Hot Plant! Lion's Ear / Lion's Tail (Leonotis leonurus)

by Karen LaSarge

Few plants give so much for so little attention. Native to South Africa, Leonotis leonurus is a tender perennial that produces a fall display of riotous orange, fuzzy tubular blooms on long velvety stems. The flowers are in compact clusters arranged in whorls around the stem, and are a beacon of nectar for hummingbirds and butterflies. White and apricot flower forms exist, but may be difficult to locate in retail markets. Fertilizing is beneficial, but many plants do well without it.

On its more mysterious side, it's said to have a multitude of spiritual and medicinal properties, but deer purportedly avoid it. It's also fairly drought tolerant to boot, making it suitable for xeriscaping. As it can grow at a good rate by root suckers, it's a perfect plant to share with your friends. But who would want to?

It's winter hardy on the Gulf Coast, but persistent hard freezes in the low 20s may kill it. Mulch if temperatures are unusually low, and it will most likely survive. It blooms more densely if cut back in the early spring. In most areas, think of it as a tender perennial waiting to burst into fiery bloom as other plants are battening down the winter hatches, and you'll wonder how you ever planted a garden without it.


Size: Approximately 4-6 ft. tall x 4 ft. wide
Sun Exposure: Full sun, light shade.
Water Requirements: More in summer, can take drought once established.
Zones: Hardy to Zone 7b, by some accounts.
Soil: Neutral pH, loamy well-drained soil.
Propagation: seed, cuttings or dividing clumps.

(Click on any photo to enlarge)

Karen LaSarge is a writer and graphic designer in Mobile, Alabama.


January Articles:

Vegetable Flowers
Hot Plant! Japanese Anemones
Blackberries & Raspberries Made Easy
Hot Plant! Lion's Ear / Lion's Tail