Plectranthus ciliatus – Speckled Spur-Flower
Racemes of speckled white to light purple-pink flowers on stems with purple hairs over ornamental foliage.
This is a frost tender herb that trails along the ground, forming effective ground cover up to 40cm high. It flowers from February to June, peaking in April. As well as the attractive flowers P. ciliatus has purple hairs on the stems and the backs of the leaves are a rich purple colour. It is, rather unfairly, listed as a weed by the Royal New Zealand Instuitute of Horticulture.
P. ciliatus comes from the Western Cape in South Africa, where it prefers frost free, damp and shady environments. It is grown as ground cover in the Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens in Cape Town. It is closely related to the Solenostemon that we grow as house plants, and indeed P. ciliatus works well in hanging baskets.
Soil / Aspect:
This is a shallow-rooting woodland plant that requires moisture year round. In Karin’s Garden it will appreciate some watering in summer, but it grows well just in the shade by the ponds in the Nelson botanic gardens. It does not tolerate frost.
The procumbent stems put down shallow roots from each node as they grow. Effectively they layer themselves as they grow, making it trivial to take layer cuttings. They make a wonderful compliment to many spring bulbs, such as Erythronium and Trillium, which are coming up just as Plectranthus is dying down.