonly referred to as ‘Sky Flower’ or ‘Cape Plumbago’. P. auriculata is a shrub that can grow 2-3 meters tall (6-10 feet), with an impressive spread of 2.5 – 3 meters (8-10 feet). Other attractive Plumbago varieties include Plumbago ‘Monott’ and Plumbago ‘Escapade series’.
- P. auriculata is native to South Africa, so it thrives in warm and dry climates, such as the southern regions of the United States including Texas and Florida.
- Plumbago auriculata is an attractive evergreen shrub. Being a quick grower, P. auriculata can easily be grown as a climber. However, you can also grow this attractive plant indoors where it will generally remain smaller.
- Plumbago plants will usually produce blooms during the summer, but when grown in conditions that mimic their native environment, they can bloom year-round.
- Plumbago plants are quite attractive to butterflies and other beneficial pollinators including birds and bees. The foliage of Plumbago plants is an important source of nutrition for the caterpillar of the fascinating Hummingbird hawk-moth.
- Plumbago plants are quite resistant to pests and diseases but they can be bothered by aphids regularly. Luckily, getting rid of aphids isn’t very difficult and you can learn more about this problem from our aphids guide.
Plumbago Features: An Overview
- Plumbago plants are diverse. Some can be quite small and only grow to 0.5 meters (1-2 feet) but some can reach impressive heights of up to 2 meters (6-7 feet) as is the case with P. auriculata.
- The leaves of Plumbago plants are 0.5 – 12 cm (0.2 – 4.7 inches) long, are spirally arranged, and have hairy margins. It is quite common for gardeners to notice a whitish residue on the underside of mature Plumbago leaves. Although this substance looks quite similar to a disease such as powdery mildew or chemical residue, it is not a cause for concern as it is just a natural phenomenon. Plumbago plants have “chalk glands” that produce this whitish substance.
- The blooms of the Plumbago plant are pink, red, purple, or blue, consist of 5 petal-like lobes, and are produced in clusters. The blooms of P. auriculata are violet, blue, or pale blue, but there are also white variations that look delicate (P. auriculata var. alba) or deep blue ones that are quite spectacular (P auriculata ‘Royal Cape’).
- The interesting thing about Plumbago flowers is their ability to produce a sticky substance that traps and kills insects. Plumbago flowers can trap any insect that’s smaller than a housefly. The purpose of this process is not very clear, but some of the most plausible explanations are pollination, protection, seed set, or for nutrition purposes (which would make these plants protocarnivorous). It is believed that this interesting plant might share a common ancestor with Drosera and other carnivorous plants.
- Plumbago plants can be quite toxic. Its sap can cause irritations and if ingested, Plumbago can cause digestive problems. All parts of Plumbago are poisonous, so it’s best to handle this plant with care. It’s highly recommended to use protective gloves when pruning Plumbago. If the sap touches your skin, clean the area with soap and water.
- It is generally recommended to keep Plumbago plants away from children and animals. But the good news is that according to the ASPCA, there is one safe variety of Plumbago called P. Larpantiae that is nontoxic.
Plumbago thrives in USDA zones 9-11 where they can be grown as evergreen shrubs. If you’re lucky enough to live in a warm region, you won’t have any problems growing this plant outdoors, in your garden. The important thing to remember when choosing a spot for your Plumbago plants is their size. These plants grow fast and need a lot of room. You can plant them as climbers and let their branches cascade over fences or walls. In the appropriate climate, Plumbago plants will bloom year-long and will reward you with their attractive blue flowers and dense foliage.
If you live in a cooler climate you can still enjoy these wonderful plants, but you’ll have to grow them in containers. These low-maintenance companions will require a potting medium with a neutral pH and a large container. You can keep your Plumbago plants outside during the warm seasons to allow them to bask in the sun and to bloom, and then bring them indoors during the cold season.
Growing Plumbago outdoors in USDA zone 7 or 8 isn’t impossible either as long as you cut back the plants and then cover the ground with heavy mulch before the first frost.
Plumbago is a sun-loving plant, so it’s best to plant it in spring in a location where it will get plenty of direct light. Avoid planting Plumbago during the summer, as high temperatures might be quite harmful to a fresh plant.
- SUN: Leadwort plants can grow either in full sun or partial shade. The best flowering will occur in full sun, though the plants do benefit from afternoon shade in hot climates, particularly during the summertime.
