Plant Description

Pycnostachys urticifolia

Pycnostachys urticifolia

This small, frost-sensitive, soft-wooded shrub from South Africa is related to Salvia (ie belonging to the family Laminaceae) and is colloquially called hedgehog sage, apparently because of its prickly seedheads. Its foliage is very aromatic. Pycnostachys urticifoliagets to a height of around 1.5-2 m. It is known for the breathtakingly blue conical flowers it bears in late autumn and winter. I tried it a few times and always pulled it out as I found it just too straggly, but on the advice of an iGarden reader, I tried it again with the intention of cutting it back very hard after flowering and also planned to tip-prune the growing stems through the warmer months in order to promote a more compact form. I also placed it at the back of a border so that its gawky stems would be hidden by other plants.

This strategy paid off and the plant branched quite well. It will never be a very dense plant but with it being at the back of the border and with regular the tip-pruning helping it to branch quite well, I am finally happy with it! The prickly seedhead that develops when the flowers fade apparently gives the plant its common name. I think it is best in a sunny spot, with good drainage. Cuttings strike well if taken in spring or autumn.

I grow mine near Cuphea cyanea, whose slim, clear orange trumpets are still floriferous when the hedgehog sage blooms, and with a backdrop of an apricot Brugmansia, which continues to have flushes of its trumpet-shaped blooms in winter. The blue flowers of the hedgehog sage would also go well with yellow, pink or white flowers.

Of Interest

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Pycnostachys urticifolia
Suitable for Cut Flowers.
Out now in my Sydney garden.
Flowers from May to July.
Plant Family: Lamiaceae