Plectranthus parviflorus

leaf Main Plant Information

Genus

Plectranthus

Species

parviflorus

Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • ʻAlaʻala wai nui
  • ʻAlaʻala wai nui pua kī
  • ʻAlaʻala wai nui wahine

Hawaiian Names

  • Alaala wai nui
  • Alaala wai nui pua ki
  • Alaala wai nui wahine

Common Names

  • Cockspur flower
  • Little spurflower
  • Spurflower

Synonyms

  • Plectranthus australis

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status

Indigenous

Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Non-Woody, Spreading

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Herbaceous, Short, Less than 1
  • Herbaceous, Medium, 1-3

Mature Size, Width

About 4 feet.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Container
  • Ground Cover
  • Hanging Basket

Additional Landscape Use Information

ʻAlaʻala wai nui wahine are among the easiest of native Hawaiian plants to grow in the landscape. They can, in fact, even become weedy.

The plants best hand pruned. New growths will form from the cuts. Try not to cut back to the woody stems as this can cause severe damage to the plants.

As with most other native plants that tolerate triming, do a little at a time and only as needed.

Source of Fragrance

  • No Fragrance

Plant Produces Flowers

Yes

leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Colors

  • Light Blue
  • Purple
  • White

Additional Flower Color Information

The small light blue or purplish and white flowers of ʻalaʻala wai nui wahine make an attractive display when en masse.

Blooming Period

  • Year Round

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

Numerous seeds in papery brown sheaths appear immediately after flowering.

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Fine

Leaf Colors

  • Light Green
  • Medium Green

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Red spider mites, ants, mealy bugs and scale insects can occasionally be a problem.

leaf Growth Requirements

Fertilizer

13-13-13 slow release fertilizer every 6 months. Foliar feeding with kelp or fish emulsion every 6 months has proven to be beneficial.

Pruning Information

Trim spent flowers. As with many in the mint family, cutting off flowers will prolong life. However, the flowers are an attractive feature to this native plant.

As previously mentioned, hand pruning is preferable and new growths will form from the cuts. Try not to cut back to the woody stems as this can cause severe damage to the plants.

Water Requirements

  • Dry
  • Moist

Additional Water Information

Once established they can grow in dry and sunny conditions, but they look nicer when grown in more shade and with adequate moisture.

Soil must be well drained

Yes

Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun

Spacing Information

Plants easily reseed themselves around the mother plant or in pots of nearby plants. They can easily be re-planted to other locations or in individual pots to lessen crowding and showcase plants or allowed to remain to form a loose groundcover.

ʻAlaʻala wai nui wahine can become weedy, but are easily controlled.

 

Tolerances

  • Drought
  • Wind
  • Heat

Soils

  • Clay
  • Sand
  • Cinder
  • Organic
  • Coral

Limitations

ʻAlaʻala wai nui wahine tolerate poor soil drainage, sandy and stony soils. Salinity tolerance unknown. They do not tolerate foot traffic.

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Niʻihau
  • Kauaʻi
  • Oʻahu
  • Molokaʻi
  • Lānaʻi
  • Maui
  • Hawaiʻi

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • Less than 150, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 150 to 1000, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 1000 to 1999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 2000 to 2999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 3000 to 3999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 4000 to 4999, 0 to 50 (Dry)

Habitat

  • Epiphyte
  • Lithophyte
  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

Naturally occurring from sea level to nearly 4300 feet in dry, exposed and often rocky sites on all of the main islands except Kahoʻolawe, where it may have lived in the past.

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

The genus Plectranthus, with some 350 species, is a member of the Mint family (Lamiaceae). Plectranthus parviflorus is the only species native to the Hawaiian Islands.

Close relatives are Cuban oregano or Mexican thyme (Plectranthus amboinicus), a cooking herb, and Swedish ivy (P. verticillatus), a popular indoor plant and now naturalized in the islands.

Etymology

The generic name Plectranthus is from the Greek plectron, spur, and anthos, flower, in reference to corolla (flower) which sometimes have a spur on the upper side.

The specific epithet parviflorus comes from the Latin parvus, small, and flora, flower, referring to the small flowers in comparison to others in the genus. Little spurflower is one of the common names for this species.

Hawaiian Names:

Although Plectranthus and Peperomia spp. share a Hawaiian name ʻalaʻala wai nui, they are not related to each other. The name may be qualified and differentiated from peperomias by adding the suffix pua kī (flower of kī or tī) or wahine (woman).

Background Information

 

Early Hawaiian Use

Leaves (lau) used in lei making. [1]

Modern Use

Two popular cultivars on the commercial market are Plectranthus parviflorum 'Blue Spires' and 'Blue Yonder.'

Locally, ʻalaʻala wai nui wahine is very easy to cultivate and plants have even been found growing as volunteers in sidewalk/rock wall cracks, rotting logs/wood, from drainage holes in pots, and in the crotches of trees and shrubs. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Additional References

[1] "Nā Lei Makamae--The Treasured Lei" by Marie A. McDonald & Paul R. Weissich, page 160.

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