Karomia speciosa

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Botanical Name
Karomia speciosa
Lamiaceae - The mint and salvia family
ka-RO-mee-uh spee-see-OH-suh
Common Name(s)
English: Southern Chinese hats; Wild Parasol Flower
Afrikaans: Sambreelblom
Plant Group
  • Shrub A woody plant of relatively low height, having several stems arising from the base and lacking a single trunk; a bush.
  • Tree A woody, self-supporting perennial plant usually with a single main stem and generally growing more than 6 meters tall.
Plant Size
  • Large
    Tree18m to 25m
    Shrub3m to 4m
    Perennial/ground cover75cm to 1m
    Bulb80cm to 1.2m
    Succulent1m to 1.5m
  • Light or Dappled Shade Found below trees with sparse, open foliage. Ideal for the protection of herbaceous plants.
  • Partial Shade The area is in shade for part of the day and in full sun for part of the day.
  • Sun The area is in full sun for all or most of the day, all year round.
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 to semi-deciduous The plant is evergreen in warmer, wetter parts of the country, but may lose some of its leaves during winter in colder, drier situations.
  • Frost: Half-hardy The plant is able to survive low temperatures and some frost but requires protection against severe frost.
  • Water Loving Plants need a regular supply of water and must not be allowed to dry out for any length of time.
Specific Information

Karomia speciosa is a single- or multi-stemmed shrub or tree which produces a profusion of purple flowers with a pink to mauve, saucer-shaped, papery calyx. The flower falls off but the pink base persists, leaving splash of colour for weeks after the flowers have officially disappeared. In sub-tropical areas this tree is evergreen but it becomes deciduous when grown in cooler climates. Although this moderately fast-growing shrub reaches 3-4 meters, it can be reduced in size and shaped through regular pruning.

This showy specimen always stops visitors to the garden in their tracks with cries of admiration.

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a small purple flower set in a pink calyx

  • 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.
  • purple
  • pink
Growth Rate
  • Moderate 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
  • Accent or Focal Point A plant used to attract the attention because of its colour or form.
  • Attracts bees, butterflies or other insects This plant attracts insects which can be food for birds or other creatures in your garden.
  • 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.
  • Provides light / dappled shade A tree with an open to sparse canopy, through which varying degrees of sunlight can penetrate.
  • Suitable for smaller gardens Such plants do not have invasive root systems, remain small or controllable and can often be grown in containers.
  • Wild Garden An indigenous garden planted for the benefit of wildlife and birds. Provides food, water, a variety of mini-biomes and no poisonous chemicals are used.
Distribution and Habitat

northernmost KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanaga and Limpopo, Swaziland and north into Tropical Africa, in bush or wooded areas on hot, dry, rocky slopes as well as in riverine thickets

Planting Suggestions

Karomia prefers full sun but can tolerate a little shade. Mulch well and water regularly - about once a week.

The old method of digging a deep hole and filling it with soil and compost has resulted in many trees failing to thrive, dying, rotting at the base or worse still, falling over in later years due to poor root development.  Refer to the following sites for the best method of planting trees:

Treehelp.com: Planting a tree

International Society of Arboriculture: New Tree Planting

Tree People: Plant the right way

For those of you who have a clay problem try:

Rod's Garden: Planting in clay soil

Medicinal Uses

No data found.

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I am growing a Karomia Speciosa in my garden in Mahe, Seychelles, but the blooms are orange and peach colours, not blue. Is this a mutated species?

I see that most are blue in colour, I am looking for a orangy/brown coloured as seen in someones garden. Is it available in Mpumalanga ?

Hi Rose

The plant you are looking for is Holmskioldia sanguinea. Previously Karomias were known as Holmskioldia, but when the name changed, this left only in this particular plant in the Holmskioldia group. Despite reports that it is indigenous to, amongst others, Mpumalange, Mozambique and East Africa, it is in fact a native plant of the Himalayan foothills and Malaya. Originally red in colour it has been hybridised and is available in shades of orange and yellow.

As to where you would be able to find one, I really cannot say. I found no reference of the plant for sale in South Africa. The only suggestion I can make is Google for plant nurseries in Mpumalanga and phone around to see if you can find a specimen.

Kind regards

I have the red and orange blooms on my Holmskioldia plant
in Seychelles. It is a very rarely seen exotic plant imported recently to Mahe island.

Hi Mia

Thanks for your reply. I have only heard about it growing in the more tropical north-eastern parts of South Africa but it is apparently more commonly found in coastal East African countries. I googled the images - very pretty. Is there any chance you could post a photo?

Kind regards

Could you please advise me how to propograte this plant.

Hi Fred

I normally deal only with plants indigenous to South Africa. Karomia tettensis is native to the far northern parts of Zimbabwe.

However, on the assumption that propagation is the same as for Karomia speciosa, this is what I have learnt:

Reportedly only 30% of seeds are likely to germinate. Despite planting seeds for 6 or 7 years, none of mine have ever germinated. With regards to cuttings: I have set approximately 150 cuttings during the past 7 years of which 15 rooted. Of those, 2 grew into shrubs, 4 remained tiny and were turned into bonsai and the rest did not thrive and died after a couple of years.

If growing from cuttings, now is the time to do it - use stems from this season's growth.

Hope this helps.

Kind regards

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