Spring flowering small plants & groundcovers to plant now

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Rhododendron Image by Oginskaya from PixabayRhododendron Image by Oginskaya from PixabayIf your garden looks a bit dreary in springtime and early summer, visit your local garden centre to select your favourite spring flowering beauties - they should be in full bloom now, and if you plant now, by next season they will be well established, transforming your spring garden forever.

In this selection I have included groundcovers and small plants for all regions of South Africa, as well as those suitable for sun, semi-shade and shade. If you visit your local garden centre now you will find an outstanding array of flowering plants, many of these are well-known spring flowering plants, but many will be those which start flowering in spring and continue into summer, with some even continuing into autumn. For this reason, I have also included them in the selection below. Please bear in mind that plants have a mind of their own, and even though they are known to flower during certain times, the times may vary slightly for each province.

Also, remember that plant growth also varies throughout the provinces, with plants adapting to the climate and soil conditions in which they are grown. For example, plants grown in warm, subtropical regions, and in good soil, will often grow bigger and quicker than those grown in dry and arid regions with poor soil and little rainfall, so it is always advisable to consult with your local garden centre first – just so be 100% sure.

I hope you find this selection inspiring.

Happy spring gardening,

 

 
Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaPicture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.za

African Daisy, Rankbietou, umasigcolo nkonekazi (Dimorphotheca)

These startlingly beautiful flowers are renowned and sought after the world over, and modern hybrids are available in inspiring shades of wine-red, white, pink, violet, yellow, orange, and terracotta. The upright species are delightful in the flower border, and the trailing habit of the spreading evergreen species makes them good groundcovers and border plants. They are also lovely planted in rockeries or pots where they can cascade over.

African daisies revel in full sun, and adap to a variety of landscapes, from arid to subtropical, tolerating drought and surviving in dry and windy environments. They are perfect for exposed coastal gardens, and some are hardy to frost while others are more tender, so consult with your local garden centre to find those most suitable for your climatic region.

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Australian VioletAustralian Violet

Australian Violet (Viola hederacea)

This spreading evergreen groundcover forms mats of bright green heart-shaped leaves, and grows quickly to +-15cm with a spread of 30 to 50cm. Masses of tiny white and violet flowers, appear in spring and continue through summer and  autumn. This is an excellent perennial for moist, shady to sunny areas, and good to stabilise the soil on banks. It is essential in cottage and woodland gardens and lovely planted between stepping stones and alongside pathways. It is also a wonderful addition to mixed container plantings and hanging baskets.

Although it thrives in moist shady places, it will also grow happily in full sun if watered regularly. It grows well throughout the country and tolerates very high temperatures.It is hardy to frost, but in severely cold regions the leaves will go dormant in winter, shooting again in spring.

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Rhododendron 'Flambeau'Rhododendron 'Flambeau'

Azalea (Rhododendron)

Rhododendrons must be one of the best-loved sights of spring, and the evergreen R. indicum and its many hybrids are the most extensively grown species throughout SA, because it tolerates heat, and a much wider climatic range than other types. Their showy flower displays appear either in late winter and spring, or autumn and spring, depending on the variety. Single or double blooms are available in all shades of pink, red, white, purple, lilac, and even orange. The hybrids vary in size, but generally remain +-1m. Grown for their wonderful form, they provide structure to the garden throughout the year, flourishing in woodlands, and near water; and because they have non-invasive roots, are perfect near foundations.

They absolutely thrive in the cool, mist-belt regions where they will grow in full sun. In hotter regions plant them in a lightly shaded position, or full morning sun.

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Gerbera 'Moulin Rouge'Gerbera 'Moulin Rouge'

Barberton Daisy, Rooigousblom (Gerbera jamesonii)

These perennials are renowned around the world for their beautiful blooms borne on long stalks. Flowers can be single or double and come in an amazing array of colours; from red and orange, to pink, yellow and white.  These sun loving perennials are wonderful in flower beds and make excellent edging or border plants, requiring minimal maintenance once established. They are excellent rockery plants; and because they are deep rooted, are valuable for mass plantings to prevent soil erosion.

Barberton daisies thrive in the summer rainfall regions, performing best in climates with warm summer days and cool nights, but will take some frost. They are suitable for coastal regions but do not like high humidity. They generally grow +-45 to 55cm tall, but hybrids can vary greatly in height.

