The other day while out on a drive around the outskirts of Silver Lake my vision was suddenly consumed by vivid clouds of purple ascending up a lush hillside. Something about this hillside appeared more jungly than usual. It had a Jurassic Park kind of vibe to it. The plants on it looked like they were on steroids and the purple clouds floating just above the foliage were captivating. After some investigating, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that what I was looking at is called Wigandia urens. Now when I say this foliage has a jungle-like vibe I'm not kidding.
Wigandia urens comes to us from the moderate, temperate altitudes of Peru. Considered a shrub or small tree, this fast grower can reach 12-15 feet tall and 8-10 feet wide. In the process, it creates a cool looking jungle-like canopy of 12-14 inch long, sometimes larger, rugged yet tropical foliage. So if you're into a subtropical scene look no further! Very very cool.
Wigandia urens produces beautifully vivid sprays of flowers on the ends of stems from late winter through spring. When many clusters are in bloom, the purple cloud of color they form above the foliage is spectacular! It also attracts the hummingbirds and butterflies too. Foliage and new stems are usually coated with stinging hairs much like those found on stinging nettle so a bit of caution is needed when handling. The great thing about this plant is that it can grow in temperate Mediterranean regions as well as warm coastal locations. It likes full sun to part shade, moist yet rocky well-draining soil, and is hardy to around 30 degrees fahrenheit/-1 degree celsius. It is frost tender, however, for it to be flourishing here in Silver Lake on a hillside that experienced frost-like temps last winter as well as experiencing periods of drought, its tolerance to conditions appears to be a bit variable.
Now I hear that Wigandia urens has a reputation for being quite the self sower and grower. If I were to plant it I'd give enough space so that it could create a small, jungly grove-like setting. It also does well in containers. So here I go again...another plant to obsess over. Super cool giant jungle-like foliage and vivid violet vivaciousness. I'm in love!