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Mona Lavender Wins2005 Medallion Award

By Norman Winter, MSU Horticulturist, Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center

The word "plectranthus" sounds like it could be some dinosaur that's been discovered in a South Mississippi gravel pit, but believe it or not, a variety named Mona lavender is a 2005 Mississippi Medallion Award winner.

Mona lavender, which is one of the hottest plants in the world, has passed muster in Mississippi State University trials and was chosen by the Mississippi Plant Selections Committee for this prestigious award.

You may be thinking you have heard of plectranthus before. You have: it is the same genus that gives us Swedish Ivy, Mexican Mint and Creeping Charlie.

Mona lavender is different because it is grown for its flowers. It is a hybrid developed at the famous Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in South Africa, and it performs exceptionally well in the South. The small, bushy plant has dark green foliage with hints of purple. The undersides of the leaves are dark purple. Though its foliage is handsome, it is the spikes of dark lavender flowers that everyone adores. These flowers are produced for months in the garden.

Mona lavender prefers moist, well-drained soil in morning sun and afternoon shade or filtered light. This plant will reward you for efforts in bed preparation. If you have tight, heavy soil that doesn't drain well, incorporate 3 to 4 inches of organic matter and till in 6 to 8 inches deep.

It has virtually no insect or disease pressures, making it an environmentally friendly plant.

Mona lavender is a versatile performer, exceptional as a border plant and impressive in mixed containers.

Mona lavender also has a wide variety of partners for the landscape. One of the most striking combinations is with pink hydrangeas. If you already have hydrangeas in place, try expanding the bed in front of them to allow room for Mona lavender.

At the MSU Experiment Station in Crystal Springs, Mona lavender was used with lime green Joseph's Coats and bananas for a Caribbean look. The tall bananas produced just the right amount of shade protection from the hot afternoon sun. The Joseph's Coats contrasted nicely with both the lavender flower spikes and the purple tinted leaves. Also try combining Mona lavender with lime green or gold coleus selections.

Another striking combination planting would be in a large shade garden with hostas like Guacamole or Paul's Glory. Or try it with the Japanese Painted Fern. Impatiens in pastel pink or lilac would also make nice companions. Your choices may be overwhelming at the garden center, but Mona lavender plectranthus is a must-try for your shady area. As you can tell, there really are a lot of enticing companions.

The Mississippi Medallion Award program began in 1996 with Blue Daze evolvulus and New Gold lantana, and I assure you that Mona lavender plectranthus will perform as a true winner, as well. The Mississippi Medallion Award program is sponsored by the MSU Extension Service, Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, Mississippi Nursery and Landscape Association, and the Mississippi Plant Selections Committee. Reference.

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