The Q&A Archives: Royal Cape Plumbago

Question: I've bought a Monrovia Royal Cape Plumbago, but I live in Zone 6a and know it can't survive our winters here. I enjoyed this type plant all summer long last year and want to try to overwinter this one indoors. Can you advise me on how to do this; e. g, temperature, water, pest control for indoors, sunlight needs, pruning back? Also, why does this share the same name,

Answer: Your plant has the botanical name of Plumbago auriculata and is sometimes called Cape Leadwort as a common name, among other things. The perennial in your garden has the botanical name of Ceratostigma plumbaginoides which enjoys the common name of plumbago. This is a good example of the confusion that the common names can cause and why botanical names can sometimes be preferable.

Your plant blooms from spring to fall on new growth. It can be brought indoors to a sunny place and may manage to bloom a bit in late fall, for longer flowering try not to let it get colder than about 50 while it is outside, and to minimize the time it is indoors you may want to set it outside on sunny days and bring it in to protect it on cold nights. Be careful not to overwater while it is indoors, and do not fertilize in the winter. Trim it back as needed in the late winter or early spring and take it back outside when the spring weather has settled and nights are fairly warm, preferably above 50 to avoid shocking it with cold. Resume regular watering and fertilizing in spring as it begins to grow with the season.

Or, you can leave it outdoors a bit longer in the fall (until nights are in the low forties) and then keep it in a cool place at 40 to 45 degrees. It will stop growing, so water it less, just enough to keep the soil from going bone dry. Trim it back as needed in winter or early spring. In the spring, begin watering and fertilizing again and set it outside when temperatures are reliably above about 45.

Gradually acclimate it to being outside in the sun, setting it in increasing amounts of morning sun up to a half a day, then set it in full sun all day. This allows it time to adjust to the more intense light of the sun outside.

As far as pests go, rinse the plant with plain water or use commercialy formulated insecticidal soap or twice per the label directions before you bring it indoors. Then keep an eye out for any problems, just in case. (It does not have any specific pest problems.) Enjoy your plumbago(s)!

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