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What's Blooming in Paradise: Blue Plumbago

October 19, 2012
Anita Force Marshall , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Plant Subject: Blue Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) ?

First impression: Cerulean blue sky color adorns five delicate petal flowers that remind me of vintage phlox. Light green small leaves are dense and numerous. These natural arching shaped bushes have a delicate look, which gives an added dimension in the garden. I can't help but notice tiny blue butterflies fluttering around. They are so similar to the blossoms; they can be mistaken for flying flowers. Need a little zip pe dee doo dah your life? On a clear day you can see forever our blossoms in bouquets at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: Three reasons why Cassius Blue butterflies populations are dwindling: Plumbago, Plumbago, & Plumbago! Our under used garden stars are the host plants for an itty bitty species of butterflies. A HOST PLANT is the one plant that each species of butterfly will lay their eggs on and is essential for their survival. Mother CB utilizes Plumbago to lay oodles of single, flattened, blue eggs right on the tender new leaves and flowers. As the newborn caterpillar hatches, its mission is to eat and eat and eat. Eventually, the caterpillars grow larger and fatter and one day travel to a safe spot and begin their chrysalis and metamorphosis. The sweet tasting flowers do double duty and also serve as a nectar plant for butterflies. Sky flower is another name for our Plumbago, because its blossoms are the color of a cloudless blue sky. They are bountiful and clustered like a hydrangea blossom. So gorgeous! Leaves are linear and soft green and make the plant attractive even without flowers. The natural shape is arching and trailing branches, so pruning is minimal. This plant can become necrotic at times; just trim away the black area. Be prepared for its fickleness, some this year they are drop dead gorgeous, last year they drove me crazy with the black holes. A non native-non invasive plant in partial shade to full sun in a well drained area. Plumbago zeylanica is our white flowering native plant variety. Both varieties are in the easy care and lack of pests/disease category. They are made for our tropical climate with drought tolerance and need for full sun. I recommend planting both colors, they are great companions. Once you plant them in your garden, prepare yourself for the lots of ooohs and aaahs. Gentle reminder: butterfly gardeners have to re-evaluate spraying of pesticides as their use will interrupt the life cycle of the butterfly which is egg, larva, pupa and butterfly. Want to learn more about butterflies? Don't miss our 12th Annual SWF Butterfly Conference, Saturday Nov. 3, 2012. For more information log on to: Lee County Extension Website lee.ifas.ufl.edu/Hort/ButterflyInformation.shtml

Pros: Hydrangea like blooms - Does well in sandy soil We can all use more butterflies - Likes full sun Salt tolerant Host & nectar plant for unique blue butterfly Pollinators love it! Non native non invasive - Oodles of butterflies fluttering all around it The color of blue is iconic Naturally shaped.

Cons: Can get sparse and black holey Pollinators love it - Re think/tolerate caterpillars and nibbled leaves Non native.

Conclusion: Sometimes you don't have to look up to enjoy a memorable blue sky; you can touch, smell and bask all around our sky flowers. Plus we have the perfect host plant that does double duty as the perfect flower in our tropical eye catching garden.

Don't wanna miss this bloomer!

 
 

 

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