Plant Profiles Leschenaultia

The stunning blue leschenaultia is well-known to most Western Australians. It is found on roadsides and in bush areas throughout the south west regions of the state. The Leschenaultia genus (sometimes spelt Lechenaultia) comprises about 26 species. It is an Australian genus with most species native to Western Australia, three in central Australia and two in the far north, one of which is also found in New Guinea.

Leschenaultia biloba or blue leschenaultia is endemic to Western Australia. It is a bushy shrub which grows to 60cm with a similar spread. The sparse leaves are a dull grey-green. During winter, the bush comes alive with luxuriant sprays of gentian blue flowers. There are varieties available now which have lighter blue or white flowers. This plant attracts butterflies.

Leschenaultia macrantha is also known as the wreath leschenaultia. It is a prostrate form from Western Australia. It reaches about 10cm high and has a width of 30 to 60cm. It develops circular mats of grey-green fleshy leaves. In spring, thick clusters of large, cream blooms tinted with red appear around the edge of the plant giving the appearance of a wreath. Birds enjoy feeding from this plant.

Leschenaultia formosa or red leschenaultia has similar features to L.biloba but the leaves are somewhat larger and the distinctive flowers are usually a vivid red with some tending towards orange. The flowers are borne individually in late winter but the blooms smother the bush making a most attractive picture.  The species is somewhat variable and the flowers may be combinations of yellows, orange, pinks and red. The bush responds well to pruning. It will bloom best if planted in a sunny position. Some forms may sucker lightly. It is a good choice both for the garden and as a container specimen. It is another species that is attractive to birds.

Leschenaultia pulvinaris is also known as the cushion leschenaultia. It is a ground hugging shrub with fine, grey-green foliage. The foliage mounds up into low rounded cushions up to 7cm high and with a diameter of 30cm. The flowers are sky blue or purple with pale yellow centres. Flowering is from October to December. The fruit remains hidden in the leaves but contains a few brown-ridged seeds.

For best results, the leschenaultia needs light, gritty soil and excellent drainage. Cold, continually wet soil over winter will usually spell the end of a leschenaultia plant. If they can be kept dry over winter they will survive the cold better. They will tolerate light frosts and prefer a position in full sun. Trimming or pruning is seldom needed.