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What is Phygelius?

Debra Durkee
Debra Durkee

Phygelius is a genus of shrubby, flowering, semi-evergreen perennial that is native to South Africa and belongs to the Scrophulariaceae family, along with snapdragons and foxglove. Shrubs have a mature height of up to five feet (1.5 m), and bloom randomly beginning in the late spring all the way into the autumn months. Flowers are showy and trumpet-shaped, red or yellow five-petaled blooms attached to tall spikes with protruding crimson stamens.

There are two different species of phygelius, the P. capensis and the P. aequalis. The two are distinguished by the way their flowers are arranged on the spikes. Flowers on the P. capensis occur evenly around the spikes, while they hang from one side of the spikes of the P. aequalis. Within each species there are a number of cultivars, many of which have been created well beyond their native range in the United Kingdom.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

Most of the cultivars that have been created from the original phygelius plants bear different colored flowers. The Devil's Tears has dark red flowers with orange edges, while the Salmon Leap is a pale pink-orange. The Yellow Trumpet has the thickest foliage of the phygelius cultivars, along with bright yellow flowers similar to the yellow flowers of the Moonraker. Some cultivars, like the Sunshine with its lime green foliage, are developed not just for a distinctive flower color. The Winchester Fanfare and the dwarf Pink Elf are both a dusty pink.

The phygelius has become a popular garden plant well out of its native range, as it is extremely cold hardy and can adapt to different soil conditions. Beyond its ability to thrive in the garden, the phygelius is also suited to large containers placed on porches and patios. Adding to its popularity is its ability to attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

Requiring full sun in order to thrive and reach its full potential, the plant is drought tolerant as long as it is not placed in the shade. It can survive temperatures to 0°F (-17°C), and is evergreen to 20°F (-6°C). In its native area, it grows wild along streams and rivers as well as in wooded areas and forests, where its flowers have traditionally been used as a folk charm to help prevent crops from weather-related damage.

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