Limonium perezii

Sea Lavender or Statice

A member of the Plumbago family (Plumbaginaceae), there are over 600 species of Limonium from around the world and 18 Limonium species in South Africa, which are found mainly in the coastal parts of the Northern, Western and Eastern Cape. Limonium peregrinum is endemic to coastal dunes from Western Namaqualand to Melkbosstrand.

Limonium sinuatum is a Mediterranean species of statice. The ‘QIS’ series comes in a variety of colours and offers improved colour, uniformity and quality. Statice plays an important roll in the cut flower industry because it has such a long vase life and travels well. It can be useful in the garden if you need a bit of height in flower beds, and the plants produce clouds of tiny papery flowers in summer. They prefer a sunny position in well-draining soil and are fairly drought tolerant once established but will do better with regular watering.

To dry the flowers, cut stalks, tie them together and hang them upside down in a cool place to dry.

Limonium perezii is native to the Canary Islands but has adapted so magnificently to local conditions. Large, broadly oval leaves are held close to the ground forming a dramatic background for the sturdy flower stems that reach up to 60 cm in height.

The large flower heads are comprised of many small, papery flowers, which are deep purple on the outer edge (calyces) with a creamy white centre (corolla). Bold and conspicuous in the garden, the long lasting flowers also make an impact when used in flower arrangements. This plant does best in full sun positions and well-drained soils and tolerates moderate frosts.

It forms a low, rounded shrub up to 0.5 m high, that becomes covered with flat-topped sprays of rose-pink, long-lasting papery flowers − anytime from November to February. The plant is slow-growing, produces branches from the base, and bears attractive, leathery dark-green older leaves and bright-green new growth.

These salt-tolerant plants are highly recommended for rock garden pockets in difficult, windy, coastal gardens, and inland gardens. They can take moderate frost but dislike high humidity. Once established in the garden, Sea Lavender is a very water wise, long-lived plant that needs no watering in summer, and only occasional heavy drenching in winter – and yet it is versatile and performs well in high winter-rainfall areas like the southern suburbs of Cape Town.

It can also be grown in large containers, requiring only occasional heavy drenching throughout the year. The stems become woody with age and light pruning is necessary after flowering, to encourage bushy new growth from the base.

Sea Lavender plants perform well in a variety of well drained media, including alkaline dune sand, brackish sand, or slightly acid granitic soil, and are best planted out in cool weather in late autumn or early winter. In order to flower optimally, the plants require an open, full sun position with free air circulation. Young plants need watering for the first six months until well established. The long-lasting flower heads are ideal both for mixed fresh arrangements, and in dried flower bouquets.

Propagation is difficult, but division of old established clumps can be carried out in late autumn or early winter. Alternatively, fresh seeds can be sown at the same time of year by sowing 1-2 mm deep in deep seed trays, in a sandy medium, and in a dark environment.

Moisture should be applied using a watering can with a fine rose, and the sowing medium should not be allowed to dry out until germination has occurred  where-after moisture applications should be reduced and trays moved into the light. Germination is erratic, but a certain percentage of viable seeds will germinate within three weeks. Seedlings can be picked out in their first spring into nursery bags, and allowed to grow on for 18 months before planting out. Mature plants are not vulnerable to any serious pests or diseases.

The Gardener