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Bearded Iris 'Edith'Wolford'Bearded Iris 'Edith'Wolford'

Bearded Irises (Iris)

Irises remain one of the most reliable flowering perennials, flourishing in gardens around the world and putting on a spectacular show from early spring, after which they generally rest during the heat of midsummer, and re-bloomers will have another flush in late summer. New hybrids are being bred for their re-blooming qualities, and in warmer climates some cultivars will bloom almost all season long. When different varieties are planted together they make a most spectacular display; and the grey-green,sword shaped leaves add accent and contrast to a flowering border.

Irises come in an astounding array of colours to suit every taste: blue, purple, white, yellow, pink, orange, brown, and even black. They flower best in full sun and grow throughout most of South Africa, thriving in regions with high summer rainfall. They are not well suited to humid regions.

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Penstemon Picture courtesy www.lifeisagarden.co.zaPenstemon Picture courtesy www.lifeisagarden.co.za

Beard-tongue (Penstemon hybrid)

Penstemmons are extremely showy old-fashioned garden mainstays, and hundreds of hybrids have been developed which are compact, bushy plants, with attractive narrow green leaves, varying in height from +-40 to 80cm tall. Flowering peaks in late spring and continues until autumn, and in coastal gardens flowers can appear year-round. The large bell-shaped flowers are prolific and are produced in loose spikes at the ends of tall stems, which are ideal for picking. They are most commonly seen in bright reds but are also available in shades of soft pink through salmon and peach, to deep rose, lilac, dark purple, blue and white.

The Beard-tongue is easy-to-grow in sun or light shade. In coastal regions they thrive in full sun, but plants will appreciate some light shade in hot inland gardens. This water-wise plant is great to plant in the mixed flower or perennial shrub border and is essential in cottage gardens.

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Bougainvillea 'Temple Fire' Picture courtesy www.steyns-nursery.co.zaBougainvillea 'Temple Fire' Picture courtesy www.steyns-nursery.co.za

Bougainvillea

Multitudes of garden varieties of bougainvillea have been bred, from compact dwarfs to large climbers. Many sport gorgeous double flowers, some with variegations of colours, and the ones with variegated leaves are almost irresistible. Bougainvillea’s natural habitat is equatorial where day and night lengths are almost equal; and in these latitudes they tend to bloom year round, and it follows that in other latitudes they often put on their best show in autumn and spring. In the winter rainfall regions they bloom prolifically during the dry summer and autumn months. Their versatility is legendary and bougainvillea can be coaxed into a small manageable pot plant or bonsai, and the dwarf varieties make excellent edging plants, groundcovers and low hedges.

This evergreen thrives in humid, moist, tropical and subtropical regions, and has a high salt tolerance and is extremely drought tolerant. It is also hardy to moderate frost, and grows well in inland gardens. To flower well bougainvillea requires full sun - the hotter it is the better they like it.

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Ajuga reptans 'Tricolor' Ajuga reptans 'Tricolor'

Bugle Flower (Ajuga reptans cultivars)

The bugle flower forms a beautiful ground hugging mat which spreads continually by runners. There are many cultivars to choose from with beautiful light green, dark green, bronzed, purple, or variegated leaves. In spring and summer the dense spikes of blue, purple, pink or white flowers create a lovely carpeted effect. Cultivars vary in height from +-10 to 45cm tall and make excellent groundcovers for moist shady areas, and excellent to stabilise the soil on banks. Bugle flowers thrive under tree and shrub canopies and are pretty planted along the edges of shaded borders and flagstone pathways.

The bugle flower is an evergreen perennial which will grow in full shade and in semi-shade to sun. It grows well throughout the country and is hardy to severe frost. In extremely cold regions the plant may go totally dormant in winter, only to shoot again in spring. In humid regions it must be planted in very well drained soil, and in dry regions it needs to be watered regularly. 

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Watsonia borbonica 'Pink' Watsonia borbonica 'Pink'

Cape Bugle Lily, Kanolpypie (Watsonia)

There are about 52 species in South Africa mostly concentrated in the south-western parts of the Western Cape, extending north into Namaqualand, and east into the summer rainfall areas of southern KwaZulu-Natal, Lesotho, Mpumalanga and Swaziland. The deciduous species are adapted to a Mediterranean-type climate, and the summer rainfall species are evergreen. Watsonias burst into bloom during spring and the early summer months (September to around January) and the flowers colours vary according to species including shades of pink and white, as well as orange, red, mauve and maroon. Watsonias look magnificent in mass plantings, or planted in clumps in flower borders, and are excellent for soil retention on banks.
 
