What is Leadwort?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Leadwort, also known as plumbago, is a flowering plant hardy in USDA zones five through nine. It makes an excellent groundcover and can be used in a variety of settings. Gardeners interested in growing it can find plants at a nursery or garden supply store and may also be able to grow the plant from cuttings or layerings if they know someone with an established leadwort plant. This plant can become invasive in some settings and this should be considered when making decisions about where to plant it.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

Leadwort leaves are roughly oval shaped and green, turning reddish to bronze in the fall months. The plant produces small purple to blue flowers that bloom late and for an extended period of time, adding color to the garden when other plants may not be in bloom. It grows relatively low to the ground and thrives in full sun to partial shade.

One use for leadwort is as a pairing for spring bulbs. When the bulbs appear, the groundcover will be dormant, allowing plenty of room for the bulbs to develop and grow. As the bulbs die back, the leadwort emerges from dormancy and begins putting out rich green foliage. If the climate is temperate, the plant may remain evergreen, with leaves and branches dying back slightly in the winter. It can also be used under shrubs and trees or in other areas where people need groundcover.

This plant requires moist, well drained soil. Working organic material into the soil is recommended if it is dense. Wet, soggy soil can cause rot and other problems in leadwort plants. Fertilizing in the spring can encourage the plant to emerge rapidly from dormancy, although it grows very quickly on its own with minimal encouragement. The water requirements are average and it is suitable for cultivation in rock gardens, as well as other low-maintenance, low-water gardens.

When leadwort is planted in an environment it likes, it can grow very quickly and spread rapidly. The plant puts out rhizomes to spread and it can become an invasive nuisance. This should be considered before planting. If a garden contains vulnerable plants, the groundcover should be kept separated from them to avoid situations where it takes over and chokes out existing garden features.

If it becomes necessary to eradicate leadwort, the plants should be dug up to remove as many of the roots and rhizomes as possible. Tilling the soil can be recommended to catch any plant material that may have been left behind, and planting a rapidly growing replacement can help keep any errant sprouts down.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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