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Drought proof plantings

February 2013 Cotyledon orbiculata

– Posted in: Plant of the Month

Cotyledon orbiculata
Pigs Ears

February can be a soul destroying month for gardeners in Melbourne. If plants survive hot the blasts in January, February can finish them off, especially when a couple of 40 degree days are thrown in.

Succulent plants will be one obvious choice for hot, dry conditions. They’ll stay looking healthy while many other plants are wilting and burning. Cotyledon orbiculata, sometimes called Pig’s Ear or Dog’s Ear is one that works well in a garden landscape.

Its silvery, flattened stems can work as a very appealing contrast to other plants, whether it’s against greens or perhaps purple or burgundy foliage.

It can contrast interestingly with bold flower colours of other plants, particularly pinks, purples or blues. Its own flowers work very well anyway, as apricot-pink bell clusters against the chalky silver stems.

The Cotyledons have been flowering through February in Melbourne, though this is something they do only in dry summer climates. They more regularly flower in late winter.

They will grow to half a metre high and wide and enjoy full sun with little water. They will even be content with some light shade.

It is quite effective as a feature massed planting and will work beautifully in combination with other drought tolerant perennials that will highlight the colour contrast. It doesn’t have to be grown as part of a ‘cactus garden’ either. A planting design that includes some tufting species and sprawling ground covers along with it would make an attractive combination.

Pig’s Ear originates from Southern Africa, which shares a similar climate as Melbourne, so it is no accident it does well here.

If this all sounds too perfect, there is one note of caution. Like many non indigenous plants that are well adapted to local conditions, there is the possibility of it becoming an environmental weed. That means spreading beyond the garden and into native bushland. I would still recommend it in a suburban garden but perhaps be wary of it near natural areas.


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