PLUMBACO ALIRICULATA (syn. P. eapensis) (Cape leadwort)

7 deg C/45 deg F

This South African shrub is notable for its beautiful clusters of phlox-like flowers borne over a long period, from spring to autumn. The most commonly seen one is a beautiful pale blue form, but there is also a white one. A delightful effect is obtained by growing the two together. so that the colours intermingle. It is a favourite plant for cool conservatories or garden rooms, where it is best trained against a wall. If allowed to

reach an appreciable size, the somewhat straggly stems need support. However. young plants – and properly pruned specimens – can be kept as reasonably neat pot plants for some years. In the home, this species is especially useful for glassed-in porches. It is also ideal in bright foyers and entrance halls. and particularly for glass-roofed corridors. It is nearly always recommended that this plant should be grown from cuttings, although it can be raised from seed sown in March. This will produce plants to bloom from summer onwards. making conveniently sized pot plants. Seed is quite easy to germinate under window-sill conditions, and the seedlings grow quickly, needing potting into their final 18cm (7in) pots the first year. To keep this species compact, prune by reducing all shoots by at least two-thirds after flowering. If space allows, the plants will reach over 3m (10ft) in height. For large specimens, a 25cm (10in)pot, or small tub. will be needed. If the minimum winter temperature is maintained, the plants should remain evergreen. In cooler conditions, they may lose foliage in winter, but they should easily survive if kept on the dry side. In summer, water can be given freely. A position in good light helps to keep the plants sturdy, but in summer protection from direct sunlight is necessary.

Plants grown against a wall can be given a trellis or wires for support. Freestanding plants can be given bamboo canes and kept tied to these. Potting is best done in early spring. Cuttings for propagation should be taken with a heel during early summer. They usually root easily in plastic bags

designed for window-sill propagation. Another species, Plumbago indica (syn. P. rosea), is occasionally sold as a houseplant. It is from the Hast indies and needs considerable warmth and humidity. and at least I5 deg C (59 deg F) in winter. It has the advantage of being a compact, shrubby plant, suited to pot culture. The flowers are a lovely rose-red colour. Unfortunately, it seems very temperamental as a houseplant and grows best in a warm greenhouse. The most likely pest of plumbago is aphids.

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