Common names: spur flower, Mona Lavender (Eng.); muishondblaar (Afr.)
Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’ is a hybrid developed at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens that is becoming a hit around the world!
There are many Plectranthus species that are used as ornamental herbaceous plants for the garden, not only in South Africa, but all around the world. Most of these come from the more subtropical/tropical areas of southern Africa. They come in a number of shapes and colour forms ranging from white, through pink to dark mauves and lavenders. Being so easy to propagate from cuttings, they are readily shared amongst keen gardeners and are one of the few plants that grow well in shade.
‘Mona Lavender’ is a quick-growing, herbaceous, perennial shrub reaching up to 0.75 m in height, forming a lovely, rounded, dense bush.
It has dark green, glossy leaves with intensely purple undersides and sprays of lavender flowers dashed with purple markings.
It flowers very unpredictably, but does well in shortened daylight, which starts in autumn, but depending on how old the plant is and how much it has been pinched back, flowering can be extended right into early summer.
Derivation of name and historical facts
‘Mona Lavender’ was bred by one of the horticulturists here at Kirstenbosch, Roger Jaques, in the late 1990s. It was a fairly long process involving much hand pollination and raising many thousands of seedlings, back crossing and raising many more thousands of seedlings – each time selecting out the best, most attractive individuals to go through to the next round of breeding. But the efforts seem to have paid off as now we have a magnificent plant that is sure to be a popular garden plant all around the world.
The plant is being very effectively commercialized by the Ball Horticultural Company based near Chicago in the USA. The NBI has an agreement with this company to commercialize certain selected plants. For each plant that they sell, South Africa receives substantial royalties. As a result of this agreement, Ball have effectively marketed and sold Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’ for Kirstenbosch throughout North America, Europe, especially in the UK, South Africa and Australia. Without their marketing and distribution abilities this would have been very difficult.
Growing ‘Mona Lavender’ is a pleasure for any gardener as it is relatively adaptable and trouble free. It does very well in either shaded or partly sunny positions. When it receives sun it tends to stay smaller and more compact and the leaves exhibit a much more intense colouring – especially on the purple undersides of the leaf.
Like most Plectranthus species, ‘Mona Lavender’ enjoys a rich soil with plenty of humus, and won’t say no to extra compost! It is quite a thirsty plant, so water every few days to keep it fresh and turgid.
The plants enjoy being pinched back to induce better branching and compactness. They make a great bedding plant and look good when they are planted en masse or as individuals in an existing bedding display. They also make good pot plants which can be moved around as needed and will fill a 25cm pot in a matter of months.
They enjoy feeding too, which should be carried out at any time but preferably not before or during flowering. The fertilizer may consist of a general all-purpose 2-3-2 as a granular or liquid feed – be sure to water it in well as it is easy to burn the tender roots, or use a purely organic fertilizer to avoid this.
One of the only downfalls of ‘Mona Lavender’ is that, like most Plectranthus, it doesn’t tolerate very cold conditions, although it has been known to survive light frosts in Pretoria. If you live in an area prone to winter frosts then plant it in spring and it will flower in the autumn before the winter frosts take their toll. For all other parts of South Africa that don’t receive heavy frosts, it can be planted at any time of the year.