U.S.A., Washington State. USDA zone 8a. Sunset climate zone 5

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Melianthus major in My Garden

          It was love at first sight. I saw it in  Grace's blog several years ago and
bought Melianthus major (Antonow's Blue Honey Bush) at the NWFG show in 2011.

Melianthus major 'Antonow's Blue': Powder-blue, highly textural evergreen foliage grows along stems to 8 feet tall. In late spring, spikes of deep burgundy, nectar-rich flowers will attract numerous bird species to the garden. USDA Cold Hardiness Zone 7-12. Average minimum temperature of 0 to 10 degrees F. Needs regular watering -weekly, or more often in extreme heat. Partial to full sun. (Description by Monrovia)

           I found the best place for it in my garden. It grows close to the house wall, is protected from wind and has several hours of morning sun. The spot has good drainage, and I improve the soil every year by adding compost.
In July of that first year, it looked good surrounded by other shrubs and perennials:

This is how much it grew by August 2011:

          Since then, my Melianthus has performed very well except for one thing. It hasn't bloomed for me yet. This is not unusual for the Northwest, and I am totally happy with just its foliage. That is why I bought it in the first place.

          Big bold leaves add a tropical touch and are beautiful in my garden year around.
These are some other pictures of Melianthus major in my garden.
December 2012:

November 2012:

October 2012, the tallest plant in front of the window:

Again with the beautiful pink-flowered fuchsia in September 2012. I wrote about their romance here Fuchsia in September :

In the next picture, in June 2012, it's visible behind the Acantus mollis. Melianthus is not as tall in June as later in the year and doesn't compete with Acanthus for attention.
Both of these plants have big textured leaves, and I probably would plant them further from each other if I had available space in this front flowerbed.
Back in May 2012 it's hardly visible. I marked it with an * in the lower left part of the next picture.
The wire support is put around it to keep it growing straight since it tends to bend forward toward the sun:

In March 2012 it didn't look pretty, but you can see that, together with wilty brown leaves, it still had nice green foliage after the winter. A single thin metal stake wasn't able to hold it straight. That is why I replaced it with a wire cage.

Yesterday, March 1st 2013, it looked like this:
Leggy stems, 5 feet tall, are topped with pretty leaves.
Nevertheless, an early spring is the time to cut it down, and I usually cut it all the way down.
The most pitiful my Melianthus looked was in January 2012.
From this
and this
it went to this:

          But, it grew into a real beauty after that, as all the above pictures from 2012 show.

What do I love about this plant:
- this is a bold architectural plant making a statement in the garden
- it has a tropical look
- Its foliage is evergreen in my zone 7b garden and decorates my front flowerbed year around
- It has a beautiful texture, and the color of its leaves has a blue tint

          I highly recommend  this article about Melianthus major written
by the renowned plant explorer Dan Hinkley.
          The folloing information is from that article and referred to Melianthus major :

TYPE OF PLANT: evergreen shrub
FAMILY: Melianthaceae
RANGE: southwestern Cape, South Africa
HARDINESS: USDA Zones 7–11; Sunset Zones 8, 9, 12–24
HEIGHT/SPREAD: 5–10 ft./6–8 ft.
FORM: semierect to sprawling
TEXTURE: coarse
LEAVES: pinnately compound, to 15 in, long, leaflets ovate-oblong, coarsely serrate, glaucous
FLOWERS: small, borne in erect racemes, dark reddish brown, highly fragrant
CULTIVARS: ‘Purple Haze‘; stems and leaves suffused with purple, finer-textured than most; ‘Antonow’s Blue’; bold-textured, leaves with silvery blue patina
SITE REQUIREMENTS: full sun to light shade in moisture-retentive, well-drained soil
PROPAGATION: by seed or lateral cuttings taken in late summer
(See more at: Melianthus major by Daniel J. Hinkley)

Have a great March, and I am off to cut down my Melianthus.

***Copyright 2013 TatyanaS


  1. I never saw this beautiful one before Tanya. I also love the foliage a perrenial or shrub is giving. I have no idea if it is sold overhere but I have a look on the internet.
    Have a wonderful weekend.

