How to Grow Plumbago – Cape Plumbago

Sharing is caring!

Plumbago– commonly called cape plumbago–is a fast-growing, long-flowering sprawling shrub or vine. It produces abundant sprays of pale, sky blue flowers from summer into autumn.

Cape Plumbago produces whip-like shoots that can be trained to support as a vine. This plant tolerates salty, calcareous, and rocky soil. It is a good choice for banks and hot and dry spots. It is drought-tolerant once established, but with some supplemental water, it will grow full.

Flowers are an inch wide and appear on phlox-like clusters. The flower color may vary from plant to plant and is set for life, so it is a good idea to purchase the plant in bloom to know what you are getting.

This plant is not to be confused with Dwarf Plumbago, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, which grow to one-third the size of Cape Plumbago and is used as a groundcover.

Plumbago is a genus of about 15 species of annuals, perennials, and evergreen shrubs native to warm-temperature to tropical regions worldwide.

Cape Plumbago, Plumbago auriculata
Cape Plumbago, Plumbago auriculata

Get to know Cape Plumbago

  • Plant type: Evergreen to semi-evergreen shrub or vine
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 9 to 10
  • Hardiness: Frost will blacken and kill leaves and damage growth tips, but the plant usually recovers.
  • Height and width: 6 feet (1.8m) tall, 8 to 10 feet (2.4-3m) wide; with support plant can be trained to 12 feet (3.6m) high.
  • Foliage: Light to medium green leaves 1 to 2 inches (2.5-5cm) long are elliptic or oval-shaped.
  • Flowers: White to light blue flowers 1-inch wide in phlox-like clusters; flower color is fixed and varies from plant to plant; if color is important, purchase plants in bloom.
  • Bloom time: Spring to fall; year-round in frost-free regions.
  • Uses: Good background and filler plant; use to cover bank, fence, or hot-wall; can withstand salt spray.
  • Common name: Cape Plumbago, leadwort
  • Botanical name: Plumbago auriculata (P. capensis)
  • Family name: Plumbaginaceae
  • Origin: South Africa
Cape Plumbago informal flowering hedge
Cape Plumbago informal flowering hedge

Where to plant Cape Plumbago

  • Plant Cape Plumbago in full sun.
  • Plant Cape Plumbago in average to humus-rich, well-drained soil.
  • Where frost may occur, plant against a south-facing wall.
  • In cold winter regions, plant in pots that can be brought into a sunroom in winter.

When to plant Cape Plumbago

  • Set container-grown plant in the garden in spring after all danger of frost is past.

Planting and spacing Cape Plumbago

  • Space plants 8 to 10 feet (2.4-3m); a bit closer if growing as an informal hedge.
Cape Plumbago trained as vine
The whip-like stems of Cape Plumbago can trained upward as a vine.

How to water and feed Cape Plumbago

  • Keep the soil evenly moist; once established plants can tolerate some drought, however, supplemental watering will keep the plant full.
  • Fertilize Cape Plumbago in spring with an all-purpose fertilizer.

Cape Plumbago care

  • Mulch around plants to conserve soil moisture.
  • Young growth blackens and leaves drop in heavy frosts. Prune out damaged growth after frost danger is past.
  • If growing upward, tie selected shoots to supports.
  • Move conservatory plants onto the patio in summer and indoors in autumn.

Grow Plumbago as a houseplant

  • Grow Plumbago in average to warm temperature, direct light, and average humidity.
  • In winter, the temperature should be cool.
  • the medium should be soilless, well-drained, and kept evenly moist at all times in spring, summer, and allow. All the medium to dry slightly between watering in winter.
  • Fertilize once a month in spring and summer.
  • Prune the plants in winter before new growth starts, and use the prunings to root new plants.

Cape Plumbago pests and diseases

  • Whitefly may be a problem if grown in a greenhouse.

Cape Plumbago propagation

  • Take semi-ripe cuttings in summer.
White flowers of Plumbago auriculata alba
White flowers of Plumbago auriculata alba

Cape Plumbago varieties to grow

  • Plumbago auriculata (formerly P. capensis). Grows to 5 feet (1.5m) tall and wide in five years; ultimately grows to 10 feet tall and 13 feet wide; terminal clusters of slender-tubed, sky-blue flowers a half-inch or more across in summer to early winter. Cultivar ‘Alba’ has pure white flowers.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

How To Grow Tips

How To Grow Tomatoes

How To Grow Peppers

How To Grow Broccoli

How To Grow Carrots

How To Grow Beans

How To Grow Corn

How To Grow Peas

How To Grow Lettuce

How To Grow Cucumbers

How To Grow Zucchini and Summer Squash

How To Grow Onions

How To Grow Potatoes

How to Grow Coral Tree – Erythrina

How to Grow Flowering Pear – Pyrus