Plumbago – planting, training and care for Cape Leaderwort


Plumbago is a superb vine. All admire its flowers and foliage.

Key Plumbago facts

Name – Plumbago auriculata
Former namePlumbago capensis
Family – Plumbaginaceae

Height – 3 to 6 ½ feet (1 to 2 meters)
Foliage – semi-evergreen
Type – shrub

Soil: ordinary    –    Exposure: full sun    –    Flowering: end spring → mid-fall

Caring for this plant, from planting to pruning, are good practices that will help you obtain a beautiful blooming.

Planting plumbago

plumbago plantingFavor planting plumbago in spring in a place with a lot of sun.

When not in this season, simply avoid high temperatures to plant your plumbago.

  • A mix of soil mix and garden soil is needed.
  • Frequent watering after planting is required.
  • Follow our advice on planting shrubs

Plumbago grown in pots

Plumbago potIt is advised to plant your plumbago in good flower plant soil mix. As with most container-grown flowers, drainage is very important. Roots should never sit in water.

  • Pour a layer of clay pebbles at the bottom of the pot to increase drainage and therefore growth of your plumbago.
  • Regular watering after planting is a must, on account of faster evaporation compared to plants in the ground.
  • It is best to repot every 2 years for the blooming to stay beautiful.
  • Repotting helps replenish nutrients.

Propagating plumbago

plumbago propagationPlumbago is not a difficult plant to multiply, but there are a few tips and rules to follow for success.

There are different ways to propagate plumbago. The main techniques include cuttings, seed propagation, and layering. They have varying degrees of success. In the end, cuttings are best because they guarantee 100% similarity to the mother plant.

Caring for plumbago

Pruning plumbago

It isn’t really a requirement to prune.

Annual pruning is eventually possible at the end of winter or at the beginning of spring, proceed lightly in order to stimulate the blooming and preserve the shape.

Watering plumbago

Plumbago, apart from watering after planting, will need a lot of water when the weather is hot, especially if grown in a pot.

  • Water regularly, but not too much, from May to September, for older plants growing in the ground.
  • Reduce the watering in winter.
  • In spring and summer, take the time to add a little flower plant fertilizer every now and then.

Fertilizing plumbago

For the best growth and an abundant blooming, add flower plant fertilizer or shrub fertilizer every two weeks in spring and summer.

Stop adding fertilizer as soon as your plumbago has stopped blooming.

Plumbago care in winter

You can set it up in your garden if the climate is mild enough. Double-check that this is possible, because plumbago is vulnerable to frost and will suffer if temperatures drop below 32°F (0°C).

Where freezing isn’t too harsh (light frost), plumbago will lose its leaves. They grow back in spring, with the blooming.

  • In temperate climates, winter is a dormant period. It won’t bloom when temperatures start cooling down.
  • Conversely, in tropical climates where temperatures are warm year-round, plumbago will bloom continuously!

A disease that impacts plumbago

Although it generally resists diseases well, plumbago regularly experiences aphid onslaughts.

Plumbago and garden animals

Birds and butterflies love plumbago for different reasons.

  • Butterflies love sipping up the sweet nectar.
  • Birds love to nest in the dense, intricate shrub that hides them well. In short, it’s the perfect habitat to raise their brood!

Bees are also often attracted to the nectar. Deer, on the other hand, don’t find the plant very appetizing.

Different types of plumbago

One of the more common plumbago varieties is the tight-flowered ‘Monott’ plumbago. It has beautiful round clusters of flowers.

Another beautiful variety that comes in either blue or white is the Plumbago Escapade series. It is especially happy when simply growing in pots and containers.

  • Here is a list of the more common plumbago varieties, grouped by color: blue, white and red.

Learn more about plumbago

This small vining tree, native to South Africa, propounds beautiful blooming for a large part of the year.

The intense blue of its flowers is particularly remarkable and appealing.

But it is particularly well-suited to growing in pots, which will make it easy to bring them indoors to a cool spot that is sheltered from the harshest colds over winter.

Lastly, if you wish to train it into a climbing vine, you can attach it to a lattice because it won’t cling to the wall on its own.

In our latitudes, when grown in a pot, a plumbago plant can reach anywhere from 3 to 6 ½ feet (1 to 2 m), whereas it easily rises to 13 to 17 feet (4 to 5 m) in its natural environment.

Is plumbago poisonous?

Plumbago can trigger rashes and dermatitis on skin. For most persons, it’s insignificant but some persons are naturally more sensitive and might need to see a doctor if itching or reddish patches appear.

Plumbago trivia

The name “Plumbago” (pronounced – plum-BAY-go) has its roots in the Latin word “plumbum”, which means lead. In olden times, it was believed to be a medicinal plant used as a cure for lead poisoning.

Today, modern research hasn’t yet been carried out to prove or disprove the claim, so don’t rely on it – consult a physician instead!

Another possibility is linked to the use of lead to make paint colors – color blue, like the flower!

Smart tip about plumbago

If you place it next to a footpath, be ready to spend your time picking seeds from your clothes! They’re light and covered with small hooks and will stick to your clothing. For that reason, it’s best to place them far from pathways.

Images: 123RF: Phimchanok Srisuriyamart, adobestock: Danny Wilde, Pexels: Etha, Pixabay: İsmet Şahin, Sittichok Glomvinya, Albrecht Fietz, Trung Nguyễn, Ulrike Leone