They are easy to grow in full sun or light shade; and although most are adapted to a winter rainfall climate, they will still thrive under summer rainfall conditions provided they are watered during their growing season.

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Spirea 'Golden Princess'Spirea 'Golden Princess'

Cape May, Spiraea (Spiraea)

Spiraea is a genus of deciduous shrubs which belong to the rose family, and there are both spring and summer flowering species, which bear masses of tiny white to deep pink flowers. The flowers can occur right along the stems or may be clustered in spikes at the tips. Most have fine arching stems and simple alternate leaves that are often toothed or lobed, and over the years a number of new garden cultivars with beautiful bronze, gold or yellow coloured foliage have been introduced. The roots of spiraea are non-invasive yet are good for stabilising banks. Both the dwarf and taller growers make excellent informal screens and hedges, and are valuable additions to the shrub border.

Spiraea performs well throughout South Africa's growing regions, except for the humid areas. They are fully hardy to cold and frost. In cool climates they perform well if planted in full sun; but in areas with hot summers they will need some shade during the hottest part of the day, or the leaves may scorch.

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Carpet geraniumCarpet geranium

Carpet Geranium, Horlosie, ngope-sethsoha, tlako, malko (Geranium incanum)

This popular indigenous garden plant grows wild along the eastern and southwestern coastlines of South Africa; from Malmesbury to KwaZulu-Natal, and into tropical Africa.  It can be found scrambling through the natural vegetation, or forming a tighter carpet on the ground if it is grown in full sun. This little plant will also take some shade, and the occasional trimming will keep it about 15cm tall and 20cm wide. This tough coastal plant will also grow inland, tolerating all but severe frost. And in the garden it forms a dense, mounded carpet of beautiful, finely divided green leaves, and the masses of delicate pale mauve, magenta, lavender or pink flowers can appear at any time of the year; peaking during spring and summer.

It makes a good groundcover in full sun and is effective to stabilise the soil on banks. It is just as lovely trailing over pots, hanging baskets or a retaining wall, and makes a good border plant. Its softly textured leaves can be used to soften pathways, steps and expanses of gravel.

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Chinese ground orchidChinese ground orchid

Chinese Ground Orchid (Bletilla striata)

This orchid is not always easy to find, but is easy to grow, and in spring and early summer it sends up arching stems of pink-mauve or white flowers that look similar to the Cattleya orchid. Each shoot can have up to fourteen flowers and an established clump can have literally dozens of flower spikes. Bletilla has attractive foliage which can reach 20 to 30cm tall, but they are unlike most tropical orchids, being pleated and tapered, and looking very similar to the juvenile leaves of many palm species. Because this orchid is a deciduous perennial and goes dormant in winter, the rhizomes are hardy to all but very severe frost.

The Chinese ground orchid loves to grow in semi-shade or morning sun, and is at its best in cool, woodland, alpine or rock gardens, where the rhizomes can be left undisturbed, because the slowly spreading clumps only increase in beauty with time. It also grows easily in containers and makes a great cut flower.

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Paeonia 'Pink Stripe'Paeonia 'Pink Stripe'

Chinese Peony (Paeonia lactiflora Hybrids)

Chinese peony plants are not always easy to procure but are well worth growing for their voluptuous and scented flowers in spring and early summer. They will mature to about 1m tall with an equal spread, making them impossible to ignore when in full bloom. The flower colours, range from deep pink to soft pink, red, white, creamy-white, coral and yellow. Peonies take three years to flower but are long-lived and will bloom for up to twenty years if cared for correctly.

They grow best in cool, moist regions with cold winters, and are not suited to hot, humid, or very dry areas. These herbaceous plants are hardy and will go dormant in winter. Plant them in semi-shade or morning sun, and remember to protect the spring leaves against late frosts.

