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Peter Valder thinks that this dramatic, South African native should be planted more often.

Plant details

Common name: Honey bush, touch-me-not Botanic name: Melianthus major


Evergreen perennial shrub with a height and spread of around 3m (10′). It has lush, blue-grey, deeply divided foliage with serrated edges. Reddish-brown tubular flowers appear above the leaves in spring and summer, followed by pale green pods containing black seeds.

Best climate:
Melianthus grows in a wide range of climates.

(Note: Melianthus major is an environmental weed from Perth to Bunbury.)


striking specimen or accent plant
foliage contrast
bird attracting
silver foliage garden

Good points:

large, blue-grey leaves
beautiful rusty red flowers
fast growing
very hardy


Leaves have an unpleasant smell when bruised (hence the common name, ‘touch-me-not’).


Melianthus is very easy to grow. It prefers a warm, sunny position with good drainage. If the plant is looking untidy it can be cut down to encourage new growth. It will tolerate some frost, and if damaged by the cold will send up new shoots from the base in spring.

Getting started:

Melianthus is easily propagated from seed or cuttings.

Melianthus major is available in nurseries from time to time and costs around $16 for 200mm (8″) pot.

The following nurseries have it in stock now:

Bundanoon Village Nursery
71 Penrose Street
Bundanoon NSW 2578
Phone: (02) 4883 6303

Yamina Rare Plants
25 Moores Road
Monbulk Vic 3793
Phone: (03) 9756 6335

Al-Ru Farm Nursery
One Tree Hill SA 5114
Phone: (08) 8280 7353