Stachys rugosa Aiton.
Common names: grey tea stachys (Eng.); vaaltee, bojanntee, boesmantee, dassiekruie (Afr.); taraputsoe (SSo.)
Spring flowering Stachys rugosa is a water-wise, ornamental, herbaceous perennial, with felted leaves that have a pungent aroma of pyrethrum or sheep dip, when crushed.
Strongly aromatic, herbaceous perennial, from 0.3 to 1.2 m high. Square stems, typical of Lamiaceae and densely covered in hairs, giving them a grey appearance. The grey-green leaves are covered in fine hairs, sessile, arranged alternately opposite each other along the stem and lanceolate (lance-shaped), with a faintly toothed margin.
Whorls of 2–6 yellow, and occasionally pink or mauve flowers are borne on a short, terminal inflorescence in spring and through summer. The flowers are 2-lipped with darker spots visible on both corollas; the top corolla is hooded. Nutlet seeds are produced and are usually dark brown. Fast growing once established.
According to the Red List of South African plants, checked on 25/01/2018, the conservation status of this plant is Least Concern (LC).
Distribution and habitat
Stachys rugosa is found in habitats of rocky mountain slopes or plateau, usually with a high clay content, from Namibia, Namaqualand through the Karoo and into Lesotho, in Fynbos, Succulent Karoo, Nama Karoo and Grassland Biomes, at altitudes of 180 –2 900 m.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The genus name is derived from the Greek stachys, meaning ‘spike’ and refers to the inflorescence. The species name rugosa, means ‘wrinkled’, referring to the appearance of the leaves.
Stachys has approximately 450 species and is very diverse.
A myriad of insects visit Stachys, including honey bees.
Traditionally Stachys rugosa is used as a herbal tea and it also makes a very attractive ornamental, water-wise, garden plant.
Growing Stachys rugosa
This stachys is used as a perennial for summer displays. Its soft, felted foliage can be used to offset various herbaceous perennials, especially those with pink, mauve or white flowers.
Young plants are planted out at the end of spring. Stachys rugosa is easily combined with most flowering perennials that are water wise, as this plant detests over watering and also gives good contrast with Fynbos, such as Restionaceae, Proteaceae and Ericaceae.
The fast-growing plants can get untidy and after each growth period in summer, plants can be pruned back to retain shape and encourage new growth. From time to time, it will be beneficial to replant propagated plants to improve the display.
Young plants are easy to propagate from seed or cuttings.
Sow seeds late spring and early summer into a general potting soil mix. Seedlings germinate quickly and seedlings can be transplanted into well-drained potting soil, once the first pair of true leaves appear.
Take tip cuttings in spring and summer. Cuttings must be without a terminal flowering bud. Place in a rooting medium. Place under mist or enclose in a plastic bag to retain humidity, but keep an eye on cuttings rotting in too wet conditions. Keep warm, but out of direct sunlight and cuttings should root within 2–4 weeks.
The hairy and aromatic leaves the plants do not have any major pest, although mealy bug and aphids can settle down near the base of the plant stems and leaves.
Stachys rugosa prefers a well-drained soil that is moist, but never too wet. It will spread rapidly and flower in semi-shade to full sun conditions. Flowering is consistent and improved with good garden cultural practices, like composting or mulching. It is water wise, but not fully drought tolerant. General garden fertilizing can be used to maintain plant health and growth vigor.
- Jackson, W.P.U. 1990. Origins and meanings of names of South African plant genera. University of Cape Town.
- Manning, J. & Goldblatt, P. 2012. Plants of the Greater Cape Floristic Region 1: the Core Cape Flora. Strelitzia 29. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.
- Pooley, E. 2003. Mountain flowers, a field guide to the flora of the Drakensberg and Lesotho. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.
- Van Rooyen, G. & Steyn, H. 1999. Cederberg Clanwilliam & Biedouw Valley South African wildflower guide 10. Botanical Society of South Africa, Cape Town.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Plant Type: Perennial
SA Distribution: Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Western Cape
Soil type: Sandy, Clay, Loam
Flowering season: Spring, Early Summer, Late Summer, Autumn, Sporadic/All year
PH: Acid, Neutral
Flower colour: Pink, Yellow, Mauve/Lilac
Aspect: Full Sun, Morning Sun (Semi Shade), Afternoon Sun (Semi Shade)
Gardening skill: Average