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Ceratostigma willmottianum
( Chinese plumbago )

C. willmottianum bears deep green leaves with shadings of violet at the edges, the flowers may be pale to deep blue. This woody-based perennial makes a wonderful ground cover, underplanting for spring bulbs, or planterbox filler. In late summer or early fall, this plant bears terminal, spike-like, brilliant blue flowers. Leaves also become tinged with red during the fall. Mulch in colder areas. Cut back in the South. Well-drained soil with ample organic matter a must.
Important Info : The American Horticulture Society ranks this plant as one of the top 75 plants for the garden.


How to Grow this Plant:


Where can you buy this plant: click here!

Characteristics
Cultivar:n/a  
Family:Plumbaginaceae  
Size:Height: 3 ft. to 3 ft.
Width: 5 ft. to 5 ft.  
Plant Category:ground covers, landscape, perennials, shrubs,  
Plant Characteristics:low maintenance, seed start,  
Foliage Characteristics:small leaves, deciduous, evergreen,  
Foliage Color:dark green, green,  
Flower Characteristics:long lasting, old fashioned/heritage, showy, single, unusual,  
Flower Color:blues,  
Tolerances:drought, slope,  
Requirements
Bloomtime Range:Early Summer to Late Summer  
USDA Hardiness Zone:6 to 9  
AHS Heat Zone:3 to 7  
Light Range:Sun to Full Sun  
pH Range:5.5 to 7.5  
Soil Range:Sandy Loam to Clay Loam  
Water Range:Normal to Moist  

Plant Care



Fertilizing
How-to : Fertilization for Annuals and Perennials

Annuals and perennials may be fertilized using: 1.water-soluble, quick release fertilizers; 2. temperature controlled slow-release fertilizers; or 3. organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion. Water soluble fertilizers are generally used every two weeks during the growing season or per label instructions. Controlled, slow-release fertilizers are worked into the soil ususally only once during the growing season or per label directions. For organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion, follow label directions as they may vary per product.

Light
Conditions : Sun

Sun is defined as the continuous, direct, exposure to 6 hours (or more) of sunlight per day.

Conditions : Partial Sun, Partial Shade

Part sun or part shade plants prefer light that is filtered. Sunlight, though not direct, is important to them. Often morning sun, because it is not as strong as afternoon sun, can be considered part sun or part shade. If you live in an area that does not get much intense sun, such as the Pacific Northwest, a full sun exposure may be fine. In other areas such as Florida, plant in a location where afternoon shade will be received.

Conditions : Types of Pruning

Types of pruning include: pinching, thinning, shearing and rejuvenating.

Pinching is removing the stem tips of a young plant to promote branching. Doing this avoids the need for more severe pruning later on.

Thinning involves removing whole branches back to the trunk. This may be done to open up the interior of a plant to let more light in and to increase air circulation that can cut down on plant disease. The best way to begin thinning is to begin by removing dead or diseased wood.

Shearing is leveling the surface of a shrub using hand or electric shears. This is done to maintain the desired shape of a hedge or topiary.

Rejuvenating is removal of old branches or the overall reduction of the size of a shrub to restore its original form and size. It is recommended that you do not remove more than one third of a plant at a time. Remember to remove branches from the inside of the plant as well as the outside. When rejuvenating plants with canes, such as nandina, cut back canes at various heights so that plant will have a more natural look.

Conditions : Full Sun

Full Sun is defined as exposure to more than 6 hours of continuous, direct sun per day.

