Sclerochiton harveyanus

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Botanical Name
Sclerochiton harveyanus
Acanthaceae - The acanthus family.
skler-oh-KY-ton har-vee-AY-nus
Common Name(s)
English: Blue Lips
Afrikaans: Blou-lippe
IsiXhosa: isiThibothi
siSwati: mazabuka
Plant Group
  • Shrub A woody plant of relatively low height, having several stems arising from the base and lacking a single trunk; a bush.
Plant Size
  • Medium to Large
    Tree15m to 20m
    Shrub2m to 3m
    Perennial/ground cover60cm to 75cm
    Bulb60cm to 1m
    Succulent60cm to 1m
  • Medium
    Tree10m to 16m
    Shrub1m to 2m
    Perennial/ground cover40cm to 60cm
    Bulb40cm to 60cm
    Succulent40cm to 60cm
  • Canopy Shade Canopy shade is found below closely grown trees where some light filters through. Ideal for the protection of herbaceous plants.
  • Deep / Full Shade Shade below spreading evergreen trees where sun's rays are unable to penetrate the canopy at any time. For light sensitive plants
  • Light or Dappled Shade Found below trees with sparse, open foliage. Ideal for the protection of herbaceous plants.
General Information
  • Drought Tolerance: Moderate The plant is moderately adapted to arid conditions and can survive short periods of drought and high temperatures without extra water.
  • Evergreen Plants that have leaves all year round.
  • Frost: Half-hardy The plant is able to survive low temperatures and some frost but requires protection against severe frost.
  • Roots Non-invasive Safe to plant near pools, paving, walls or buildings.
  • Water Moderate These plants will need some extra watering compared to water-wise plants. Plant them together, in at least some shade and in a convenient proximity to the house so that grey water can be utilised during times of drought.
Specific Information

Sclerochiton harveyanus is a rounded shrub, multi-stemmed and dense, with thin, lax stems. The small, glossy leaves are somewhat leathery with noticeably yellowish veins, giving the impression of being slightly variegated. Usually a shrub, it will on occasion scramble into surrounding vegetation or  grow into a small tree. In suitable conditions the shrub attains a spread of up to 3 m.

The flowers are bound to attract attention with their periwinkle colouring and unusual shape. The plant flowers generously and over a reasonably long period of time.

The quantity of fruits produced indicates the frequency with which the plant is visited by pollinating insects, which in turn will encourage insect-eating birds to visit the garden. The fruiting capsule is unexpectedly large in relation to the size of the flower, and when ripe, will burst and eject the seeds quite forcefully. 

Blue lips grows fast and flowers while young.

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single, smallish (2 cm) flower with a deeply cleft 5-lobed lip, held in the leaf axils towards the ends of shoots

(Further north in Zimbabwe and Zambia, the flowers are more likely to be pink.)

  • Summer to Autumn Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
  • blue-mauve
  • purple
  • violet
Growth Rate
  • Fast Specifying growth rate can be very misleading as there is considerable variation of growth rate depending on type and species of plant, available water, supplementary feeding, mulching and general care, as well as the plants suitability and adaptability to the garden environment.
Plant Uses
  • Attracts bees, butterflies or other insects This plant attracts insects which can be food for birds or other creatures in your garden.
  • Attracts Birds This plant will attract birds.
  • Border A strip of ground, at the edge of a driveway or path in which ornamental plants or shrubs are planted.
  • Container Trees, shrubs and ornamental species that can adapt to growing in a restricted environment.
  • Filler Either a fast growing tree or shrub used temporarily to fill in an area while the permanent plants grow to a desired size, or a plant used to fill gaps in borders or beds.
  • Suitable for smaller gardens Such plants do not have invasive root systems, remain small or controllable and can often be grown in containers.
Distribution and Habitat

from the Eastern Cape to KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo, as well as Swaziland, central Mozambique, eastern parts of Zimbabwe and Zambia, on the edge and in the understory of evergreen and riverine forests

Planting Suggestions

When choosing a site for Sclerochiton harveyanus​, particular attention should be paid to its natural forest habitat. It needs a shaded position, well-drained soil rich in nutrients, a thick layer of mulch and a moderate amount of water. Over-watering or incorrect placement can result in insect infestations. A seasonal application of fertiliser is suggested to aid growth, prevent yellowing of leaves and ensure an abundance of flowers. Apply during the growing season.

Blue lips grows exceptionally easily from spring cuttings of semi-hard wood and can also be grown from seed sown in spring.

It responds well to light trimming during spring and after flowering in late autumn.

Lorraine's Garden Notes

The specimen in the photo above is in no way indicative of this shrub when grown in a suitable environment. Although under 80% shade netting, the soil and lack of moisture in my garden does not do this lovely shrub justice. I intend to plant one in a container so that it can be given a greater chance of thriving.

If anyone can provide me with a picture of this shrub showing its true beauty, I would be most appreciative.

Medicinal Uses

No data found.

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