Leaves up to 60 cm; flower stalks up to 1 - 1,3 m
Moderate to hardy
Silver-grey-white; autumn winter
sun; rockery; windy exposed; walls; slope bank; dry soils; sandy soils; am shade; wildlife bees insects butterflies butterfly host
bushveld; grassland; urban streets
highveld; subtropical east coast; bushveld savanna
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There are few succulent as easy to grow as the White Lady. Doing best in the hot sun, it thrives in dry soils, so is an excellent choice for rock gardens, a succulent display, and around rocks in the grassland patch. Leaves are large, round flat paddles, edged in red, blue-grey to bright green in a warm, wet summer; scarlet and green in a cool, dry winter. Leaves grow to 60 cm, and flowering stalks all of 1 – 1.3 m tall; these tend to lean over slightly towards the sun. Flower size decreases up the stem, beautiful, small tubes of white, with touches of bright and lime green and maroon in the centre. Having adapted to harsh conditions in the wild, the silver-grey leaves and white flour-like coating on leaves and flowers, reflect the heat, keeping plants cool, and reducing transpiration. Plants flower in their second or third year when the leaves open, and flower stalks gradually lengthen from the centre. They take a few weeks before flowers are fully open, and create a wonderful display for months. Tiny seeds are light, and so wind dispersed. Dies after flowering but new plants re-sprout from the base. Not heavy feeders. Goes by the name of Desert Cabbage and Flapjack in the US. Over the last two years, I have found a handful butterflies dead, but perfectly preserved, tucked down in the narrow slit between the closed leaves as they open up in autumn. It seems they slip down, perhaps coated in the sticky flour-dust, and are unable to spread their wings and escape. I managed to save a Garden Commodore today but found another two already dead. Steve Woodhall said he had not heard of this before so it would be interesting for gardeners around the country to peer into the tight leaves every so often and see if this is happening elsewhere.