Watering
Tools : Watering Aides

No gardener depends 100% on natural rainfall. Even the most water conscious garden appreciates the proper hose, watering can or wand.
    Watering Cans: Whether you choose plastic of galvanized makes no difference, but do look for generous capacity and a design that is balanced when filled with water. A 2 gallon can (which holds 18 lbs. of water) is preferred by most gardeners and is best suited for outdoor use. Indoor cans should be relatively smaller with narrower spouts and roses (the filter head).
    Watering Hose: When purchasing a hose, look for one that is double-walled, as it will resist kinking. Quick coupler links are nice to have on ends of hoses to make altering length fast. To extend the life of your hose, keep it wound around a reel and stored in a shady area. Prior to winter freezes, drain hose.
    Sprayers: Are commonly thought of as devices for applying chemicals, but can really be a step saver for watering houseplants or small pots of annuals rather that dragging out a hose or making numerous trips with a watering can. The backpack sprayer is best suited for this. Take care not to use any kind of chemical in tanks used for watering!
    Sprinklers: Attached to the ends of garden hoses, these act as an economical irrigation system. Standing Spike Sprinklers are usually intended for lawns and deliver water in a circular pattern. Rotating Sprinklers deliver a circle of water and are perfect for lawns, shrubs and flower beds. Pulse-jet sprinklers cover large areas of ground in a pulsating, circular pattern. The head usually sits up on a tall stem, except for when watering lawns. Oscillating sprinklers are best for watering at ground level in a rectangular pattern.


Conditions : Moist and Well Drained

Moist and well drained means exactly what it sounds like. Soil is moist without being soggy because the texture of the soil allows excess moisture to drain away. Most plants like about 1 inch of water per week. Amending your soil with compost will help improve texture and water holding or draining capacity. A 3 inch layer of mulch will help to maintain soil moisture and studies have shown that mulched plants grow faster than non-mulched plants.

Planting
How-to : Preparing Garden Beds

Use a soil testing kit to determine the acidity or alkalinity of the soil before beginning any garden bed preparation. This will help you determine which plants are best suited for your site. Check soil drainage and correct drainage where standing water remains. Clear weeds and debris from planting areas and continue to remove weeds as soon as they come up.

A week to 10 days before planting, add 2 to 4 inches of aged manure or compost and work into the planting site to improve fertility and increase water retention and drainage. If soil composition is weak, a layer of topsoil should be considered as well. No matter if your soil is sand or clay, it can be improved by adding the same thing: organic matter. The more, the better; work deep into the soil. Prepare beds to an 18 inch deep for perennials. This will seem like a tremendous amount of work now, but will greatly pay off later. Besides, this is not something that is easily done later, once plants have been established.

How-to : Pruning Flowering Shrubs

It is necessary to prune your deciduous flowering shrub for two reasons: 1. By removing old, damaged or dead wood, you increase air flow, yielding in less disease. 2. You rejuvenate new growth which increases flower production.

Pruning deciduous shrubs can be divided into 4 groups: Those that require minimal pruning (take out only dead, diseased, damaged, or crossed branches, can be done in early spring.); spring pruning (encourages vigorous, new growth which produces summer flowers - in other words, flowers appear on new wood); summer pruning after flower (after flowering, cut back shoots, and take out some of the old growth, down to the ground); suckering habit pruning (flowers appear on wood from previous year. Cut back flowered stems by 1/2, to strong growing new shoots and remove 1/2 of the flowered stems a couple of inches from the ground) Always remove dead, damaged or diseased wood first, no matter what type of pruning you are doing.

Examples: Minimal: Amelanchier, Aronia, Chimonanthus, Clethra, Cornus alternifolia, Daphne, Fothergilla, Hamamelis, Poncirus, Viburnum. Spring: Abelia, Buddleia, Datura, Fuchsia, Hibiscus, Hypericum, Perovskia, Spirea douglasii/japonica, Tamarix. Summer after flower: Buddleia alternifolia, Calycanthus, Chaenomeles, Corylus, Cotoneaster, Deutzia, Forsythia, Magnolia x soulangeana/stellata, Philadelphus, Rhododendron sp., Ribes, Spirea x arguta/prunifolia/thunbergii, Syringa, Weigela. Suckering: Kerria

How-to : Pinching and Thinning Perennials

Once you plant a perennial, it does not mean that you will enjoy years of maintenance-free gardening. Perennials need to be cared for just like any other plant. One thing that distinguishes perennials is that they tend to be active growers that have to be thinned out occasionally or they will loose vigor.

