Leadwort is a true blue perennial

nbrachey@charlotteobserver.com November 9, 2012 

1gardensat0924

plant named leadwort

CHARLOTTE OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

Most gardeners love blue and depend on salvias, pansies and petunias to bring this color to their flower beds. Yet some of these bear blue flowers that are more lilac, lavender or violet than true blue. For a real blue, look to a little perennial commonly called leadwort.

Leadwort ( Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) is one of those plants that is easy to overlook when shopping for perennials in spring. That’s because its robust growth begins when the weather gets warm, but the first flowers don’t show up until about August.

When they do show up, such a pretty sight you will see, one that lasts through the fall. While I love the traditional autumn palette of red, bronze, orange and yellow, the addition of blue, even in small doses, is a wonderful contrast. That is especially true when combined with orange and yellow, two colors that really enhance the beauty of this rich, cobalt blue.

Rising about 12 inches, leadwort is an excellent edging plant for a flower bed. Or start with a single plant to see how it grows and looks in your flower bed. A few flowers may open in early summer, but the real show begins in August and continues through the fall.

The foliage is semi-evergreen, which provides evidence of the plant when you start prowling around at ground level with a trowel in spring. It often takes until May for leadwort to break its dormancy and sprout fresh foliage on its wiry stems. There were springs when I thought mine would never wake up, but it always did, creating a bigger clump each year as its underground stems, called rhizomes, send up new growth. As a general rule, set plants 10 to 12 inches apart.

A bonus to the blue flowers, one-half to 1 inch in diameter, is the bronzy-reddish tinge that develops on the foliage around October. This adds to the overall loveliness of the scene.

Although it is rated as a plant for part shade to full sun, I find leadwort does better and bears more flowers in full sun. And since bloom begins as the weather is getting cooler, the blooms tend to last longer. They require good, well-drained soil liberally enriched with organic matter. I have found leadwort to be a long-lived perennial.

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