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Clivia 'Deep Orange'Clivia 'Deep Orange'

 Clivia, Boslelie, umayime (Clivia)

Each spring and early summer clivias bring splendorous colour into our gardens. Clivia miniata has showy flowers which are usually bright orange, but its also found in cream and other shades of orange, pink or red. ‘Citrina’ has creamy yellow flowers, and the variegated ‘Striata’ has white or yellow stripes on the leaves. Clivia nobilis and Clivia gardenii have pendulous, green, orange, reddish-orange, or yellow flowers. By autumn the plants display masses of showy red berries.These evergreens reach +-80cm to 1m tall, and spread 1m wide.

Bush lilies thrive in cool moist conditions, in bright shade or semi-shade. They are not suited to very hot, dry regions, but are semi-hardy to moderate frost.

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Coleonema 'Pink'Coleonema 'Pink'

Confetti Bush, Aasbossie (Coleonema)

Their fine evergreen foliage and wonderful floral display is what makes  confetti bushes  sought after garden plants the world over. Garden hybrids most typically form dense erect, much branched and compact shrubs with many slender branches. In winter to early summer they bear masses of tiny white or pink star shaped flowers in great profusion. The confetti bush loves full sun and is an excellent coastal plant perfectly suited to the winter rainfall regions, where it withstands strong salty winds, drought and heat. It is hardy to all but severe frost inland, but is not suited to very humid regions.

Confetti bushes are great filler plants for the mixed shrub border or rock garden and are essential in fynbos and wildlife gardens. They have non-invasive roots and can be planted close to pools, paving, walls and building foundations.

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Creeping MazusCreeping Mazus

Creeping Mazus (Mazus reptans)

Mazus forms a dense ground-hugging carpet, and grows quickly without being aggressive. It has attractive bright green leaves, and masses of small lavender-blue or white flowers with yellow and white centres, from late spring to mid-summer, and sporadically throughout summer and autumn if conditions are right. There's a white variety called 'Alba'. It is a pretty border plant and ideal to plant between stepping stones, and will trail down beautifully in hanging baskets and pots. It is also wonderful to stabilise the soil on slopes,

Mazus will grow in semi-shade or full sun and is hardy to cold and frost. In warm regions it is evergreen, but semi-evergreen or dormant in cold winter regions. It tolerates hot, humid summers if the soil is kept moist, and in hot, dry regions will appreciate some shade. In full sun it remains short, +-3 to 5cm, with a spread of +-25 to 30cm.

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Lamium 'Beacon Silver' Picture courtesy www.steyns-nursery.co.zaLamium 'Beacon Silver' Picture courtesy www.steyns-nursery.co.za

Dead Nettle (Lamium maculatum cultivars)

Many exciting named selections of Lamium are available to gardeners; and their gorgeous variegated leaves make them worthy garden subjects for adding texture and as contrast plants in garden beds and borders. Cultivars can have mottled green, silver white or gold foliage; and in late spring and summer they bear showy spikes of shell pink, pink, dark lavender, or white flowers, depending upon the cultivar. Most varieties will grow +-10 to 15cm tall.

Dead nettle grows throughout the country and enjoys a cool shady spot, even growing in full shade. They are very hardy to frost, but during severe winters the foliage will partially or completely die down; shooting again in spring. Although they tolerate fairly dry conditions, they are not really well suited to very hot and dry inland areas as excessive sun and drought will scorch the foliage and lead to dieback. If grown in hot, humid regions ensure that the soil drains very well.

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Gerldton Wax PlantGerldton Wax Plant

Geraldton Wax Plant (Chamelaucium uncinatum)

In spring and early summer this shrub is unforgettable with its clusters of waxy, star-shaped flowers in colours ranging from white to various shades of pink, mauve and wine; sometimes with all the colours on one bush; and the needle-thin leaves contrast beautifully with the shiny berry-like buds arranged in open sprays along the ends of the stems. It requires full sun and grows quickly to heights of +- 2.5m with spread of 2m; and the delightful new dwarf forms are suitable for small gardens and pots. It is a must-have for picking gardens, drought tolerant, and a worthwhile screening plant or wind break.

The geraldton wax plant thrives in a semi-arid climate with hot, dry summers, and mild winters, thriving in the winter rainfall regions, and other mild, frost free regions of South Africa. It tolerates light frost inland, and new cultivars are frost hardy down to -2°C. This shrub does not tolerate high humidity or overly wet summer conditions.

