Honeywort, with its leathery gray-green foliage and intriguing blue to purple bracts, is a fast-growing annual native to the Mediterranean region. This drought-tolerant plant flourishes both in the ground and in containers, which show off the semi-cascading shoots. Honeywort is also called blue shrimp plant because of the color and shape of the blooms and bracts.
It is hard to find true blues in the plant world, and when you do, it seems like the flowers are often short-lived. But one of the great things about honeywort is its bracts, which hold their blue or purple color for weeks. They are showier than the actual flowers, which are little bell-shape blossoms often hidden within the bracts.
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Because honeywort is largely seed-grown, there is quite a bit of variability when it comes to flower color. Most honeywort blossoms are purple to blue, but you may come across creams and even yellows. The plants attract pollinators with their nectar-rich flowers.
The foliage of honeywort is also special. Most plants in this family have exceptionally hairy foliage, whereas honeyworts may only have the stray hair here and there. The leaves are thick and waxy in an attractive gray-green color. When they are young, they also have cream spots and splashes, but these fade with maturity.
Honeywort Care Must-Knows
Honeywort tolerates a variety of soil conditions, making it an easy-to- grow plant. Ideally it prefers soil rich in humus and organic matter that retains a decent amount of moisture while also being well-drained to prevent potential rot problems. When growing honeywort in containers, use a general purpose potting mix; the plant will need a bit more water when grown in a pot. Once established, honeywort can handle the occasional drought, but supplemental watering is beneficial.
To grow the most vibrant honeyworts, full sun is best, but plants are able to tolerate light shade. Full sun will help to give honeyworts the most intense blue-colored bracts possible. Too much shade can cause honeywort to become quite leggy and without careful attention can lead to powdery mildew infections.
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Honeywort will produce large black seeds that fall to the ground, germinate in autumn, and creates a nice stand of plants. In cooler climates where these plants will die from freezing temperatures, collect the seeds for sowing next spring. To do this, plant seeds in small pots 6 to 8 weeks before the frost free date for your area. Once the threat of frost has passed, plant the young seedlings outdoors. You can also sow honeywort seeds directly in the ground with good success.
Honeywort Companion Plants
Angelonia is also called summer snapdragon, and once you get a good look at it, you'll know why. It has salvia-like flower spires that reach a foot or 2 high, but they're studded with fascinating snapdragon-like flowers with beautiful colorations in purple, white, or pink. It's the perfect plant for adding bright color to hot, sunny spaces. This tough plant blooms all summer long with spirelike spikes of blooms. While all varieties are beautiful, keep an eye out for the sweetly scented selections. While most gardeners treat angelonia as an annual, it is a tough perennial in Zones 9-10. Or, if you have a bright, sunny spot indoors, you can even keep it flowering all winter.
Exciting new selections with incredible foliage patterns have put coralbells on the map. Previously enjoyed mainly for their spires of dainty reddish flowers, coralbells are now grown as much for the unusual mottling and veining of different-color leaves. The low clumps of long-stemmed evergreen or semi-evergreen lobed foliage make coralbells fine groundcover plants. They enjoy humus-rich, moisture-retaining soil. Beware of heaving in areas with very cold winters.
Lamb's-ears is a top pick for a groundcover in a hot, baked spot. Its silver felted foliage quickly forms a dense, delightful mat. It also contrasts nicely with other foliage and most flowers. enhances almost everything. Depending on the type and your growing conditions, it may self-sow freely to the point of becoming a bother. In hot humid climates, lamb's ears may "melt down" in summer, becoming brown and limp.A quite different but related plant, big betony is worth growing for its shade tolerance, dark green crumpled leaves, and bright purple spikes of whorled 1-inch flowers in late spring. Wood betony is similar but not as shade-tolerant.