Post last updated: October 10th, 2018

I first saw Lion’s Tail, or Lion’s Ear, probably ten or fifteen years ago in Southern Living Magazine. It’s a bush that grows in the 6-foot tall range and can be 1.5 to 3.5 feet wide with tubular orange flowers in tiered whorls.  At the time, I was trading seeds with little old ladies through the Georgia Market Bulletin. I managed to get a few seeds through a trade but the plant never looked as vibrant and showy as I remembered in the magazine. The flowers were pastel orange, at best. I never planted the seeds again but, all these years later, they continue to sprout from the spot where I had the one bush.

Over the years, I did a fair amount of online research trying to find seeds for the variety Southern Living had photographed. I got as far as figuring out that I needed to find seeds for the narrow-leafed version. However, every website offering these seeds was a dope-smoking site. I was certain my seed order would wind up on their desk the day of a drug bust and I’d wind up in jail so I never ordered the seeds. Yes, Myrtle, you can smoke this stuff or make tea with the leaves.

Imagine how my heart leapt for joy when I found the narrow-leafed version at Cunningham’s Holiday Herbal Celebration. I knew immediately it was the right kind and bought a healthy, one-foot shrub in a 4-inch pot. I wish the pot I selected had the identifying marker but it doesn’t and I didn’t notice it while at Cunningham’s.


Leonotis Leonorus
Leonotis Leonorus


Blooms of Leonotis Leonorus

Now, before you think Cunningham’s is in the dope peddling business, I should mention that this species of plant belongs to the mint family. Mint is an herb. Cunningham grows herbs.

In case you have not been able to get your hands on the kind with Really Orange Flowers, I think the name you should look for is Leonotis Leonorus. In this photo at Southern Living, you’ll notice the leaves are very narrow and the flowers orange.

The kind of Lion’s Tail you don’t want because the flowers are completely unspectacular and it tends to grow as a single stalk is Leonotis nepetifolia also known as Klip Dagga. The leaves can grow 4 inches wide and mine did. Here’s the only volunteer in my flower bed at the moment:

Lion's Tail Leonotis nepetifolia
Lion’s Tail
Leonotis nepetifolia

Leonotis nepetifolia is also the most potent for smoking, if you are so inclined. I don’t recommend such activities as I have somehow lost a few of my playing cards along the way even without smoking plants from the yard. This makes me certain that you will want to keep a full deck of cards on hand.

Last updated May 19, 2017

21 thoughts on “LION’S TAIL”

  1. Glad you scored the correct Lion without jail time. It is a lovely plant, and the flowers look much like a new shrub we planted this summer at our place in FL. I can’t remember the name right now – think it is firebush but don’t hold me to it. BTW – what is the bromeliad you have on your header right now?

    1. Kim – You probably planted the Firebush. Boy, that was another plant I had to have this year. I got the dwarf version. I took the bromeliad photo at the back of my friend Lam’s house. She says it is a Neoregelia “Fireball”. She has lots of really FINE looking bromeliads and she generously shared them with me for my growing collection. Ain’t she grand?

      1. I think my firebush may be dwarf also, not sure. Our 25th anniversary gift to ourselves was to have part of our yard in FL landscaped – I don’t speak Spanish and some things were lost in interpretation.
        I remember your post about going to your friends place with the bromeliads, I have begun quite the fascination with them as well. Our landscapers – again with not understanding the name and me not feeling well enough at the time to research, planted what they called orange bromeliad that is heat, sun tolerant. It blooms long stalks with orange flowers. We are in sub-tropical zone with brutal conditions. We ended up planting what we hope will be most tolerant without us being there to give care. We have a guy that takes care of yard, minimal mowing etc. Costs too much to pay him for complete upkeep. Can’t wait to go back in Feb. and see how everything is doing.

    1. Yes, you have no idea what stress that ghost put me through today. He caused my car to mis-fire twice as I was trying to get it out of the garage this morning to go to my “permanent” temp job. Shook me up so bad, I asked Poppie if I could take his truck. Driving his big old honkin’ truck put me through so much stress I had to take a nap before bed. Poppie took the car to the mechanic who could SEE the mis-firings but no reason for it happening. If that ain’t a ghost, then you just don’t believe in ghosts. Still, I don’t understand why you are asking???

  2. Thanks for making me laugh and congratulations on finding the right Lion’s Tail! I know how frustrating it is to think you are getting your heart’s desire, only to end up with an impostor.

  3. Dear Linda, I knew you knew a lot of useful stuff about plants, but this side of you I never knew! Please try to keep out of jail – I’d miss your blogging, because I doubt they’d give you a computer in your cell.

  4. Lordy, Lordy, I am going to have to make a special savings account for you for when I need to bail you out of jail!

      1. Yes, I guess you have managed to stay out of jail for all these years, but eventually the long arm of the law is going to catch up with you.

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