True blue! If you love blue flowers, then Plumbago is a must-have for your garden. Plant a swath of these sleek groundhugging Spirits, and you’ll have a river of dazzling, dreamy blue blossoms in late summer and early autumn. The foliage has its moment in the spotlight, too. All season long, the shiny, diamond-shaped leaves make a pretty, weed-suppressing carpet in a calmingshade of green. But when nights turn frosty, the leaves turn plum-purple, and finally, rosy-red! Use Plumbago to fill in blank spots in your landscape with invigorating splashes of late-season color.
Plumbago, also known as Leadwort, is native to western China. Among the rocky foothills there, it flaunts its electric-blue blossoms, the prettiest wildflower you can imagine. The first Westerner to discover Plumbago was a Russian-German botanist named Alexander von Bunge, in the 1830s. Bunge is best known for his discovery of the noble Lacebark Pine, which bears his name, Pinus bungeana. There are other species of Plumbago with equally mesmerizing blue flowers, but they’re bushier than this one and they’re less cold-hardy. This Plumbago is completely hardy to zone 6 (-10ºF), and it often thrives in zone 5 (-20ºF) with a bit of protection.
Because its new foliage emerges very late in spring, Plumbago makes the ideal companion to early-blooming bulbs such as Daffodils. After the Daffodils have flowered, their leaves wither and disappear, just in time for the Plumbago to fill in the space with fresh, clean foliage.
How to Grow
Although Plumbago will grow happily in a shady spot, it will be more floriferous in full sun. It will also tolerate some dryness but will be much lusher in a regularly irrigated site. The type of soil doesn’t matter much as long as it drains decently. Plumbago (a.k.a. Leadwort) doesn’t care for soggy conditions. Plants will spread enthusiastically under the right circumstances, so you’ll have to keep them in check if you don’t want them to stray too far. Mark plants with golf tees so you can find them in the spring; they disappear completely in winter and are slow to re-emerge.
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