Thursday, February 27, 2014

My favorite plant this week: Phlomis fruticosa

Phlomis fruticosa has begun its spring bloom cycle and, while the flower power of this evergreen shrub is likely to increase over the coming weeks, its bright yellow blooms are already hard to ignore so I've given it status as my favorite this week.   I inherited 12 of these drought-tolerant shrubs with the garden - there are 6 in the front yard in 2 groups of 3 plants each, where the yellow flowers bloom in accompaniment with the blue flowers of the Ceanothus hedge, and 6 more in the backyard, again in 2 groups of 3, backed by the orange-tinged foliage of the Xylosma hedge.




The shrub, which grows 3-4 feet (0.9-1.2 meters) tall and wide, gets woody and needs to be cut back hard in the fall to keep it in shape.  I'm afraid I did a sloppy job of that this past fall so my specimens aren't in tip-top shape this year; however, my sloppy pruning hasn't significantly impacted blooming.  The flowers are unusual.  They form bell-shaped whorls around a central stem.  If dead-headed after the spring bloom cycle, they'll rebloom on new growth in the summer, although my experience is that the second bloom cycle is lighter.





The leaves are a nice gray-green color.  While they're usually described as woolly, they feel more like suede to me.  The leaves resemble those of some Salvias, which accounts for the common name of Jerusalem sage, but the plant is actually in the mint family.

Phlomis fruticosa grows in full sun to light shade - most of mine get at least some shade during the warmest part of the day.  Those in the shadiest locations are the slowest to bloom.  The shrub is said to be hardy to 15-20 degrees Fahreneheit (-9.44 Celsius).  They can be grown in USDA zones 7a-11 (Sunset zones 3b-24).  They like some summer water in warmer areas.

The Jerusalem sage is my favorite plant this week.  Please visit Loree at danger garden, our host for the weekly favorite plants meme, to see her current favorite and link to other gardeners' contributions.

10 comments:

  1. Finally a plant we can both grow! (I tease, because so many of your favs that I want aren't hardy here). I've been tempted to grow this plant many times, but every time I see a beautiful specimen I then see 4 or 5 ugly ones. Yesterday on a dog walk I paused to appreciate the dried up stalks left from old blooms. That might just be one of my favorite features of this plant.

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    1. I have to say that I saw "fresh" Phlomis fruticosa at a local nursery last week and, in a fit of temporary madness, I was tempted to dig up and replace mine with these less woody versions. Cutting it back hard once a year is essential to keeping it in shape - just dead-heading it leaves it a twiggy mess.

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  2. Love this plant! The yellow blooms are great but I can never resist touching those velvety leaves whenever I see them.

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    1. The foliage is nice and the shrub makes a good background showing even when it isn't in bloom.

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  3. A lovely plant but not many people in England are planning on drought -proof plants this year; most of us are thinking about building arks. But having said that it does bring a bit of sunshine to the garden.

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    1. With all the rain you've got, I imagine "drought" is a foreign concept, Chloris!

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  4. I was thinking the leaves looked like mint leaves! What cheerful blooms.

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    1. The blooms make me think of Dr. Seuss, Amy!

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  5. This is the kind of plant I love to pet! Suede or wooly either one appeals to me. The blooms also are very interesting. I think it must be beautiful with the blue blooms of the ceonothus hedge in the background.

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    1. The Phlomis/Ceanothus combination is pretty, Deb - unfortunately, when I wrote this post, the shrubs bordering the Ceanothus had very few blooms yet so I didn't photograph those. They're in a shadier section of my garden.

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