Common Name: honey bush
Origin: South Africa
Features/Uses: Melianthus major features impressive and unusual large blue-green dissected foliage that spectacularly sets off an otherwise very succulent and spiky South African garden. When brushed up against or bruised the plant emits a distinctive odor that has been likened to peanut butter. Despite the large lush tropical looking foliage, these plants are suitable for all but the driest gardens, and will fit nicely with plants from California, Australia, or other regions with a Mediterranean climate.
Growth Habit: These large herbaceous plants grow quickly and can shoot up to 10 or 12’ in a single growing season. Tall stalks arch gracefully at their full height. Each leaf consists of 10-15 serrated leaflets, and ultimately grows to nearly two feet long. These plants are great at filling space, and will easily spread 10 feet wide or more. Plants bloom on last year’s growth, and flowers emerge from long spikes held way above head height. Deep red bracts surrounding the flowers provide a showy contrast from the blue-green foliage.
Bloom Time: Late winter and spring.
Cultural Requirements: Melianthus major is a reasonably carefree plant, requiring minimal water and fertilizer. Plants tend to look their best when pruned hard ahead of winter. Individual stalks, or even the entire plant, can be cut down to ground level and will grow to full size the following year. Above ground portions of the plant will succumb to freezing at about 15 degrees, but if well-mulched, the roots can survive even colder temperatures. Plants are generally pest free, excepting minor aphid issues.
Where in the Garden: South African and African Bank gardens
Photos: Rachel Cobb