The plumbago, also known as skyflower, leadwort and cape plumbago, produces phloxlike clusters of star-shaped flowers in shades of blue and white. The flowers appear on the plant’s new growth throughout the active growing season and attract butterflies. A native of South Africa, plumbago is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8b through 11, where it thrives in full sunlight and fast-draining, fertile soil. Plumbago benefits from a hard pruning during the dormant season followed by periodic deadheading and shaping through the growing season to maintain its health and appearance.
Steps to Follow
1. Prune out all of a plumbago’s dead and broken branches in late winter or spring while the plant remains dormant. Use pruning shears to cut through branches with a diameter of 1/4 inch or less, and use loppers on larger branches. Trim each dead branch back to its base, making the cut 1/4 inch above the base. Cut off each broken branch at least 1 inch below the break, positioning the cut 1/4 inch above an outward-facing bud or lateral branch.
2. Remove one-third of the plumbago’s oldest branches. Make each cut 1/4 inch above the cut branch’s base. Thinning the plant in this manner makes room for new, healthy growth.
3. Cut back all remaining branches, removing the top one-third of their growth. Position each cut 1/4 inch above an outward-facing bud or lateral branch, and make each cut at an angle fewer than 45 degrees. That angle minimizes the wound’s surface area while ensuring moisture will run off the wound.
4. Remove the plant’s spent, or old, flowers throughout the year. That process is called deadheading. Position each cut 1/4 inch above the second to fourth leaf located below the spent flower cluster. Discard the removed, spent flowers on a compost pile or in a trash bin.
5. Cut back all leggy stems or branches that detract from the plumbago’s overall shape after each flush of blooms. Make each cut 1/4 inch above an outward-facing leaf or lateral stem. Reduce pruning to just removing spent flowers six to eight weeks before the average first fall frost date in your area.
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