    1. marijke, thank you! I saw it in Grace's blog, you saw it in my blog - isn't garden blogging great?

  2. Thanks for this great, beautiful and informative post! I also love this plant!

    1. outlawgardener, thanks! I wish it would be more cold hardy!

  3. A very bold and dramatic plant!

    1. Jason, thank you! Dramatic is a very good word!

  4. I will have to appreciate it on your blog, Tatyana, because my climate is too cold for it. It certainly looks spectacular in your garden, surrounded by Fuchsia, Acanthus, and your other shrubs and plants. I can see why it's a favorite--the unique foliage is fantastic!

    1. PlantPostings, thanks! I hope it'll survive!

  5. Great info and pics, Tatyana. Beautiful plant. Even without blooms, totally worth it.

    1. Kim and Victoria, thanks! I agree, it's a keeper!

  6. I love the combination of Bear's Breeches and Fuschia. So many difference textures in that bed, the effect is wonderful!

    1. sweetbay, thank you! I like this bed, although it's just a collection of plants without a certain design.

  7. Very pretty plant. And I love fuschias. Just bought a hanging basket myself.

    1. Vertical Gardener, thank you! I like that fuchsia is easy to grow!

  8. We sing praises for this plant too Tatyana!

  9. Beautiful pictures of your garden with the Melianthus major. This is indeed an excellent plant for the garden, the grey foliage is of an outstanding beauty. I had it in my garden for a couple of years and had even flowers which are beautiful too, very cold winter destroyed the plant. When I see your photos I think I have to buy a new one, but they are not often offered in our nurseries because of the non-hardiness I suppose.

    1. Janneke, thank you! I'm also aware that I can lose it one winter. It happens with Australian Tree Fern, for example. I buy it almost as an annual since it doesn't survive our winters even if I take it inside (too dry air).

  10. What a great looking foliage plant and if it flowers what a bonus. It blends well with the other foliage there in your lovely garden. Quite tropical for me.

    1. Donna, thank you! Melianthus, Acanthus and Japanese Aralia are my favorites.

  11. Quite lovely! Great structure.

  12. Wow - I love it with the pink fuschia. The Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh doesn't even list it, so I suspect it is one of those 7b plants that do well in the Northwest but not in the Southeast. Too bad!

    1. Sarah, thanks! It grows in Africa and India... I'd think it could grow in NC too...

  13. Hi. This plant has caught my eye in the past. I've never seriously look into it but was impressed with the structure. It really is amazing but unfortunately it's not hardy here for us to plant. Definitely our loss. A wonderful post thank you... Larry

  14. I have always wanted to try this plant, but am not sure how it would handle a muggy southern summer.

  15. What a beauty! In CT (zone 6a/b) Melianthus is great in containers and in the ground but not hardy outdoors. I do have a plant that has made it through the past two winters in a pot in an unheated and dark garage. Maybe I should try it in the ground with a heavy mulch and see what happens.

  16. I don't know this plant but it sure look interesting. Love the bold textured foliage, almost looks like a Cardoon.

  17. It likes water, because it tends to grow wild along streams. Hanging in there in summer when it is hot and dry, and flourishing thru the cool wet bit of the year.

  18. What a cool plant! I haven't seen it around here. That fuschia is a beauty! It looks great against the stronger foliage of the melianthus.

  19. So nice to view your garden and see the snow. Cool!

  20. Tatyana,

    you might not want to totally cut down the melianthus. I read that it blooms on second year wood.


    1. Cindy, THANK YOU so much! Next time, I won't. This year, I guess I'll enjoy the foliage! Very good tip!

  21. AnonymousJune 20, 2014

    Hi, did it manage to flower after not cutting it back this past winter Tatyana? I've got my first seedling of this plant, given to me by a friend, and am growing it in England. Going to keep it under cover during its first winter, whilst young and more tender, and then let it stay outdoors in future all year. It certainly looks wonderful in your photos. Thank you.

    1. Unfortunately, it didn't survive last winter! It is a border plant for our zone, and it did well for several years. I am going to get another one and put some mulch around it in winter. Good luck with your new plant! I think it's wise to provide some protection for it!


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