Spike Spurflower, or Lavender Plectranthus
70 cm flower spikes
Lavender blue-mauve; March - June; autumn winter
Sun; light shade; rockery; roof gardens; walls; slope bank; wildlife insects butterflies bees butterfly host
rocky places; coastal eastern cape; bushveld; grassland; coastal kzn
thicket; bushveld savanna; subtropical east coast; highveld
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Most gardens in South Africa will have place for this sun loving Plec. The species name is derived from the Latin ‘spica’, meaning ‘spike’, but amongst gardeners familiar with this plant, it is known as the Spike Spurflower, or Lavender Plectranthus, which is far more descriptive of its attractions. It is a succulent groundcover for rockeries, slopes and as a cover around your Aloes or anywhere else in your succulent garden. It is a many branched groundcover of about 70 cm in height with bright green 4-angled leaves. These are crinkly around the edges with a thin topping of chocolate, and massed tightly around the central stem. In April it sends out long flowering spikes with crab-like pincers on the tips. These are the buds which see to take a while to open. The flower heads are about 8 – 10 cm long and a lovely lavender blue/mauve, that wave in the breeze up to 30 cm above the leaves. The natural distribution range of Plectranthus spicatus is from the coast up into the Drakensberg foothills all the way from the Eastern Cape up into Mpumalanga in the North. Its natural habitat is the drier savannah /bushveld on rocky outcrops in both hot sun and light shade. This Plectran-thus is not frost resistant – at best it may cope with a very light frost. to mimic the natural habitat plant it in your rockery, in a raised bed, or in the succulent garden around some rocks. With so much room to spread, and it can be quite a vigorous grower, it can get lanky and woody from the centre. To prevent this, prune at the end of winter which will enable wildlife to feed on the seed and hide under the leaves. Plant it with other drought resistant species. P. spicatus makes an excellent container plant where it seems to have a much more compact growth habit. The shallow root system makes it a good choice for a green roof garden, and will cope well in dry shallow soils. It is one of the larval host plants used by the Gaudy Commodore butterfly.