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Plectranthus ecklonii

Plectranthus ecklonii

  • Large/Tall Spur-Flower Bush

  • Mauve Plectranthus

  • Blue Spur Flower

  • Ecklon plectranthus

  • Ecklon Spur Flower

  • Ecklon spoorsalie (A)

  • Groot spoorsalie (A)

  • Persmuishondblaar (A)

Description

  • A soft, erect, freely branching herbaceous perennial, with slender, angled branches, large, aromatic, dark green, lustrous leaves and masses of large, striking flower spikes, each consisting of numerous dainty, two-lipped, tubular flowers. It is a most attractive and hardy garden ornamental, requiring little to no special treatment, and is ideally suited for growing under the dappled shade of large trees. Three cultivars are commonly grown; ‘Medley-Wood’ the most common garden cultivar with purple-blue flowers; ‘Tommy’, with white flowers; and ‘Erma’, with pink flowers. The Ecklon Spur Flower is one of the showiest and tallest of the Plectranthus genus, and it was the first of its kind to be cultivated in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens shortly after its establishments in 1914.

Family

  • Lamiaceae (The Mint, Salvia and Deadnettle family)

  • A cosmopolitan family of flowering plants and the largest of the order Lamiales, with 236 genera and somewhat 7000 species. Members can be found worldwide but occur mainly in the tropics or similar appropriate habitats. The family includes mostly perennial or annual herbs, but some are woody shrubs and subshrubs, trees (teak) or infrequently, vines. Many members are widely cultivated for their aromatic and often edible leaves, medicinal properties, ornamental qualities and ease of cultivation. The leaves are generally simple, oppositely emerging or whorled, fragrant and contain volatile oils. The flowers are usually arranged in clusters, are bilaterally symmetrical and bisexual. The fruit is frequently a dry nutlet. (The family has conventionally been considered closely related to the Verbenaceae,, but recent phylogenetic studies proposed that many genera classified in the Verbenaceae should be classified in the Lamiaceae).

Habitat

  • Plectranthus is found mostly, and is somewhat confined to, moist subtropical and coastal forests and their margins in the eastern parts of the country, where annual rainfall is more or less in the range of 1500 mm.

  • They also frequent wooded areas and are a species that typically forms part of the understory vegetation in forests.

  • Most predominant in the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Kwazulu Natal. It is the largest South African genus in the mint and sage family (Lamiaceae).

Bark

  • Multi-stemmed, with numerous, slender, slightly woody, distinctly 4-angled, square branches.

  • Younger branches are covered with short, stiff adpressed hairs, and have tufts of purplish-red hairs at the nodes.

Foliage

  • Evergreen.

  • Fairly large (60-190 x 35-115 mm), broadly elliptic to ovate, oppositely arranged leaves, dark green and glossy, with purplish colour on the veins and underside of the leaves.

  • The leaves are deeply veined on the upper surfaces, with a thin, sparse covering of fine hairs.

  • Underneath, they are densely velvety, with reddish-brown glands, and the margins are shallowly toothed.

  • The petioles are up to 50 mm long, and the wedged-shaped bases of the leaves taper gradually into the stalks.

  • The leaf tips are acutely narrowed.

Flowers

  • Smallish (16-24 mm), delicate, two-lipped flowers, carried in sessile 3-flowered cymes.

  • The calyces are purplish-red, 5 mm long, elongating to about 15 mm after flowering, with erect, ovate upper lips and 4-toothed lower lips.

  • The tubes are straight and widen towards the mouths.

  • The individual flowers are carried on terminal spiky panicles (250-370 mm long), each bearing 2-4 pairs of flowered branches, and are held erect above the foliage. (February – May).

Height

  • 0.7 – 3 m

Spread

  • 1.5 – 2.5 m

Medicinal

  • Not a great many traditional medicinal uses have been recorded, but infusions and concoctions of mainly the aromatic leaves have been used to treat headaches, hay fever, colds, coughs, high temperatures (fever) and certain stomach disorders.

Wildlife

  • The profusion of flowers produced will attract honey bees, butterflies and other smaller insects.

  • The insects will in turn lure insectivorous birds.

Advantages

  • One of the most impressive, attractive and widely grown species of the Plectranthus genus, and a very popular garden subject.

  • Mass planting of the different, or just one of the colour cultivars is very striking and makes for a beautiful accent or focal point.

  • It will brighten up a shady, difficult corner of the garden rapidly, and produces an abundance of flowers in the first season after planting.

  • It is a natural pioneer plant, and has been used to rapidly colonise large, open areas or to stabilise banks.

  • It is a low-maintenance perennial and will beautify parks and big or small gardens.

  • It can be cultivated successfully in coastal gardens.

  • It is a valuable background filler or boundary plant and looks simply marvellous when planted in a mixed clump under large trees.

  • The Blue Spur Flower is a wonderful pot plant and can also be grown indoors.

Tolerance

  • P. ecklonii has the ability to store moisture in its roots and is reputed to be relatively drought tolerant.

  • It does however perform better when watered regularly, especially in summer.

  • It can survive being in close competition with other plants, as it has a strong root system.

  • It is It is recommended for gardens where frost is not too severe, as it is tender to frost damage.

  • As they are generally planted in somewhat sheltered, shady areas, owing to their nature, they are usually afforded some protection from frost, thus, they can be grown in colder areas as long as they are adequately protected.

  • If they are damaged by frost, cutting them back severely at the end of winter will help them to grow back faster, and once they are more established (1-2 years), the bases tend to become woodier, and so the plants become more resistant to frost damage.

Growth Rate

  • A fast-grower under ideal conditions.

Lighting

  • Plant in full shade, or a partly shady area where it receives a good amount of morning or afternoon shade.

  • The plants perform best when planted amid other shade loving plants, beneath tall trees or other large perennials that provide light dappled shade.

Soil & Water

  • These shrubs are reasonably tolerant of a wide range of soil types and qualities, and they will grow under trees in less favourable soils where most other plants languish.

  • They perform best in well-drained fertile, humus-enriched loamy or slightly sandy soils, with a slightly acidic to neutral ph.

  • They will appreciate an application of a balanced general fertilizer straight after flowering or pruning (which should be done at the end of winter before the new growth begins for summer).

  • P.ecklonii has moderate water requirements, and benefits from more water during the warm summer months.

  • The area around the shrubs can be mulched to help them maintain a cool root run and an evenly moist soil.

Propagation

  • An exceptionally easy plant to propagate.

  • It is most frequently propagated from soft-wood or semi-hardwood cuttings taken from the mother plant in in early spring or summer.

  • The cuttings should a minimum of two nodes and the leaves should be removed from the lower half.

  • Rooting hormone is not essential and has proved detrimental by causing the cuttings to rot.

  • Place the cuttings a third of their length into thoroughly cleansed, fine river sand and placed in a warm, temperate, shaded area.

  • They must be misted often and not be allowed to dry out.

  • If planting in en masse, the individual plants must be placed at least 60 cm apart to allow adequate room for spreading.

  • To encourage healthy branching and a compact, dense growth form, it needs regular pinching by trimming the tips of new shoots.

  • Older flower heads can be removed as the flowers fade.

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