Hemiandra is a small genus of about 8 species all of which occur only in Western Australia. The genus is closely related to the better known Prostanthera, the “Mint bushes”. All hemiandras are small to prostrate shrubs with colourful mauve to red flowers. H.pungens is the best known and has been in cultivation in various forms for many years.
Hemiandra pungens is a variable species. It may be a prostrate, trailing plant or a small shrub to about 1 metre high. There are five varieties which differ in characteristics such as hairiness of stems and leaves. leaf size and floral features. Typically, leaves are simple, lance-shaped and up to 25 mm long. They have a short, sharp point. Flowers are tubular and open into 2 lips. The upper lip is two-lobbed while the lower lip is three lobbed giving an asymmetrical appearance. Flowers are pink, mauve, lilac or white with darker spots in the throat. Flowering time is spring.
The most commonly cultivated form of H.pungens is a prostrate form of variety glabra. This has stems and leaves without hairs and pink flowers. It spreads to about 1 metre diameter.
H.pungens performs best in dry climates and is unreliable in areas with humid summer conditions. However, it can be maintained under such conditions for several years. It prefers a sunny, well drained position and is hardy to moderate frosts. The species makes an excellent container plant and has been grown successfully in hanging baskets.
Seed of H.pungens is not generally available. The species is relatively easy to propagate from cuttings. Grafting onto a related species such as Westringia fruticosa (as has been done with Prostanthera species) may be worth trying as a means of extending the range of cultivation of the species.
Photo: Brian Walters