This attractive and little known perennial shrub with soft, velvety
leaves and pretty pink-purple, two-lipped flowers almost all year
long, deserves a place in every garden.
is a relatively fast-growing, perennial herb or soft shrublet, growing
between 800 mm and 1 m high. Although each stem only bears a few
flowers at a time, the total number is large and it gives a very
attractive overall impression from December to April mainly, but
in cultivation this can last almost throughout the year. Flowers
are mostly pink-purple, but may also be more blue-mauve in colour
and they are followed by small capsules bearing seeds. The leaves
are soft, oval-shaped, hairy and differ greatly in size on the same
This plant is found in Eastern Cape in the George, Uitenhage and
Albany areas. It occurs naturally as forest undergrowth under trees
and other shrubs, and on forest margins where the plants form low,
Justicia petiolaris subsp. bowiei recovers well from
frost by resprouting new shoots in spring. The plants are tolerant
of a wide range of rainfall and climatic temperatures, and have
even been observed growing in full sun, but they perform and look
so much better if protected from wind and grown in semi-shaded conditions.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
Justicia is named in honour of James Justice, a Scottish
horticulturist; the species name petiolaris means stalked.
The Acanthaceae is abundant in the tropics and subtropics. It comprises
about 250 genera and 2 500 species, of which 44 genera and 350 species
occur in southern Africa. In South Africa the genus Justicia
is widespread and poorly known.
The plants of this family Acanths vary greatly, some species are
climbers, some marsh plants, and others grow inland or in woodland
conditions. Some noteworthy members of this family are Hypoestes
sp., Thunbergia alata and Ruttya ovata.
Growing Justicia petiolaris subsp. bowiei
Blue justicia requires a warm position in light shade and prefers
well-drained soil. It will flourish if regularly watered, composted
and trimmed. It flowers throughout early or midsummer to midwinter,
providing much needed interest and colour in the garden at this
time. Plants are excellent used as fillers, as backdrop planting
and in low borders. They would also do well in a mixed container
Justicia petiolaris subsp. bowiei self-seeds freely,
and roots easily from nodal cuttings.
- Gledhill, E. 1969. Eastern Cape veld flowers. Department
of Nature Conservation, Cape Town.
- Pooley, E. 1998. A field guide to wild flowers of KwaZulu-Natal.
Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.
- Moriarty, A. 1982. Outeniqua, Tsitsikamma, eastern Little
Karoo. South African Wildflower Guide 2. Botanical Society
of South Africa, Cape Town.
- Powrie, F. 1998. Grow South African plants. National
Botanical Institute, Cape Town.