Leonotis leonurus – Common names: Wild dagga, Lion’s ear
There is no other plant that announces the arrival of autumn more than Leonotis leonurus with its long plumes of bright orange flowers that blends well with all the autumn colours.
The colourful favourite – Leonotis leonurus
This colourful perennial has become a firm favourite in gardens and is very easy to grow. It attracts sunbirds, bees and butterflies to the garden to feast on the nectar-rich flowers in autumn and winter. Leonotis leonurus occursnaturally in the Western Cape, Kwazulu Natal, Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Gauteng, making Leonotis a go-to plant for landscaping uses.
Watch out for the sharp edges
Leonotis is a fast-growing shrub with long, roughly hairy leaves that taper with serrated edges. It is highly aromatic and has a robust herby scent, characteristic of the mint family—the plant branches at the base into erect, reedy stems that grow up to 2 metres. The stems are brittle and break easily in strong winds. The top half of the stems bear clusters of tubular, bright orange flowers that encircle the stems and appears at intervals along the length of the stem. After flowering, at the end of winter, prune back hard and apply a thick layer of organic mulch to stimulate vigorous growth and retain youthfulness.
The plant for all seasons
Leonotis leonurusis widely suitable for mixed borders, country garden, fynbos, grassland and rockery garden themes in full sun. It will do best in well-drained soil with plenty of compost added. Water well in summer. Fast-growing and both frost and drought hardy. It is seldom attacked by pest or disease.
Leonotis leonurus is and has been widely used in traditional medicine to treat several ailments. Tea made from the flowers is used to treat sore throats, high blood pressure and asthma. Strong infusions made from leaves, twigs, and flowers are used to treat skin problems and relieve sore muscles if added to a bath. Leonotis leonurus generally grown has bright orange flowers, but there is also a form with ivory-white flowers available. Both make excellent cut flowers.
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