- SOIL: These plants are tolerant to most soil types, including sandy, loamy, and clay soils, as long as the planting site has good drainage. The best performance will occur in slightly acidic soil, but leadwort readily grows in neutral and in slightly alkaline soils
- WATER: Leadwort has moderate moisture needs—roughly 1/2 inch of water per week is usually sufficient. Water during prolonged periods of drought to prevent the soil from fully drying out. But make sure your plants don’t become waterlogged, as they can easily rot in such conditions.
- Expected Blooming Period: From midsummer to early fall.
- PLANTING SUGGESTIONS: Leadwort likes somewhat fertile soil. Apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in the early spring as new growth is picking up. Fertilize again in the early summer to help the plant fill out. Do not fertilize in the late summer, as this will promote tender new growth that will be vulnerable and could weaken the plant as the fall temperatures cool.
- Feature. Plumbagoa is beautiful sun-loving tropical flowering shrub that blooms nonstop and has amazing blue flowers.
- USDA Hardiness Zone. Plumbago is a very beautiful flowering shrub grown in 5-9(USDA).
- Planting time. Plant plumbago anytime of the year. It generally looks its best when planted in full sun and well-drained soil.
- Sow. Mix seeds with moist sand in a plastic bag, then place them in the refrigerator for five to six weeks. Then sow the seeds and just barely covering them. Grow them in a warm location with plenty of bright indirect light, but out of direct sunlight. Be patient, as the seeds will be slow to germinate.
- Sun. Plumbago needs full sun for best growth and flowering.
Last update on 2023-02-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
If your garden soil has a neutral pH, you don’t have to worry about adding anything else. Simply plant the Plumbago shrubs and water generously and frequently.
When planting Plumbago in pots, use a high-quality soil mix. Place a layer of pebbles at the bottom of the container to encourage drainage. Because Plumbago plants are fast growers, you might have to repot them every 2 years to replenish the nutrients in the soil and to encourage growth and beautiful blooming.
Plumbago is a thirsty plant that will require a lot of watering right after planting, during summer, and when it grows in containers. It’s recommended to water your Plumbago shrubs regularly during the warm months (May-September) and to reduce the watering in winter. Although this plant loves to be watered regularly, you should try to avoid soggy conditions.
Plumbago plants will benefit from getting a little fertilizer every two weeks in spring and summer. Once the plants have stopped blooming, you can stop fertilizing.
Plumbago plants come in many different shapes and sizes and there are several propagating techniques that you can try such as seeds, stem and roots cuttings, and clump division. Seeds have a high success rate, while cuttings might have a lower one.
Cuttings are a great way to propagate shrubs and climbers and the main advantage of this propagation method is that you know exactly what type of plant you’ll get. Stem cuttings are the easiest way to propagate Plumbago, but they are not as successful as root cuttings. Stem cuttings can be easily obtained from young plants and all you need is a pair of scissors, but the rate of success is around 70%. On the other hand, for a root cutting, you’ll need a plant that’s at least two or three years old and you’ll have to dig out the roots which can be a bit difficult, but the success rate of this propagation method is around 80%. Not a huge difference between the two, so it’s up to you to choose the one that suits your needs and preferences best.
Seed propagation is another great method and it should be carried out at the beginning of summer. The first step is sowing the seeds in small pots that are filled with healthy soil. Water the soil and place the seeds in small holes. It’s best to sow one seed in each pot and to cover the holes with soil completely. Place the pots indoors in a location that gets plenty of light but not direct light. You can cover the pots with a clear plastic cover and make sure the soil is moist and warm, but avoid soggy conditions.
The seeds will take approximately 3 weeks to germinate and once they do, remove the plastic cover and water twice a day in small amounts. You can move the plants outdoors when the seedlings grow a few pairs of leaves. During their first season, the seedlings will require protection from wind and frost, but you’ll be able to transplant them outdoors during their second season, in spring or autumn.
You can also propagate Plumbago via clump division and layering.
Plumbago or Leadwort is an attractive ornamental plant that has some unique features. If you live in a warm climate, you can easily grow this plant outdoors and enjoy its attractive blooms year-round. If you live in a cooler climate, you can grow Plumbago in containers. Regardless of how you decide to grow this versatile and low-maintenance plant, you’ll surely be rewarded with beautiful flowers and attractive foliage.
Are you growing Plumbago? Let us know in the comments!