the doctorbush is in

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doctorbush
plumbago scandens
plumbaginaceae

  • billowing shrub reaching 3' tall and spreading 4' wide

  • regular to moderate water (low to moderate zone)

  • FULL SUN TO SHADE

  • HARDY TO ABOUT MID 15º F

  • larval food plant for the cassius blue butterfly

  • NECTAR PLANT FOR moths, BUTTERFLIES AND INSECTS

One of the fascinating things about Arizona is the tropical influence of the region. Many of our plants reach their northern records in Arizona and the Southwest US. Doctorbush (Plumbago scandens) is one of those plants. In our region, it’s native range includes Baja California, southern Arizona and parts of Texas, where it grows in shady watercourses and canyons. It is found further south into Mexico, Central and South America. 

As hot as it is in Arizona, it can be hard to find good plants for the shady spots in a yard. Many of the plants we often use in cultivation like sunny spots, especially if you want a plant to flower. This is one plant, however, that will look nice in the shade and do more than just put out green leaves. It can be grown in full sun with a little extra water and does fantastic in containers. 

Plants form a billowing mound that reaches about 4 feet wide and gets up to about 3 feet tall. Its growth form makes a nice spill over a wall or container side. In winter the foliage will develop a purple hue.  Flowers are normally seen about April through November, though warm weather can bring flowers out any time of year. 

Many butterflies love the nectar of doctorbush, and the cassius blue butterfly uses it as a larval food. Small native bees can also access the nectar, as can moths. Because the flower is white and corolla is long, one can assume some importance to this species for moths. 

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Katherine Gierlach