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How to Care for a Lion's Tail Plant

The lion's tail plant (Leonotis leonurus) is also known as a lion's ear plant and is grown as a perennial in the Southern United States and an annual everywhere else. It grows to 36 inches with an equally wide spread. The outstanding feature of the lion's tail plant is the blooms that appear along the square stem in whorls of white or orange, depending on the variety. They have a velvety texture and are soft to the touch. The plant blooms in the fall, adding interest to the fall garden. In Africa, lion's tail is used in traditional medicine to treat coughs and asthma. It is also considered a snake repellent when planted in the garden. The flowers of the lion's tail make a long-lasting cut flower and are attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds.

Plant the lion's tail in full sun or a place in the garden that receives at least six hours of direct sun each day. The location should have a soil composition that is well-drained. If you are planting a new lion's tail plant, clear the area of weeds and work a 1-inch layer of compost into the top 3 inches of soil before planting. Plant the lion's tail at the same level it was planted in the previous location.

Fertilize the lion's tail plant with an organic granulated fertilizer in the spring when it begins to show new growth. Scratch the surface of the soil around the base of the plant, sprinkle the fertilizer over the soil and add water to the fertilizer to help it wash into the soil or the mulch layer. Organic fertilizer will not burn the roots of the plant if applied over the roots. Only use as much fertilizer as recommended on the fertilizer container label for side-dressing perennials

Cut back lion's tail using a pair of hand shears in the fall after the blooms have faded and the foliage turns brown. In warmer areas where it remains green, cut to the ground to stimulate new growth and cover the root base with a 1-inch thick layer of mulch. In temperate locations where it comes back in the spring, cut to the ground and cover the root base with a 1-inch layer of mulch. When adding mulch, add the mulch layer around the root base but do not cover the crown. Covering the crown may cause the plant to rot over the winter.

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