A Fabulous Foliage Annual From Down Under

It looks as though our run of a cool and crisp (not cold) autumn are soon coming to an end. For weeks now, we have had bright, sunny days with daytime highs in the 60’s and nighttime lows in the 40’s and 50’s. I checked the long-term forecast last night and it looks like soon we will be onto the pre-winter days of Maine with highs in the 40’s and lows in the 20’s.

Plectranthus argentatus fabulous foliage plant via www.pithandvigor.com

With the expectation of an imminent hard frost, I am preparing to say goodbye to one of our best annuals of 2013. For over 5 months, Plectranthus argentatus has pleased our staff and guests with its big, fuzzy, silver leaves. If you are not familiar with P. argentatus or silver spurflower, try to imagine a big, bushy, silver leaved coleus. As a matter of fact, this Australian native is a relative of coleus. They are both in the mint or Lamiaceae family.

Plectranthus argentatus fabulous foliage plant via www.pithandvigor.com

We planted our silver spurflowers in early May from 4″ pots. As the temperatures rose, it filled in and bushed out until it reached over 3′ in height and width. Our plants are en masse along a walkway in our Rose and Perennial Garden. I know, it is neither a rose nor a perennial but it does provide a nice, soft edge to the path that is in part-shade. That leads me to culture of this plant. It will take some sun but does best in part-shade. Our plants receive mostly morning sun and then dappled light throughout the remainder of the summer days. Provide adequate moisture and nutrition or the plants will appear leggy, open, and stunted.

From a design standpoint, the big leaves are the perfect foil for other brightly colored plants. Salvia, verbena, and geraniums could be a few of the many brightly-flowered annuals that you would want to plant with this superb plant. If you have a greenhouse, you could even overwinter plants from cuttings or start plants from seed early in the growing year. We were extremely impressed at how this Australian native did in our coastal Maine climate. As we begin thinking of our bedding designs for 2014, Plectranthus argentatus will surely be one of the go to paints in our colorful planting palette.

-Rodney

Photos: dewdrops and dragonflies, Missouri botanical gardens

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rodney eason

Rodney Eason - Director of Horticulture and Plant Curator at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, father of 4, husband to a Renaissance woman. I spent the first part of my life in North Carolina, the middle in Pennsylvania, and now I am determined to become a Mainer  while keeping my southern drawl. I consider the rhetorical question, "you're not from around here, are you?" a compliment. I love great gardens, beautiful plants, and inspiring architecture. Because of this, I am on a lifelong quest to find a garden that artistically combines beautiful plants while being centered around an evocative building. For me, this would be Beatrix Farrand's Dumbarton Oaks, with the plants of Lotusland and Chanticleer, around Fay Jones' Thorncrown Chapel. My wife and I are now making our new home and garden in a 130 year old New England house with a farmer's porch near the Damariscotta River in coastal Maine. When our kids get into college, we want to hike the Appalachian Trail as a family over a summer break. My likes (in random order): the smell of fresh basil and rosemary, bold foliage, India Pale Ale, good running shoes, Top Gear, the smell of New England in the fall (it reminds me a bit of English Leather, which my grandfather wore), and the sound of our family laughing together around the dinner table. I dream of one day owning an old Toyota 4X4 pick-up and seeing the Avett Brothers in concert.
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2 Comments

  1. Melanie on October 16, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    I originally grew it from seed. I’ve been taking cuttings in the late summer of it ever since. They root easily in water, then I pot them up and put them in a sunny window or under lights. I love it too!!!
    Mel

  2. eleise on October 18, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    I’ve had one in full eastern Virginia sun all summer (in a large pot, no less ) and it has thrived. It is huge and gorgeous. So, it can take a lot of sun in my experience.

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