Lion’s tail shrub blooms late summer, early fall

Lion’s tail shrub blooms late summer, early fall

This time of the year, it’s fun to see just what plants are still thriving. My lion’s tail is one of the happiest looking plants around. Not only has it been blooming for months, but also I saw two hummingbirds taking turns on its flowers.

Lion’s tail is officially called “Leonotis leonurus.” It is known by the nickname “wild dagga” by some gardeners. This plant species is a member of the Lamiaceae or mint family. Some of the literature lines this plant species up rather closely to cannabis. Its flowers resemble a lion’s ear or tip of a lion’s tail.

This is a unique shrub that will grow from 3-6 feet tall. Its leaves smell great when crushed. Its tubular flowers can be found in Hermes orange, business shirt white and sunshine yellow. It is those tubular flowers the hummingbirds can’t resist.

My lion’s tail has survived some of our milder winters while freezing down to the ground in a few recent cold years. But never fear, they showed up again in March and grew to brighten up that corner of the yard like nothing ever happened. They have such a long lasting profusion of blooms.

Leonotis leonurus is great used as a screen to hide a less than unattractive fence or unsightly view. Landscape architects love to use this unique bloomer for its architectural looking spiked flowers. They can create quite a show for months at a time. The butterflies just love them too.

Interestingly, studies in animals are ongoing that show the possible antioxidant and cardio-protective properties of lion’s tail. Traditionally, infusions have been made with the flowers and seeds of the plant in remote regions of the world to treat tuberculosis, jaundice, muscle cramps, high blood pressure, diabetes, viral hepatitis, dysentery and diarrhea, according to Wikipedia. The leaves, roots and bark are used as an emetic for snakebites, and bee and scorpion stings. Although not illegal in the U.S., both Latvia and Poland have banned Leonotis leonurus as illegal to distribute in larger quantities.


If you would like to splash a lot of color around your yard, just add a few lion’s tail plants to your garden bed. Late summer and early fall will bring a profusion of blooms. They are best planted in late fall. Choose a spot with at least six hours of sun per day. Only water when first planted and when the ground feels dry to the touch. Mulch and trim back in the late winter if you would like to keep them short. An all-purpose fertilizer is a good idea a couple times each year. Regularly cutting lion’s tail back will keep it invigorated and growing even more lovely blooms.