Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Honey Bush
Melianthus major

Family: Melianthaceae
Genus: Melianthus (me-lee-AN-thus) (Info)
Species: major (MAY-jor) (Info)

4 vendors have this plant for sale.

17 members have or want this plant for trade.

Tropicals and Tender Perennials

6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)
8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

Unknown - Tell us

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade

All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
This plant is resistant to deer

Soil pH requirements:
Unknown - Tell us

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From herbaceous stem cuttings
From seed; germinate in vitro in gelatin, agar or other medium

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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By Happenstance
Thumbnail #1 of Melianthus major by Happenstance

By kennedyh
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By kennedyh
Thumbnail #3 of Melianthus major by kennedyh

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By Happenstance
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Thumbnail #7 of Melianthus major by palmbob

There are a total of 49 photos.
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5 positives
No neutrals
2 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Oxytone On Jan 8, 2013, Oxytone from Marina, CA wrote:

I give this a positive because at our old house, in the years it was in the ground, this was quick to shoot upward, but slow to spread outward. I never saw seedlings come up from the plant, and suckers only traveled a few inches from my plant. This plant is also very easy to grow from quite hefty cuttings, although it will take a while before those get established and vigorous.

I am growing this again at the new house, and it is growing in sand, and will not be kept moist year round (perhaps that's the key?). Either way, this is an attractive shrub with very silvery blue green foliage with a very architectural quality to the shapes of the leaflets (like regular saw teeth).

Melianthus can grow quite tall unless cut back. I had let my original plant grow stems close to ten feet high, although the leaves tend to get shorter as the stems get taller (not by much but they lose that lush look when the plant is shorter). Also note that they tend to hold old, dead, dried leaves unless you trim them off (I used to use a bamboo pole to knock the dead leaves off as the dried leaves shatter very easily).

The foliage isn't attractive smelling, but I don't quite qualify it as horrendous. Definitely a peanut butter smell but with an unpleasant undertone that says "you shouldn't eat me", and you shouldn't. It IS toxic, but don't let that stop you, plenty of people grow Delphiniums, Ranunculus, Digitalis and Oleanders and you hardly hear panicked warnings and complaints about their toxicity.

The flowers are also an interesting feature: dark, almost brick red in color, the inflorescence looks like a hooked bottle brush, and the flowers drip a nectar that has the color of old motor oil (nearly black). Seed pods are odd and interesting, but if one doesn't want seeds, then one should be cutting off the flowers once the first pods begin maturing (or even before).

Negative huntbeachgarden On Jul 29, 2012, huntbeachgarden from Huntington Beach, CA wrote:

My plants are growing very well in Zone 10 - Coastal Southern California.

However, I am having continuous trouble with a sooty-like smudge on the tops and underside of the leaves. I did have a significant white fly infestation that is now gone by diligent use of soapy water.

Does anyone have any tips for getting rid of the sooty-like smudge on the leaves? If left untouched, the leaves nearly are covered within about 2-3 weeks.

Thanks, Paula

Negative baiissatva On Oct 23, 2011, baiissatva from Dunedin
New Zealand wrote:

zone nine, coastal otago new zealand.

Sorry to rain on the love-in about this nasty customer, and I don't hate many plants, but I detest this one passionately. It is a sneaky, toxic invasive weed in my large garden, here when we arrived and will probably survive the apocalypse- it'll ride in on it's own bloody horse alongside Famine and Pestilence!

Be very wary where you let this bugger go- it shows up all over, from dropped seed, tiny bits you missed, stray roots, suckers, you name it. Every spring it merrily creeps outward from a central redoubt, (tried to poison it but you can probably tell from my tone how successful that was) and would cover my half acre in a couple of years if left to it's evil devices.
It smells bad ( a nasty, gassy high pitched stank), even looks evil, will give you a lovely chemical burn if you cop the sap in the wrong place and feels like acid if you eye if you're unlucky. Cut the stems too high in your never ending quest to clear them and they'll dry over summer to a nice, sharp stake to stab you in the leg as you're wading through the undergrowth. Honeyeating birds think it's awesome but they can take it home and grow in their own yard!

It seems to REALLY love clay, spreading in all directions looking for moisture, so if you've got heavy soil in a low-frost area and are thinking this looks purdy, don't let that moment of weakness come back to haunt you. All this might sound OTT but seriously, this is the WORST weed in our garden.

Positive growin On Jan 2, 2006, growin from Vancouver, BC (Zone 8b) wrote:

Attractive serrated silver-green arching foliage on upright stems. The aroma of peanut-butter is a neat novelty. Prefers well-drained soil but enjoys a bit of water in the summer. Planted against a sunny wall, can usually expect it to survive winter. Seed propagation is very easy.

Positive StarGazey26 On Jul 9, 2005, StarGazey26 from (Zone 10a) wrote:

This plant is so amazing! I love it alot, i planted it in my yard a few months back from a one gallon, it really hasnt grown much, but i noticed today that is started to shoot up new stems from the ground, i think it will be a nice bush when it fills in. I love the flower alot, it is very very nice and eye catching, the foliage is also eye catching..

Positive wnstarr On Jan 5, 2005, wnstarr from Puyallup, WA (Zone 5a) wrote:

Edgewood, Washington Got my plant from Heronswood nursery. It grew like crazy this past summer. I have it in a container now, am giving it protection form the extreme cold and wind. Possible that in the Spring will plant it in the ground near my hardy banana's .It so far has survived down to 24 degrees. Have been told to cut it down in the winter to get a bushier plant in the Spring, haven't done so yet. Thinking about trying to root the cuttings.

Positive Happenstance On Aug 27, 2003, Happenstance from Northern California, CA wrote:

There are 6 species of Melianthus, all of which are found in South Africa.

Kruidjie-roer-my-nie, which means herb-touch-me-not, is a well known plant in the south western Cape where it occurs naturally; usually along streams and roadside ditches.

The long flower-spikes grow out from the top of the stems in spring, rusty red flowers rise up above the leaves, followed by pale green, bladder-like pods containing the shiny black seeds.

In its native habitat it is used to make poultices and decoctions that are applied directly to wounds, bruises, backache and rheumatic joints.

Easy, fast growing shrub, prune for shape, attractive foliage, prefers sun with good drainage.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Phenix City, Alabama
Berkeley, California
Castro Valley, California
Chula Vista, California
Clayton, California
Davis, California
El Sobrante, California
Encinitas, California
Fairfield, California
Ferndale, California
Fort Bragg, California
Gilroy, California
Huntington Beach, California
Los Angeles, California
Reseda, California
San Diego, California (2 reports)
San Francisco, California
San Jose, California
San Leandro, California
Silverado, California
Solvang, California
Tracy, California
Vista, California
Brooksville, Florida
New Orleans, Louisiana
Deer River, Minnesota
Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Portland, Oregon
Salem, Oregon
Ladys Island, South Carolina
Austin, Texas
Hallettsville, Texas
Bellevue, Washington
Puyallup, Washington
Seattle, Washington
Vashon, Washington
White Center, Washington

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