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Bokbaaivygies can be used just about anywhere you have full sun in the winter garden.

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Bokbaaivygie. Picture courtesy Doreanthus Maria KlangBokbaaivygie. Picture courtesy Doreanthus Maria KlangBokbaai vygies are one of South Africa’s most famous wildflower exports, and they are grown worldwide for their multitude of silky-textured flowers in a dazzling range of colours like yellow, cream, pink, lavender, magenta, and orange. This winter-growing annual is a succulent which forms a low groundcover, +-10cm tall and 30cm wide. The green or maroon-tinted leaves are spoon-shaped and more or less flat, and the conspicuous raised surface cells on the leaves are modified for water storage, and glisten beautifully in bright sunlight. The common name Bokbaaivygie commemorates a farm which was owned by the Duckitt family for generations, called “Bokbaai“ (Buck Bay,) near Darling on the Cape west coast, where this species grows in abundance.

Of the 14 species of Cleretum endemic to the winter rainfall regions of South Africa, the Bokbaai vygie (Cleretum bellidiforme) is the most attractive and well known species, and widely distributed in the Fynbos and Succulent Karoo Biomes of the Western and Northern Cape, from Namaqualand to the Cape Peninsula, eastwards to Riversdale in the southern Cape and inland to Laingsburg and Calvinia along the southern and western fringes of the Great Karoo, respectively. It occurs in numerous vegetation types and can be found growing on open, sandy flats, gravelly clay slopes, limestone ridges, and on humus-rich soil on granite outcrops.

The seeds germinate after the first autumn rains and grow quickly in order to produce their flowers from early to late spring, before the dry summer season sets in. The flowers only open fully on warm, sunny days, remaining closed in cold or rainy weather.

In the Garden:

Bokbaaivygies can be used just about anywhere you have full sun in the winter garden. Their attractive succulent foliage is wonderful in rock gardens, cascading over a wall, draping from a mixed container planting, or carpeting a garden bed. They are particularly beautiful if sown in large drifts, but can be grouped together with other annuals like alyssum, lobelia, nemesia, poor man’s orchid, poppies and delphiniums, for a brilliant display. An added bonus is that they will attract butterflies and bees to the garden.

Cultivation/Propagation:

Bokbaai vygies are suited to cultivation in low humidity, frost-free environments, but will take light frost. They perform best in full sun and although they thrive in poor, sandy soil, will adapt to most garden soils with good drainage. In their natural habitat they receive winter rainfall and do not require watering, but in the summer rainfall regions of the country they will need moderate watering in the garden.

Seeds are sown directly into well-prepared beds in autumn when the temperatures are between 18 and 20°C and the soil has cooled down. Mix the fine seeds with sifted compost or flour to help you to sow them evenly. Do not cover the seeds as they are very fine, rather rake them lightly into the beds and water well afterwards. Germination takes place within 7 to 14 days, and the seedlings should be thinned out to provide ample space for them to spread.

Pests & Diseases:

The leaves are relished by snails and slugs, which can devastate the plants, so put down some snail bait after planting. Young seedlings may need protection from birds who also like to eat the fleshy leaves. In insufficiently well-drained soil, the roots may succumb to fungal attack.

Warning:

This plant is not listed as toxic.

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