These showy members of the mint family include both annuals and tender shrubs. Most are native to South Africa. Fuzzy, square stems carry opposite pairs of narrow, pointed, toothed, 2- to 5-in.-long leaves. Bloom comes from summer through fall, when dense, ball-shaped, whorled flower clusters to 4 in. across appear at regular intervals up and down the stems. Each cluster is composed of deep orange, tubular, 2-in. flowers that are covered with fine hairs. The plants attract butterflies and hummingbirds; deer don't seem to care for them.
L. leonurus. LION'S TAIL. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. Semievergreen shrub, often grown as a tender perennial. One of the first South African plants brought back to Europe for cultivation. Grows 46 ft. tall and wide. Tolerates drought and salt spray. Needs good drainage; be careful not to overwater. Tends to get leggy and bare at the stem bases; to curb this tendency, prune back fairly hard in spring. Hardy in warmer parts of Lower South but loses its leaves after a frost. 'Snow Tiger' has white flowers.
L. menthifolia. MINT-LEAFED LION'S TAIL. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. Evergreen shrub, often grown as a tender perennial. To 35 ft. tall and wide. Resembles L. leonurus but is smaller and doesn't lose its foliage near the base. 'Savannah Sunset' has tall spikes of bright orange flowers.
L. nepetifolia. ANNUAL LION'S TAIL. Annual. Zones US, MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 6-11. Upright, gangly plant for the back of the border; may reach 8 ft. tall and 5 ft. wide in a single season. Rounded, spiny flower clusters are hummingbird magnets. Reseeds readily and has naturalized in warm-climate areas throughout the world, where it rapidly colonizes disturbed areas. L. n. nepetifolia 'Staircase' is like L. nepetifolia but with larger leaves and flowers.