As perennials establish, it is important to prune them back and thin them out occasionally. This will prevent them from completely taking over an area to the exclusion of other plants, and also will increase air circulation thereby reducing the incidence of diseases like botrytis and powdery mildew.

Many species also flower abundantly and produce ample seed. As blooms fade it is advisable to deadhead your plant; that is, to remove spent flowers before they form seed. This will prevent your plants from seeding all over the garden and will conserve the considerable energy it takes the plant to produce seed.

As perennials mature, they may form a dense root mass that eventually leads to a less vigorous plant. It is advisable to occasionally thin out a stand of such perennials. By dividing the root system, you can make new plants to plant in another area of the garden or give away. Also root pruning will stimulate new growth and rejuvenate the plant. Most perennials may be successfully divided in either spring or fall. Do a little homework; some perennials do have a preference.

How-to : Preparing Containers

Containers are excellent when used as an ornamental feature, a planting option when there is little or no soil to plant in, or for plants that require a soil type not found in the garden or when soil drainage in the garden is inferior. If growing more than one plant in a container, make sure that all have similar cultural requirements. Choose a container that is deep and large enough to allow root development and growth as well as proportional balance between the fully developed plant and the container. Plant large containers in the place you intend them to stay. All containers should have drainage holes. A mesh screen, broken clay pot pieces(crock) or a paper coffee filter placed over the hole will keep soil from washing out. The potting soil you select should be an appropriate mix for the plants you have chosen. Quality soils (or soil-less medias) absorb moisture readily and evenly when wet. If water runs off soil upon initial wetting, this is an indicator that your soil may not be as good as you think.

Prior to filling a container with soil, wet potting soil in the bag or place in a tub or wheelbarrow so that it is evenly moist. Fill container about halfway full or to a level that will allow plants, when planted, to be just below the rim of the pot. Rootballs should be level with soil line when project is complete. Water well.

How-to : Planting Perennials

Determine appropriate perennials for your garden by considering sun and shade through the day, exposure, water requirements, climate, soil makeup, seasonal color desired, and position of other garden plants and trees.

The best times to plant are spring and fall, when soil is workable and out of danger of frost. Fall plantings have the advantage that roots can develop and not have to compete with developing top growth as in the spring. Spring is more desirable for perennials that dislike wet conditions or for colder areas, allowing full establishment before first winter. Planting in summer or winter is not advisable for most plants, unless planting a more established sized plant.

To plant container-grown plants: Prepare planting holes with appropriate depth and space between. Water the plant thoroughly and let the excess water drain before carefully removing from the container. Carefully loosen the root ball and place the plant in the hole, working soil around the roots as you fill. If the plant is extremely root bound, separate roots with fingers. A few slits made with a pocket knife are okay, but should be kept to a minimum. Continue filling in soil and water thoroughly, protecting from direct sun until stable.

To plant bare-root plants: Plant as soon as possible after purchase. Prepare suitable planting holes, spread roots and work soil among roots as you fill in. Water well and protect from direct sun until stable.

To plant seedlings: A number of perennials produce self-sown seedlings that can be transplanted. You may also start your own seedling bed for transplanting. Prepare suitable planting holes, spacing appropriately for plant development. Gently lift the seedling and as much surrounding soil as possible with your garden trowel, and replant it immediately, firming soil with fingertips and water well. Shade from direct sun and water regularly until stable.

Problems
Fungi : Powdery Mildew

Powdery Mildew is usually found on plants that do not have enough air circulation or adequate light. Problems are worse where nights are cool and days are warm and humid. The powdery white or gray fungus is usually found on the upper surface of leaves or fruit. Leaves will often turn yellow or brown, curl up, and drop off. New foliage emerges crinkled and distorted. Fruit will be dwarfed and often drops early.

Prevention and Control: Plant resistant varieties and space plants properly so they receive adequate light and air circulation. Always water from below, keeping water off the foliage. This is paramount for roses. Go easy on the nitrogen fertilizer. Apply fungicides according to label directions before problem becomes severe and follow directions exactly, not missing any required treatments. Sanitation is a must - clean up and remove all leaves, flowers, or debris in the fall and destroy.

