Tilo (Justicia pectoralis)
Tilo, Piri Piri, or Willow Herb, is a perennial trailing or climbing herb with lance-shaped leaves and small white, pink, lavender, blue, or purple flowers that grow in loose groups at the ends of the branches. It is a common roadside plant in its native range of Mexico and Central and South America and is often grown as an ornamental flower in the Caribbean islands where it has naturalized. Tilo is a member of the Acanthus family (Acanthaceae).
Its dried foliage is a source of coumarin, and indigenous people brew the aromatic leaves to make a delicious tea, a tonic for digestive issues, coughs, and colds, and as a hallucinogenic preparation for ceremonies.
Tilo grows up to 2 feet high as a groundcover, and 4 feet as a shrub in rich, moist, well-draining soil. It is a resilient plant that will grow in a number of soil types, but it is susceptible to root rot if allowed to sit in soggy soil that doesn’t drain. Tilo grows best in partial or full shade and will drop its leaves in full sun. It needs frequent watering to keep the soil moist, and it can be grown in containers with a drainage hole and rich potting soil. This little plant is frost sensitive and hardy to USDA zones 9 to 11. It is pest resistant and attracts hummingbirds and butterflies to its delicate flowers with a light vanilla fragrance when it blooms from November through April.