Saturday, January 23, 2016

Bathtub Plumbago

Snow coming today -- first of the season.

A spot of winter sunlight caught my eye a few mornings ago. There in the corner a bit of greenery lit up a dark spot in the dining room. It is a pot of plumbago, Cape leadwort.

Years ago on a whim I bought two potted Plumbago auriculata plants that were already in full flower, and placed them in their pots outside in the garden.

They climbed small trellises stuck into the pots and got tall and arching and were covered in the clearest blue phlox-like blooms all summer. I fell in love with these pretty flowering shrubs.

They are not hardy at all here, so each year I have bought new ones and each year I have tried them in different spots -- I had two standing sentinel at the entrance to the gravel garden, and I tried them twining up a twig trellis with orange nasturtiums one year.

I tried growing plumbago in a pot and pinching off the long growth so it would mound into a bushier shrub.

And I tried it in a container with a small tower to climb.

Each year I would put my new little plumbago plants into containers outside in May or sometimes planted into the garden, and then wait. Plumbago won't even think about getting going until very hot weather arrives, so my plants never did much until August. By September they would start to look like something and then succumb when October frosts came.

Finally last fall I decided to bring them inside and see if they would winter over inside the heated house. Instead of buying new each year, I'm trying to save the more mature plants I already have. They'll be toasty in here until June, when I can set out larger, bigger, more mature plants when it gets hot in summer.

So two of them are living in the bathtub this winter, where there is some humidity, afternoon sun comes in the window, and wet soil drains right into the tub when I water the pots.

It makes for a crowded situation when I take a bath, but they don't seem put off when the aging gardener gets in the tub for a splash. Each plant had been cut back to the soil line when I potted them up to bring inside, so I am pleased to see so much green growth shooting up now.

The third plumbago is in the corner of the dining room and only gets that little bit of eastern morning sunshine in winter. It's not as robust looking as the two bathtub plants, but it too is showing some nice growth after having been cut all the way back when it came inside.

I'll try to keep the bathtub plants cut back to form bushier shrubs, and I'll let this one vine and eventually get it to go up a small trellis.

The test will be to see if I can keep them going all winter, and to see if I do have bigger, more flowery plants to put out in summer when it gets good and hot.


  1. The plumbago are beautiful plants and the blue flowers are lovely. I don't grow this one but I do grow Ceratostigma plumbaginoides outdoors in the garden year round. It is a late summer bloomer with deep blue flowers and the leaves turn red in the fall. Fab.

    1. Between the blue flowers and red fall foliage, that sounds like a plant I would really like -- I'm going to look into it. Thanks!

  2. In the last pic, what is the paint color?

    1. The dark blue wall color is Patriot Blue by Benjamin Moore -- a very saturated deep blue, but not navy.