Cantua buxifolia

Cantua buxifolia – Sacred flower of the Incas

Gorgeous clusters of 8cm long tubular flowers, orange at the base and flared pink at the tip.


This is an evergreen shrub with an open habit that benefits from pruning, growing to about 2½M. It does get a bit bare and scruffy at the end of winter. Flowering in spring this is reported to be half-hardy, tolerating only light frost; but there is a specimen growing at Larnach Castle outside Dunedin, so maybe hardier than such a “tropical” plant has any right to be.


We simply don’t know whether this plant was in fact sacred to the Incas, but it certainly does come from high valleys in the Andes, maybe indicating that it is indeed hardier than usually reported. It is the national flower of Peru, where it is pollinated by hummingbirds. It is in the Polemoniaceae family, along with Jacobs Ladder and Phlox.

Soil / Aspect:

P. buxifolia requires a sheltered, sunny position and reasonable drainage. It is a fairly upright plant and provides a dramatic interlude amongst other shrubs in spring. It also works well against a north facing wall.


P. buxifolia should be pruned after flowering to maintain a compact shape. This will also keep the final height to about 2M. Propagation is through semi-ripe cuttings.