Lions and staircases…a miss and a hit

Leonitis leonurus, photo credit: Plant Delights Nursery
Leonitis leonurus, photo credit: Plant Delights Nursery
My Leonitis and babies, Feb 15
My Leonitis and babies, Feb 15

This is a plant I coveted for years, and then finally bought 2 years ago.  It was doing brilliantly, outdoors in the summer in a pot, growing to a statuesque metre or so, when one morning, I found it lying decapitated in the garden- all that was left was a stump.  I thought it was a goner, but the decapitation had clearly happened early that morning, big animal in the garden I suspect, and so I thought, ‘cuttings’.  I took about 8 cuttings from the broken piece, and mourned the likely death of the main plant. Not so. Not only did it make a comeback from the base, but six cuttings took as well. So, ok, no flowers last year, although one just turned up at the end of the autumn which you can see in a decayed state on my own photo above.

The plant is Leonitis Leonurus,  a stately and amazing dry garden herbaceous plant, that really does need to come indoors in the winter, but takes almost total dryness in the summer, outside in a pot in the hottest spot you can find, or planted if you have a reliably hot summer/dry winter spot. If all that works, what you get is the fantastic staired orange flowers from the Plant Delights Nursery photo at the top. I haven’t experienced that yet, but this summer I’m on, I think. It has spent winter in a dryish pot in our very chilly hall and has managed well with second hand sunlight through the back door. In fact, although it has been very cold, it is already powering up for the year, with fresh growth from the base and the tops. So, I am very excited. Orange is a passion for me, and so, although Sarah Raven (who calls it the Staircase plant) reckons it really only works as an annual, I would give it a bash indoors over winter,and you can clearly cut it down when you bring it in, which produces more basal growth. Yippee. By the way, another US nursery whose website I find really useful is Plant Delights Nursery from North Carolina. Do check it out.

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