Sunday, June 24, 2007

Lion's Tail

People are always asking me about this plant which grows on either side of my garage door so I thought I would blog about it. It is called Leonotis leonurus or Lion's Tail and is a member of the Lamiaceae family (think mint). It is also known as Lion's Ear or Wild Dagga. It needs little or no watering during the dry season although if truth be told, regular weekly watering does keep it looking its best. It is a shrub that can grow to 6 feet, but I cut mine way down in the winter to keep it from getting too big and to encourage new green growth. Otherwise it gets a little twiggy. It is in full bloom right now and will bloom well into the fall. The bees but especially the hummingbirds adore its tube-like flowers. You will be dive-bombed by the hummingbirds if you get too close. It is not a native California plant, but comes from Southern and Southeastern Africa as do many of the plants we grow here because of the similar temperatures and conditions. It seeds itself like crazy and as a matter of fact, I only planted this one and the two on the other side of the garage door planted themselves.

Other members of the Lamiaceae family include the garden herbs rosemary, thyme, sage, lavender, and catnip. You can tell them by their square stems. The leaves grow opposite each other with each pair at right angles to the one below. The flowers come in whorls at the upper portion of the stem.

The only problem I have with the plant, other than having to pull out all the little plantlets that spring up underneath it, is its attraction to whiteflies and by extension ants. This has only happened one summer and now at the first sign of an infestation I cut the stems back again. Washing the leaves down when I water it also helps to keep the insects off of it.

1 comment:

  1. wow! that plant has really grown since I last saw it! it's very pretty.