Plumbago shrubs: ArtisTree Plantopinions experts are true-blue fans. Mostly.

Plumbago shrubs

I’d like to know what you think about plumbago shrubs. I love their blue color, but either they look really good or kind of bad during rainy season. Is it one of those finicky plants?

– Sally M., Nokomis

Thank you for your question. Overall, ArtisTree experts agree that plumbago has earned its place in the SW Florida landscape. First of all, we don’t have many blue-plant options in our area, so it’s one of those go-to shrubs if you want a blue flowering shrub. Second, it’s bold and billowy — a bolt from the blue in landscapes filled with pinks and yellows. But proper planting and care are key to keeping it look that way. Our landscape experts weigh in.  

Joe Mantkowski, VP of Landscape Design

I really like plumbago shrubs but only in more of a mass planting where they can grow together for more visual impact. Produces a lot of flowers that offer a beautiful, blue color all year long. But they do brown out when defoliating. What I recommend is planting them in bulk to provide more new flowers, which in turn will minimize the brown unsightliness of the old ones. They are cold-sensitive, which is a bit of a gamble, and need a lot of sun and well-drained soil. Still, they are a Florida-friendly plant.

Plumbago shrubs
This Siesta Key cottage nestled in brilliant blue plumbago practically beams.

Clinton Lak, ArtisTree Landscape Designer

Plumbago shrubs are great plants for an informal cottage garden. Pendulating form, striking color and graceful. But they’re finicky compared to many other flowering shrubs. They need good drainage and a sunny location to thrive. They’re also susceptible to thrip and other pests/diseases. Plus, they have an aggressive growth rate and display little to no blooms in the summer (rainy months), which makes them less than ideal in many applications. I seldom use them; however, I do feel that they have their place in the landscape.

plumbago shrubs

Chris Culp, Landscape Designer

I’ve used plumbago shrubs a lot and love them when they’re planted in the correct location. While they do fine in full sun, I’ve found that they do even better in filtered sunlight. But they don’t like a lot of water. That said, you need to give them a good drink before a hard prune. If you cut them dry, it may cause some undue stress. You can plant anytime of the year and prune the excess growth as needed. I do not recommend using plumbago as a foundation shrub.

Plumbago shrubs
Plumbago paired with bright pink lantana. Both thrive in full sun and well-drained soil.

Brian Clouser, Landscape Designer

I like plumbago shrubs for homeowners who want more of a flowing, loose cottage look. It’s a big plant when allowed to grow to full size, which can be good or bad.  It’s also one of the few actual blue flowering plants that grows well here. Still, I’m neutral on using it because of how it works with other plants and integrates with the overall look of the landscape. If you let it sprawl, it tends to overpower. But I’ve seen it work well along a fence or installed as an informal hedge. It can also be a nice accent if maintained properly and can serve as a good container plant with flowers spilling over.

Plumbago shrubs
A plumbago shrub can grow 6 to 10 feet but looks best trimmed at three feet or less.

Elisabeth Owen, Landscape Designer

Plumbago shrubs lend themselves well to a cottage-garden style setting versus a formal manicured look. They’re best hand-pruned vs. being power-sheared. The only negative is that in rainy season, soils may get too wet for it, causing yellow leaves and overall plant decline. It DOES NOT tolerate wet feet well but is a great repeat bloomer for full-sun locations. In newer communities with smaller lot sizes and poor drainage, this plant may not be the best option to choose.

Plubago shrubs and bougainvillea: an unlikely but pretty pair.
ArtisTree Plantopinions
Left to right: Joe Mantkowski, Clinton Lak, Chris Culp, Brian Clouser, Elisabeth Owen

ArtisTree “Plantopinions” is a roundtable debate between multiple ArtisTree experts on the virtues of various plant specimens. Sometimes there’s consensus and sometimes not. In the end, you are the judge!

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