Leonotis nepetifolia - Mint family
Please be careful removing your plant from it's packaging.
Your plant was grown in filtered sun, not full sun, so it should be acclimated to direct sun slowly. I recommend growing the plant in a larger pot for about a month, so you can gradually give it more sun each week. Otherwise the leaves may wilt or burn from too much sun. So start it with 1-2 hours of morning sun per day for the first week. After that, increase the sun by about an hour every few days, until it is eventually in full sun. If the leaves should wilt, simply move the pot into more shade until the plant grows more roots.
Before removing your plant from its pot, give it a watering, so the soil doesn't break apart, which can damage the roots.
Container size -- A 1 to 3 gallon size pot is perfect for the first 1-2 months. When the roots poke out of the bottom of the container, you can plant it in the ground. If you choose to keep it in a container, i recommend at least a 15 gallon size. Avoid disturbing the root-ball whenever you transplant.
Soil -- Regular well-draining pot soil is fine. I like to add a slow-release organic fertilizer to the mix.
Watering -- For the first few weeks, ensure that the original soil ball remains moist (but not soggy). Once the plant grows more roots into the new soil, you can water less and less. I recommend using a moisture meter probe, which you can get from most garden and hardware stores for about $5. You simply stick the probe down to where most of the roots are and read the needle. I water when it's about 3 on a scale of 10.
Feeding: Lion's Tail has average fertilizing needs. You can feed once a month with ordinary vegetable fertilizer, according to the directions. It's normal for some of the older leaves to turn yellow and drop, but if it's excessive, it probably means they need some more fertilizer (nitrogen).
Pruning: Lion's Tail has a strong upward growing habit. It can be pruned when young for a wider "candelabra" shape. Once a flowering branch is "spent", the whole stem should be removed to encourage new side branches to sprout from below it. Avoid removing more than 20% of the foliage in any given week.
Harvesting seeds: When the flower heads start turning brown at the top, the seeds in the brown area are ready for harvesting. You'll get more seeds if you wait till the flower heads have turned at least 1/3 brown before cutting. To collect the seeds, just shake the flowers upside down over a white sheet.
Insects to watch for: spider mites (tiny "dots" under the leaves), whiteflies, scale, caterpillars.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 11. Protect from frost. Grow as an annual in cooler zones, or prune back and grow indoors over the winter.
Lion's Tail may lose vigor after 2-3 years. If this happens, start fresh from seed.
Feel free to write with any questions or concerns.
Enjoy your plants!
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