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Think Plumbago for Fall

By Carl Wilson, Extension Horticulturist, Denver

Plumbago, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, is a late summer and fall gem that is easily forgotten the rest of the year.

Its green foliage is fairly non-descript until the blue flowers open on red stems in late August. The plant blooms through and beyond light frosts. Frosts only add to its interest in the garden by inducing a rich red fall leaf color.

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Plumbago foliage in fall

Though a fall knockout, plumbago is best planted in the spring. It spreads slowly from rhizomes that need time to get established before winter. The upright stems with woody bases grow to 18 inches. The plant is native to Shaghai, China and is rated hardy to zone 5 for Front Range gardens.

Plumbago is very shade tolerant, blooming in spots that receive only a couple hours of sunlight daily. It also thrives in full sun. Plants prosper in average soils and require only occasional watering once established.

Try planting plumbago in combination with feather reed or tufted hairgrass, asters, buff-red flowered sedums, purple coneflower, and red or lavender-pink mums. This plant also goes well in plantings of yellow, late-summer blooming black-eyed susans, inulas and other sunflower relatives. Yellow mums and yellow-flowered sedums also make fine combinations.

For a reliable, low maintenance and pest-free flower that continues to surprise every year, plant plumbago.

Photograph of Plumbago and pink, 'Clara Curtis' chrysanthemum courtesy of Carl Wilson.

Photograph of Plumbago in fall courtesy of Judy Sedbrook.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010