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Hemiandra pungens. Wikimedia
Recommended for your garden in the south of Spain: Hemiandra pungens
Gardening

Recommended for your garden in the south of Spain: Hemiandra pungens

It is a tough perennial, withstanding both short periods of drought and frost. It will also thrive in coastal areas and in poor soils

Denise Bush

Malaga

Monday, 26 February 2024, 08:11

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Native to Western Australia, Hemiandra pungens is a member of the huge mint family Lamiaceae. The common name for this hardy little shrub is snakebush although the reasons behind that name are unclear. The plant itself is variable, the evergreen leaves are usually needle-like with a sharp point on the end and may be hairy. The flowers, which can be shades of purple and pink or white, have a dark speckled throat and attract lots of pollinating insects.

It is a tough perennial, withstanding both short periods of drought and frost. It will also thrive in coastal areas and in poor soils.

The snakebush is ideal as ground cover or can be used in hanging baskets and containers. It will grow to around 30cm tall by one metre wide. The roots are deep but do not interfere with pipework or foundations so it can be planted close to buildings, in borders and on embankments where it will help to prevent soil erosion.

Propagation is best by cuttings taken in late summer or early spring. It can also be propagated by seed, but like many Australian bush plants, the seed has a better germination rate if treated with smoke first (to emulate a bush fire). This can be done by burning twigs and leaves on a barbecue and placing the seeds in a container in the smoke for twenty minutes (but not over direct heat).

The most commonly grown form is Hemiandra pungens glabra which has hairless stems and leaves and pink flowers. Its botanical name comes from the Greek 'hemi' meaning 'half' and 'andra' meaning 'stamens'. The specific epithet 'pungens' refers to the sharp pointed leaves.

The snakebush can be lightly trimmed at the end of the summer to keep it compact and in colder, inland areas it might be a good idea to protect it from the cold and wet. It grows best in dry heat and will not tolerate being saturated.

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