Miscellaneous
Conditions : Slope Tolerant

Slope tolerant plants are those that have a fibrous root system and are often plants that prefer good soil drainage. These plants assist in erosion control by stabilizing/holding the soil on slopes intact.

Glossary : Border Plant

A border plant is one which looks especially nice when used next to other plants in a border. Borders are different from hedges in that they are not clipped. Borders are loose and billowy, often dotted with deciduous flowering shrubs. For best effect, mass smaller plants in groups of 3, 5, 7, or 9. Larger plants may stand alone, or if room permits, group several layers of plants for a dramatic impact. Borders are nice because they define property lines and can screen out bad views and offer seasonal color. Many gardeners use the border to add year round color and interest to the garden.

Conditions : Fall Color

Fall color is the result of trees or shrubs changing colors according to complex chemical formulas present in their leaves. Depending on how much iron, magnesium, phosphorus, or sodium is in the plant, and the acidity of the chemicals in the leaves, leaves might turn amber, gold, red, orange or just fade from green to brown. Scarlet oaks, red maples and sumacs, for instance, have a slightly acidic sap, which causes the leaves to turn bright red. The leaves of some varieties of ash, growing in areas where limestone is present, will turn a regal purplish-blue.

Although many people believe that cooler temperatures are responsible for the color change, the weather has nothing to do with it at all. As the days grow shorter and the nights longer, a chemical clock inside the trees starts up, releasing a hormone which restricts the flow of sap to each leaf. As fall progresses, the sap flow slows and chlorophyll, the chemical that gives the leaves their green color in the spring and summer, disappears. The residual sap becomes more concentrated as it dries, creating the colors of fall.

Glossary : Deciduous

Deciduous refers to those plants that lose their leaves or needles at the end of the growing season.

Glossary : Evergreen

Evergreen refers to plants that hold onto their leaves or needles for more than one growing season, shedding them over time. Some plants such as live oaks are evergreen, but commonly shed the majority of their older leaves around the end of January.

Glossary : Perennial

Perennial: traditionally a non-woody plant that lives for two or more growing seasons.

Glossary : Old Fashioned or Heritage Plant

Old Fashioned or Heritage Plant is any plant that is reminiscent of early times or tied to a particular region. Often found in the yards of grandmothers or abandoned home sites.

Glossary : pH

pH, means the potential of Hydrogen, is the measure of alkalinity or acidity. In horticulture, pH refers to the pH of soil. The scale measures from 0, most acid, to 14, most alkaline. Seven is neutral. Most plants prefer a range between 5.5 and about 6.7, an acid range, but there are plenty of other plants that like soil more alkaline, or above 7. A pH of 7 is where the plant can most easily absorb the most nutrients in the soil. Some plants prefer more or less of certain nutrients, and therefore do better at a certain pH.

Glossary : Plant Characteristics

Plant characteristics define the plant, enabling a search that finds specific types of plants such as bulbs, trees, shrubs, grass, perennials, etc.

Glossary : Flower Characteristics

Flower characteristics can vary greatly and may help you decide on a ""look or feel"" for your garden. If you're looking for fragrance or large, showy flowers, click these boxes and possibilities that fit your cultural conditions will be shown. If you have no preference, leave boxes unchecked to return a greater number of possibilities.

Glossary : Foliage Characteristics

By searching foliage characteristics, you will have the opportunity to look for foliage with distinguishable features such as variegated leaves, aromatic foliage, or unusual texture, color or shape. This field will be most helpful to you if you are looking for accent plants. If you have no preference, leave this field blank to return a larger selection of plants.

Glossary : Landscape Uses

By searching Landscape Uses, you will be able to pinpoint plants that are best suited for particular uses such as trellises, border plantings, or foundations.

Glossary : Fertilize

Fertilize just before new growth begins with a complete fertilizer.

Glossary : Pruning

Now is the preferred time to prune this plant.

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