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Products > Strobilanthes kunthianus
Strobilanthes kunthianus - Neelakurinji

Note: This plant is not currently for sale. This is an archive page preserved for informational use.  
Image of Strobilanthes kunthianus
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Shrub
Family: Acanthaceae (Acanthus¹)
Origin: India (Asia)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: Lavender Blue
Bloomtime: Summer/Fall
Synonyms: [S. kunthiana, Phlebophyllum kunthianum]
Height: 2-4 feet
Width: 2-3 feet
Exposure: Full Sun
Summer Dry: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 25-30° F
Strobilanthes kunthianus (Neelakurinji) - A bushy shrub that grows to 1 to 2 feet tall in its natural habitat but can reach 5 feet in more favorable conditions with a swollen somewhat succulent trunk and basal branching of erect square stems with prominently swollen nodes. The attractive elliptic-ovate 1 to 2 inch long leaves are half again as wide with lightly serrated margins and prominent veination on both the upper dark green surface and the white-villose lower. The very attractive 1 inch long lavender blue flowers arise in terminal clusters at the branch tips in summer. This plant flowered here in Santa Barbara in mid summer but is known to flower April to December with peak in September in its native habitat.

Plant in full sun with good to moderate drainage. Seems hardy to at least 25° F and once established will tolerate little to no irrigation in our coastal gardens.

Though its habitat in India has been greatly reduced, this plant used to grow abundantly in the deciduous forest and grasslands of Western Ghats and in the Shevroys in the Eastern Ghats between 4,265 and 7,900 feet in elevation. It is the plant that gave the region the name The Nilgiris, which translates as “blue mountains”, because the violet blue flowers would carpet the mountains in a gregarious bloom every 12 years with only light sporadic flowering in other years. Plants that bloom at long intervals like this are called plietesials, though typically these plants are known to die after they flower and we have had this plant rebound after flowering.

We originally received cuttings of this plant from John Bleck, past curator of the UCSB biology greenhouses, who had it growing in his Goleta, California garden. Mr. Bleck had received it as an unknown plant in the Acanthaceae and thought it was a Barleria or Eranthemum species. Once it flowered we sent images of it to Kathy Musial of the Huntington Botanic Garden who noted that the Huntington has received this same plant in 1992 from California nurseryman Gary Hammer as a species of Eranthemum and that it had later been identified as Strobilanthes kunthianus by Bart O'Brien of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. We grew this interesting plant from 2009 until 2011. 

This information about Strobilanthes kunthianus displayed on this web page is based on research we have conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations we have made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens visited, as well how our crops have performed in containers in the nursery field. Where appropriate, we will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share cultural information that would aid others in growing this plant.