Justicia protracta

Water Needs

low; moderate; water wise

Justicia protracta
Groundcover
Veld Justicia

50 cm

Size

Light Conditions

shade; semi-shade; sun

Frost

light; moderate

Flowers

white; September to June; spring; summer; winter

shade; sun; semi-shade; container; rockery; sandy soils; dry soils; grassland; slope bank; windy exposed; roof; green walls; walls; cliffs; narrow spaces; salty; wildlife butterflies insects butterfly host

Garden Situation

Habitat

grassland; rocky places; urban streets; woodland forest

Region

thicket; subtropical east coast; Highveld; Bushveld savanna

Rain Season

summer; winter

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Description

A member of the wonderful Justicia family of plants growing wild in woodland, forests, rocky outcrops and even sand dunes, this is a delightful little groundcover found its way into my garden via the Botanical Society KZN Coastal Branch Plant Fair. The Justicia family is an important adult butterfly food source and an excellent choice for a wildlife garden if they can be sourced. They also attract a range of other insects and are favoured grazing food of the bush buck. J. protracta grows no taller than 50 cm to make a pretty, light groundcover in a wide range of soil and light situations, even on the sand dunes of the Durban coast, though the leaves take on a semi-succulent form in order to cope with the salty winds. While it does grow quite happily in shade as do many of this genus, it flowers more prolifically in full sun. Growth characteristics: A sub-shrub/ perennial groundcover with a light rounded canopy it can be a rather scrambling little plant. Leaves are small, finely hairy and leaf shape is variable. forming along thin branches, with many branches growing from a woody base. Flowers are typical of the genus, occurring in small clusters at the tips of the branches, with a single lip in white, with purple streaks (landing strips) along the length of the petal. This little plant flowers from September to June. Perfect for a dry, sunny spot. Watering is only needed when the soil dries out. Plant it in sandy, well-drained soil, preferably with a good mix of humus which it enjoys in woodland, bushveld areas. It occurs naturally in coastal grassland, disturbed areas, grassland and valley bushveld and is abundant in the Barberton area in summer. Propagate this little gem from seed or softwood cuttings. The growth form makes it suitable to be clipped into a low hedge and Geoff Nichols often makes use of it as a companion plant in the vegetable and herb garden as it attracts bees and wasps which help to keep the small aphid and other pest populations at manageable levels. In the garden: mix it with the gorgeous, flat-growing Bulbine pallida (Small Bulbine). See nomenclature note: sold at the Botanical Society Plant Fair as Bulbine pallida, when searching for information on this species, a number of sites suggest B. pallida as a synonym for B. asphodeloides. However it looks nothing like B. asphodeloides, being more of a prostrate ground-hugging plant that grows in clumps of up to 20cm high. B. asphodeloides on the other hand, has longer leaf stalks, grows up to 50 cm in height and has the typical Bulbine flower along a rather tall flowering stalk. Both species were available at the plant fair to make a comparison. Flowering at the same time, it makes a delightful combination. Plant the soft moving, grass-like Chlorophytum saundersiae behind for a bit of height and movement. All three species can take partial to semi- shade while the Chlorophytum and Justicia will also grow in full sun.

Justicia protracta
Justicia protracta