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Plumb Gorgeous Groundcover, Coyote-Ugly Names

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Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

Why does this wonderful groundcover not get the respect it deserves? Perhaps its common names hold it back.

As flower names go, “leadwort” and “plumbago” are hardly mellifluous monikers. They sound like medical conditions, possibly requiring surgery. Daphne or Violet, you might lovingly bestow upon your daughter. These? No. Even Prunella is prettier.

So let’s agree not to mention those unfortunate nicknames again, shall we? Thanks. Although, come to think of it, even the Latin is problematic: Ceratostigma plumbaginoides is a bit of a tongue-twister. But by any name, this is a very special perennial.

In late spring, glossy green ovate leaves emerge from wiry stems. Spreading by rhizomes, the plants form a solid, weed-smothering mass. Since it wakes up late, this western China native is a perfect choice to interplant with early-emerging bulbs. As their foliage withers, Ceratostigma takes command of the space.

In mid- to late summer, Ceratostigma comes alight with five-petaled flowers of electric cornflower blue, enhanced by prominent red stamens. And there’s one more show yet to come: When cool nights arrive, the leaves turn a rich bronzy red while the plants are still actively flowering, creating a striking color contrast.

Ceratostigma stands just 8” tall, and is hardy in USDA Zones 6 (5 with protection) to 9, making it a good fit for most of North America. 

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

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