Sunday, January 11, 2015

A must for the garden, Orthosiphon labiatus

Salvia is a justifiably popular genus with many species that boast fragrant foliage and wonderful flowers.  There are other genera in the same family that are equally wonderful but hardly known outside of their homelands.  Orthosiphon labiatus is one of these treasures.  It came to me as a plant from Steve Owens of Bustani Plant Farms  in Oklahoma, where a plant has to be tough to survive.  It is not a hardy perennial there or here (then again I didn't leave the plant outside through a winter), but blooms continuously once it gets started in early summer till frost.  The foliage isn't particularly pleasant smelling but its not obnoxious either, and in any case like most members of the mint family it is of little interest to critters such as deer, so that's always a plus.  It roots easily from cuttings and produces plenty of seeds.  I cut back and dug up the plant after some light frosts and put it in a pot in the garage, where it is still alive.  Not doing much but still alive, hopefully it will act like Salvia guarantica Black and Blue which I also dig up (only one of 2 clumps this year, they are getting too big to fit in pots) and cut back and keep alive till spring when it can go out.  It gets some light and cool temperatures where it is camped out for the winter.    
Orthosiphon includes a few species from Africa and this one ranges from South Africa into Zimbabwe and is sometimes grown in gardens in both countries.  It is a magnificent thing that just gets larger and more floriferous as the summer goes on, and of course attracts all kinds of pollinators.  I truthfully knew little about this plant till I grew it myself, and I was surprised at how well it performs with minimal care and some good sunshine. 

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