The pink sage is a fast growing many branched semi-deciduous shrub
with aromatic heart shaped leaves which grows to a height and spread
of 1.5m. It occurs on rocky hillsides with a scattered distribution
through KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland, into the Northern Provinces of
South Africa and further into Zimbabwe.
The scientific name is derived from Ortho - erect &
siphon - a flower tube, alluding to the erect flower tube and labiatus
- meaning lipped, is also a reference to the flower.
Orthosiphon labiatus belongs to a very large internationally
distributed family, which is widely cultivated for its herbal properties.
This family includes many important herbs such as mint and rosemary
and sage. The genus Orthosiphon is represented by nine South
African species, all distributed in the eastern and northern parts
of the summer rainfall regions.
Growing Orthosiphon labiatus
Orthosiphon labiatus is a very popular garden plant as it
is hardy to a moderate degree of frost and extreme drought once
established. It is prized for its showy display of pink - mauve
sage like flowers which are carried on the shrub for a large part
of the year, mainly through the summer months. It should be planted
in full sun for best flowering, but will grow equally well in semi-shade.
Although it is drought hardy and will grow under extreme conditions,
it thrives when planted in rich, deep, composted garden soil and
kept well watered.
It is useful for mass planting in large areas such as parks or
large flower beds as it makes a wonderful display when used in this
manner. For the smaller garden it can be planted in small groups
or individually as part of a mixed backdrop or as a shrubby border
under trees. The pink sage is also useful for attracting butterflies
to the garden.
The plant may be cut back to one third of its height every couple
of years to rejuvenate the woody growth. This should be done before
the onset of its summer growing season and followed by a thick dressing
of compost which can either be worked into the soil around the bush
or left as a thick organic mulch. This is also a good time to apply
a balanced fertilizer followed by a good deep soaking of water.
The plant can easily be propagated from seed or cuttings however
the seedlings are so fast growing that propagation from cuttings
is rarely necessary. Sow seed in spring in fine potting mix and
cover very lightly. Keep the trays in a semi-shaded position until
they have germinated which may take from two to four weeks. Transplant
the seedlings into individual containers when they are large enough
- Arnold, T.H. & De Wet, B.C. (Eds) 1993. Plants of southern
Africa: names and
distribution. Memoirs of the botanical Survey of South Africa
- Joffe, P. 1993 The Gardeners Guide to South African Plants.
- Joffe. P. 2001.Creative Gardening with Indigenous Plants, a
South African guide.
Briza Publications: Pretoria.
- Pooley. E 1993. The complete field guide to Trees of Natal,
Zululand & Transkei.
Natal FloraPublications Trust: Durban.
Witwatersrand National Botanical Garden