Wildflower fans love collecting Santa Lucía (Ageratum spp.) for the home and garden, while visitors to Costa Rica also delight in their pastel-blue flowers, which carpet many pastures around the country.
Costa Ricans are fond of Santa Lucía flowers, too, and have an interesting tradition of bestowing bouquets of these flowers to friends during the New Year to ensure prosperity. Another version goes like this: when you receive a bouquet, place a sprig of dried flowers in your wallet or purse, and you will always have a steady supply of cash on hand. By the way, you have to receive Santa Lucía flowers for this to work; you just can’t go out and pick them yourself. You may be grinning with disbelief, but all I can say is that it sure has worked for me!
Santa Lucía is easy to identify by its flowers, which are actually a composite of many flowers bunched together – a characteristic of the aster family. If you look very closely, the “petals” are actually little flowers, while the center consists of another type of flower.
Daisies, sunflowers and marigolds also have this type of flower structure. The flowers have a pubescent or hairy appearance that makes them look sort of fuzzy. There are about half a dozen species ranging from pastel blue and lavender to pink. The leaves are opposite and ovate with dentate edges.
Ageratum flowers are found throughout the neotropics and are abundant in the coastal, intermediate and highland regions of Costa Rica. If you would like to introduce some of these flowers into your own garden, you can collect flowers, dry them for a day on a cookie sheet in the sun, and then sow them on a square-meter plot of ground in the flower garden. Mulch the area lightly and wait a month or two for them to emerge from the soil. Another method is to transplant young plants from the field into your garden.
These plants do well in average soil in full sun or partial shade. No special care is needed, since they are hardy to insects and diseases.
Santa Lucía is an annual plant that will reseed itself in your garden year after year. It also does a good job of attracting butterflies and makes nice flower arrangements for the home.
Try your luck with Santa Lucía this year. Who knows? You might even win the lottery.
Read more of Ed Bernhardt’s monthly Home Gardening columns here.