Even if a little difficult in cultivation, this little known member of the salvia family, once established, will enhance the garden with its masses of pretty pink flowers.
The round-leaved pink plume with stems that are velvety white, forms an open bush up to 1.8 m tall. The smallish round leaves are an attractive greenish grey. The delicate pink flowers appear from September to April in fairly dense, branched inflorescences.
The conservation status of this plant is considered to be lower risk, but it is considered rare due to its narrow distribution range.
Distribution and Habitat
This plant is found only in the area known as Pondoland, which stretches from the Oribi flats in southern KwaZulu-Natal to the Port St. John's area of the Eastern Cape. It grows in the coastal grassland on rocky slopes, often near forest margins.
The climate of this area is subtropical and therefore never experiences low temperatures. Rainfall is mainly in the summer, although some rain can be expected every month of the year.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
This shrub belongs to the Lamiaceae or sage family, which includes many important herbs such as mint and sage. Many members of this family are highly aromatic and have square stems.
Other South African plants that belong to this family are Hemizygia, Orthosiphon, Plectranthus and Salvia.
The name Syncolostemon refers to the shape and size filaments in the flower and rotundifolius means round leaves. In the genus Syncolostemon, there are nine species that are endemic to South Africa the best known being S. densiflorus.
Uses and cultural aspects
It has no known traditional value but is a close relative to S. densiflorus, which is used traditionally as a love-charm emetic. Grown singly or in masses S. rotundifolius is a beautiful and attractive landscape plant, especially when in flower.
Growing Syncolostemon rotundifolius
This plant grows well in full sun conditions. It needs a well-drained soil, although soil should not dry out. Most soils are good for the cultivation of Syncolostemon, but it appears to enjoy the KwaZulu-Natal sandy clay soil.
Use this plant as a low to medium height filler shrub in perennial borders or as an accent specimen on a rockery. Once established, do not cultivate under the plants as it does not like the soil at its roots to be disturbed. Mulching with leaves, compost, bark or even pebbles improves the growth of the plants.
Propagation of this plant is not easy although plants can be grown from seed or tip cuttings taken in August. Root the 50 mm tip cuttings in sand under mist conditions with bottom heat. A good rooting hormone should also be used. Sow the seed in seed trays filled with a well-drained commercial seedling mix and keep them in a lightly shaded spot where they will not dry out.
The shrub must be pruned every second year in early spring to prevent it becoming woody and to encourage new growth. New branches need to be tipped in late October to encourage new shoots and enhance flowering.
References and further reading
- Codd, L.E. 1985. Lamiaceae. Flora of southern Africa 28,4. Botanical Research Institute, Pretoria.
- Germishuizen, G. & Meyer, N.L. 2003. Plants of southern Africa : an annotated checklist. Strelitzia 14. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
- Pooley, E. 1998. A field guide to wild flowers: KwaZulu-Natal and the eastern region, Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.
- Scott-Shaw, R. 1999. Rare and threatened plants of KwaZulu-Natal and neighboring regions. Botanical Society, Pietermaritzaburg.
KwaZulu-Natal National Botanical Garden