Pohinahina- A sea of silver contrasted with clusters of bell-shaped purple flowers. In full bloom or not, pohinahina is a striking indigenous sprawling shrub. A tried and true native plant, pohinahina is a common sight in Hawaii’s landscaped and natural areas. Rightfully so. It is one of the hardiest native plants! Heavy traffic, pollution, wind, sand, and salt don’t bother pohinahina. It thrives in those conditions, much more so than other plants. While often used in the background, pohinahina stands out on its own.
It naturally grows compactly, sprawling rather than obtaining height. Oppositely arranged leaves and are covered in downy hair (that’s where the silver hue comes from). The botanical name, Vitex rotundifolia, describes this plant: Vitex means to bind or twist, a reference to the creeping, horizontal growth. Rotundifolia refers to the round leaves, rotunda-round, folia-leaves. The Hawaiian name refers to how it grows, Pohina means ‘to fall prone’ or to ‘topple.’ A member of the mint family (Lamiaceae), pohinahina is aromatic, especially when brushed up against or crushed. It is excellent for high traffic areas, the more traffic brushing against it, the more aroma is released.
It grows best at lower elevations with full sun. Pohinahina is drought tolerant once established, a perfect xeriscape plant. After installing new plants, water until fresh leaves grow. After that, keep moisture to a minimum. Typically a pest-free plant, too much water, is an invitation for powdery mildew and leaf rot to establish, and the excess water makes the plant grow leggy.
Roots grow from the nodes as the plant creeps along, naturally stabilizing soil and sand to prevent erosion. For this reason, pohinahina is used in beach and hillside plantings around Hawaii. As a bedding plant, pohinahina quickly fills in empty spaces. Keep the garden clear of weeds until pohinahina can outcompete them. With proper care, no unwanted weeds will have the room to grow.
Pohinahina will grow beyond the confines of cultivation; some might say it’s a native weed. But it’s easy to control. Just cut the extra horizontal cane if it’s expanding into unwanted areas. Often the extra cane has already rooted, a ready-made cutting. Share with a friend, fill in areas in the garden, or put into green waste.
Pohinahina grows from seed as well. However, cuttings grow faster. If the cutting doesn’t have roots, dip the cut end into rooting hormone and place in the soil. New roots will emerge within four weeks. Use a well-draining medium for seed germination, rooting, and plantings.
- Container plant
- Cultural significance
- Cut flower
- Erosion control
- Lei flower
- No dangers