Lepechinia hastata – pakaha

pic of louise sims
Louise Sims

Plants grown in containers are really starting to come into their own in the heat of summer, and there is one in particular which I would hate to be without. 

Belonging to the same family as salvias (lamiaceae), my subject today certainly does bear close resemblance to many of the sages and I am often asked, ‘which salvia is that?’ when friends see it in flower. The tall spikes of purple-magenta, tubular flowers are borne in summer and autumn, and are held aloft on stout square stems which are a beguiling dark burgundy-grey in colour; the combination with its grey-green felted, spear-shaped leaves is striking.

Of course, you can grow this lepechinia in a bed; it looks great and is well able to hold its own in the increasing melee of the summer border, and the RHS website declares it to be hardy (H4). However, I am dubious about this rating as it can easily succumb to winter wet and cold. Lepechinia loves to be in full sun and very free-draining soil, and it will reach a height of about a metre.

Often mistaken for a salvia!

I can’t quite understand why this plant is not easily found in nurseries as it is easy to grow and gives one hundred percent. It’s also very easy to propagate from seed and cuttings. So, could it be that the rather questionable ‘fragrance’ of the leaf is a reason? (It is reminiscent of the cleaning regime in a public loo!). Do not let this put you off a very garden-worthy plant!

Lepechina hastata is native to Hawaii and pakaha is the Hawaiian name for a conch shell.

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Great Plants this Month, Summer

2 Comments

  1. I loved this post as I’m growing pakaha for the first time this year. It’s performing brilliantly in the border and I’ll be keeping a close eye on it this winter. I’m minded to plant it in a pot and give it some protection as I’d be sorry to lose it. Perhaps I’m weird but I like the scent of the leaves! They remind me of pot pourri.

    1. Hello Katrina, it’s Laura here. I grow mine in a pot and bring it under cover in the winter, and mine is about three years old now and starting to look at bit woody at the base, so I may collect some seed from it this autumn and start off some fresh plants next spring. I like the smell too, it’s nice and hygienic isn’t it! Good luck with yours, best wishes Laura

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