Lobster Flower

A perennial, aromatic, succulent herb, which grows as a ground-hugging wide spreading mat under 1 foot tall (a little taller in shade or when well watered) with rounded slightly scalloped gray-green foliage and deep blue and purple flowers that rise 3 to 6 inches above the foliage from spring through late fall (some say they bloom year-round).

This plant makes an attractive ground cover when not in flower and is spectacular when flowering. It is also useful in hanging baskets and containers. Plant in bright shade to full sun near the coast. Useful in difficult dry sites as long as soil drains adequately. This plant responds well to winter rains and occasional irrigation. Hardy to at least 30 °F and is treated as an annual in colder climates – here in Sunnyvale the plants are often in bloom year-round, including in the dead of winter.

The skunky aromatic foliage makes this plant somewhat deer resistant and in South Africa the plant is even thought to repel snakes. A gardener in the San Francisco Bay area also tells us that even snails leave it alone. We have also seen references to it being marketed as a repellent to dogs and then grown under the fictitious, but amusing, name Plectranthus x caninus and it seems to also be around under the name Plectranthus ‘Lois Woodhull’.

Native to South Africa. It grows naturally in dry thickets, and rocky woodlands. The name for the genus comes from the Greek words ‘plektron’ meaning a “spur” and ‘anthos’ meaning “flower” in reference to the spur that is found at the base of the corolla tube of the type species, Plectranthus fruticosus.

 The specific epithet comes from the Greek words ‘neo’ meaning “new” and ‘chilus’ meaning “lip”, presumably referring to the the large lower lip of the flower.

Habit and Cultural Information

  • Category: Perennial
  • Family: Lamiaceae (Labiatae) (Mints)
  • Origin: South Africa (Africa)
  • Evergreen: Yes
  • Flower Color: Blue
  • Bloomtime: Year-round
  • Fragrant Flowers: Yes
  • Synonyms: [Coleus neochilus,P. x caninus,P. ‘Lois Woodhull’]
  • Height: 1-3 feet
  • Width: Spreading
  • Exposure: Sun or Shade
  • Summer Dry: Yes
  • Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs

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