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Pelargonium 'Katinka'Pelargonium 'Katinka'

Geranium (Pelargonium)

There are about 250 species of Pelargonium, mainly from South Africa and a few from the rest of Africa, Australia and the Middle East. The popular Geraniums you find at most garden centres actually belong to the genus Pelargonium. Generally geraniums generally require cool night time temperatures around 15°C to induce blooming. This means that spring, early summer and autumn are the main blooming times. However the exact flowering season depends on the climate and the type of geranium you're growing, because different geraniums have different schedules for blooming. Beautiful hybrid plants have been bred from our indigenous Pelargoniums which can flower all year round in ideal climatic conditions. These tough plants are hardy to moderate frost and are normally grown in full sun, but some morning or afternoon shade will do them no harm.

These rewarding and free flowering plants deserve a place in every garden. They look good in a bed all by themselves, or mixed in with other summer annuals or perennials. They also make attractive edging plants for the flower garden. In fact, they are perfect for any sunny spot that calls for a splash of vibrant colour throughout the season. They also remain popular mainstays in pots, hanging baskets and window boxes.

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HairbellsHairbells

Hairbells, Grasklokkies, isiDwendweni (Dierama)

These evergreen perennials grow from large fibrous-coated corms and form a large clump of narrow, grass-like green leaves. When in flower, the slightest breath of wind causes the tall flowering stems to sway gently; adding a magical quality to the plants. Flowering is mainly from September to March, depending on the species; and there are many cultivars in shades of pink, reddish-pink, mauve, white and rarely, yellow. The flowers are excellent for cutting, and look great in grassland, cottage and informal gardens; as well as in gravel or rock gardens. Try mixing them with ornamental grasses or use them as an accent plant in flower borders. They are also a good choice to plant on banks and slopes, and are attractive near water. The various species vary in height and spread, ranging from +-1 to 1.6m tall, and although they are evergreen the plants will take a rest period in winter.

Hairbells grow well in the summer rainfall regions of the country and at the coast. They are hardy to frost and temperatures down to -5°C. They like an open and airy site in full sun, and can take 2 to 5 years to reach their ultimate height. 

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Heartleaf BergeniaHeartleaf Bergenia

Heartleaf Bergenia (Bergenia cordifolia)

Bergenia is a fast growing evergreen perennial that produces showy clusters of waxy bell-shaped flowers on long red stalks in late winter and spring. Numerous garden hybrids have been bred, providing colours ranging from deep purplish pink to pale pink and occasionally white. The rounded to heart-shaped and sometimes puckered leaves are a glossy dark green and remain attractive even after the flowers fade. They make an excellent groundcover, and their handsome leaves provide strong contrast for most garden plants, but especially when combined with fine leaved plants like ferns. They make excellent woodland plants and grow well in moist conditions.

Bergenia is very hardy to frost growing very well in most of the temperate summer rainfall or Highveld regions of South Africa. It is not suitable for very humid areas, and can struggle in the dry continental regions; as well as in the drier parts of the winter rainfall regions. Although this plant thrives in semi-shade, in regions with high rainfall it can be grown in full sun.

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Kalanchoe 'Tessa'Kalanchoe 'Tessa'

Kalanchoe, Flaming Katy, Kalanchoe ‘Tessa’, Flower Dust Plant (Kalanchoes)

There are several hybrids of these tropical flowering succulents which flower abundantly in winter and spring. They are easy to grow indoors, or outdoors in subtropical and mild winter regions, thriving in full sun or bright shade. They take heat and humidity, and are tender to frost. However, they can be cultivated in colder gardens, if they are protected. Kalanchoe are delightful planted in flower borders or pots, hanging baskets and window boxes.

Florist Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) are small upright shrubs, growing +-30 to 45cm tall, producing a profusion of single or double blooms in shades of pink, yellow, orange, red, white, and cream. Kalanchoe ‘Tessa’ grows +-30cm tall and 60cm wide. The nodding tubular flowers come in various shades of orange-red, are borne on lovely pendent panicles. Flower Dust Plant (Kalanchoe pumila) seldom exceeds 25cm, but spreads 40 to 50cm. Its serrated leaves are powdery grey with a lilac tint, complementing the lovely clusters of lilac to mauve flowers with conspicuous yellow anthers.

