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What is Phygelius?

By Debra Durkee
Updated May 21, 2024
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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.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Phygelius and where does it originate from?

Phygelius, commonly known as Cape Fuchsia, is a flowering plant native to South Africa. It's a semi-evergreen shrub that belongs to the Scrophulariaceae family, known for its tubular flowers that bloom in shades of red, pink, or yellow. Its natural habitat includes rocky slopes and stream banks, where it thrives in the wild.

How do you care for a Phygelius plant?

Caring for Phygelius involves planting it in well-drained soil with full sun to partial shade exposure. Regular watering is essential, especially during dry spells, but overwatering should be avoided to prevent root rot. Pruning in late winter or early spring encourages bushier growth and more prolific blooming. Fertilizing with a balanced feed during the growing season supports its health.

Are Phygelius plants attractive to wildlife?

Yes, Phygelius plants are particularly attractive to pollinators such as hummingbirds and butterflies due to their brightly colored, nectar-rich flowers. Their tubular shape is perfectly adapted for visits by these creatures, making them an excellent choice for wildlife-friendly gardens and for those looking to support biodiversity.

Can Phygelius be grown in containers?

Phygelius is well-suited for container gardening, allowing gardeners with limited space to enjoy its vibrant display. When grown in pots, ensure adequate drainage and pot size to accommodate its root system. Container-grown Phygelius may require more frequent watering and should be monitored for nutrient needs, as potted plants can exhaust their soil's resources more quickly.

What are some common problems that Phygelius plants face?

While Phygelius is relatively hardy, it can encounter issues such as aphid infestations, which can be managed by natural predators or insecticidal soaps. Snails and slugs may also target young shoots. Root rot can occur in poorly drained soils, so ensuring proper soil conditions is crucial for preventing this problem.

Is Phygelius invasive, and how can it be controlled?

Phygelius can be vigorous and spread through underground runners, which may lead to it being considered invasive in some areas. To control its spread, plant it in areas where its growth can be contained, such as raised beds with barriers or in containers. Regular pruning and removal of unwanted shoots will also help manage its growth.

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