Amy Tsuneyoshi
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

On March 27, Senators Mazie Hirono and Mike Braun introduced a bi-partisan resolution to designate April 2023 as National Native Plant Month. This annual resolution helps to bring nationwide awareness to the importance of native plants in their respective areas. 

Native plants are an important part of the biodiversity of the area. Native insects, birds, plants and other biota form a web of reliance to thrive and when one part is missing, it can affect the other parts. There are many great local agencies and organizations that work hard to protect Hawai‘i’s native species. Keep an eye out for Earth Day activities and outreach events throughout April to find out more about plants unique to Hawai‘i.

To celebrate April’s Native Plant Month and in anticipation of Lei Day in May, here is information about a native groundcover that is used in lei and would be a wonderful addition to your landscape or lei garden. 

A hinahina lei. (Photo courtesy of Amy Tsuneyoshi)
A hinahina lei. (Photo courtesy of Amy Tsuneyoshi)

Hinahina: (Heliotropium anomalum var. argenteum)

Leaves: The silvery-gray leaves grow in whorls forming rosettes. If the plant receives too much water or not enough sunlight, it will become leggy and the rosettes will not be compact.

Flower: The fragrant flower clusters are typically white and can sporadically bloom year-round. The flower clusters rise above the leaves making them easy to see.

Pest and Disease: It is prone to mealybugs, thrips, nematodes and aphids. Keep an eye out for ants that can farm these pests on your plant. 

Tolerances: Drought, wind, salt spray, heat.

Uses: Lei makers prize the silvery leaves to use in their creations as the leaves hold up well and they look like silver roses.

This endemic groundcover can grow to two feet tall and sprawl to five feet wide. When trying to find the best spot to plant your hinahina, keep in mind the conditions in which they grow in the wild. The natural habitat for this plant is in dry lowland or coastal areas, but it can grow in higher elevations provided there is sufficient sunlight and drainage. Find a location that receives full sun and plant in well-draining soil in a pot or in the ground. Allow the soil to dry slightly between watering. Roots can rot from overwatering/soil staying too moist, which can cause die back. 

If you are not able to find Hawaiian plants in your local garden shop, please ask them to carry native plants or visit a native plant nursery on your island.

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Amy Tsuneyoshi grew up playing in the mud and still finds joy in getting her hands in the soil. She grows a variety of edible and ornamental plants in her urban jungle as well as Native Hawaiian plants. She has a degree in horticulture from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and is currently the president of the Friends of Hālawa Xeriscape Garden.


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