San Antonio Express News
Sunday, March 19, 2006
By David Rodriguez
Plectranthus is the largest South African genus of plants belonging to the mint family (Lamiaceae). There are many Plectranthus species (around 44) that are currently used as ornamental herbaceous plants throughout the world’s gardens. They come in a number of shapes and colors ranging from white, pink to dark mauves and lavenders. Being so easy to propagate from cuttings, they are readily shared amongst keen gardeners and are one of the plants that grow well in shade.
This genus includes common plants such as Creeping Charlie and Swedish Ivy. Although many of the plants in this genus have a habit of creeping, “Mona Lavender” has beautiful dark green leaves with contrasting undersides that are as purple as an eggplant. This leaf contrast is very common with many other Plectranthus species.
“Mona Lavender” was bred at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in Cape Town, South Africa in the late 1990s. It was a fairly long process involving much hand pollination and raising many thousands of seedlings, back crossing and raising many more thousands of seedlings- each time selecting out the best, most attractive individuals to go through to the next round of breeding. Recently, the “Mona Lavender” plant has become a hit around the world!
“Mona Lavender” is a quick-growing perennial shrub, reaching 18 to 24 inches tall. It does very well in either shaded or partly sunny positions. When it receives sun it tends to stay smaller and more compact, and the leaves exhibit a much more intense coloring, especially on the purple undersides of the leaf. The foliage is unique and special, but the real prize on this plant is the dark lavender flower spikes. These flowers appear in early spring and continue to add color to your garden until the first frost.
“Mona Lavender” is ideal for a mass planting in your garden or for container gardening. Enjoy this plant with multiple combinations in your patio containers during the summer months. Then when the cold months come, move “Mona Lavender” inside and enjoy it as a houseplant for a splash of color during the gray months of winter. They also do great as a hanging basket on the deck or patio.
“Mona Lavender” enjoys a rich soil with plenty of extra compost. It is quite a thirsty plant, so water every few days to keep it fresh and turgid. The plants enjoy being pinched back to induce better branching and compactness. Fertilize every six to ten weeks with a water soluble fertilizer.
Growing “Mona Lavender” should be a pleasure for any gardener as it is relatively adaptable and trouble free. It is available at all local retail garden centers throughout San Antonio. “Mona Lavender” would be that ideal plant to try out this spring. Check it out!
We have been receiving a great deal of calls concerning the severity of the eleven-month devastating South Texas drought. For further discussion and drought related solutions, please visit the website http://www.plantanswers.com/ For watering restrictions and recommendations for your lawn, visit the website http://www.saws.org/conservation/SIP/
Remember, Learn and Have Fun!
David Rodriguez is the County Extension Agent-Horticulture, Bexar County. He represents the Texas Cooperative Extension with the Texas A&M University System. For any landscape or gardening information, call the Bexar County Master Gardeners AHotline@ at (210) 467-6575 or visit our County Extension website at http:bexar-tx.tamu.edu