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Felicia 'Blue'Felicia 'Blue'

Kingfisher Daisy, Bloumagriet (Felicia)

Kingfisher Daisies, with their masses of striking sky-blue and sunny yellow flower heads catch the eye wherever they are planted. Sky-blue, pale blue, violet-blue, pink and white flowered forms are available, as well as a variegated variety, and a beautiful annual which is entirely blue. Depending on climate, flowering times can vary. In some regions they may flower almost continuously, and in others they may give their best flush in spring and summer, or even in late summer and autumn. They are excellent container plants, and if planted in mass, make a breath-taking sight.  Mix them with other ornamentals in flower borders or use them as filler plants, in pebble gardens, rockeries, and retaining walls. Although they love sun, kingfisher daisies will also grow quite happily in the light, dappled shade of trees.

These evergreen perennials are long-lived, low maintenance and water-wise. They perform extremely well at the coast, but because they revel in hot, dry climates, the plants may struggle in very humid regions. Otherwise, they tolerate a wide range of temperatures, including some frost in inland gardens.

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Lenten RoseLenten Rose

Lenten Rose (Helleborus)

In mid-winter and spring lenten roses thrust their way through the frozen earth to produce their delicate blooms; withstanding extreme cold, snow and frost. They are available in unusual shades of green, dusky pink, and maroon, as well as white. Hybridisation has vastly improved the colour range which now extends from slate grey to near black, deep purple and plum; through rich reds and pinks to yellow, cream; pure white and green. Breeding has also created double-flowered and anemone-centred plants. Lenten roses are excellent for bringing early colour to shady borders and traditional cottage gardens, and because most are tolerant of dry shade, are excellent planted in mass as a groundcover; thriving in deciduous woodland conditions, which provide light in winter and shade in summer.  Some species are grown for their striking evergreen architectural foliage and they are all long lasting cut flowers.

These fully hardy plants grow best in cool, reasonably moist regions, and are not suited to hot, humid areas.  In extremely dry regions they must be watered regularly. Lenten roses grow well in dappled or semi-shade, and although the plants will even grow in complete shade, they will not flower well.

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Daisy Bush 'Fairy Tale'Daisy Bush 'Fairy Tale'

Marguerite Daisy (Argyranthemum frutescens)

Marguerites are old favourites because they are evergreen, easy to grow and flower prolifically. Many wonderful hybrids have been bred which vary in size from little dwarfs +-35cm tall, to larger growing ones  which can reach +-75 to 90cm tall or more. Hybrids include single, semi-double and double flowered varieties, and their cheerful, daisy flowers come in many shades of pink, red, yellow and pure white, and most have a dark centre that is most often yellow. Blooms appear in spring and continue through summer and into autumn, but flowering is most intense in the cooler temperatures of early spring and autumn. Daisy bushes are often cultivated in flowerbeds, borders and containers, and make ideal 'filler plants.'

Marguerite daisies thrive in Mediterranean climates and grow naturally where it is warm, but never burning hot, and where there is always a cool sea breeze. This should be remembered when caring for these plants. Newer hybrids are much more heat tolerant, but the plants will still do best in regions with cool night temperatures.  In colder winter regions the plants are only hardy to moderate frost, and although they need full sunlight to flower really well, in extremely hot regions, will appreciate some shade during the hottest time of the day.

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Oxalis obtusa 'Peaches & Cream' Oxalis obtusa 'Peaches & Cream'

Oxalis, Sorrel, Suring (Oxalis species)

Oxalis is the seventh largest genus in the Cape Floral Region, but species are also found in the summer rainfall Savanna and Grassland Biomes. Our indigenous species come in a wide range of flower colours and leaf forms, blooming profusely over many months in winter, spring or summer, depending on the variety. They are available in colours ranging from red to pale and bright pink, lilac-pink, purple, mauve, salmon, orange, yellow, cream and pure white.

Oxalis generally enjoy full sun, but there are species to suit any situation; full sun, semi-shade or complete shade. Species vary in height from 6 to 30cm tall. The winter-growing species go totally dormant during the dry summer months; making them great water-wise plants for the winter rainfall regions. The new shoots emerge from dormant bulbs after the first good autumn rains and will usually stay active until early summer (November.) In these regions a regular lawn can be transformed into a dazzling carpet of pink and mauve with minimal effort, by planting oxalis in the lawn. Oxalis makes nice neat mounds of leaves and is perfect to grow in pots or as seasonal groundcovers and edging plants.

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Arctotis 'Pink'Arctotis 'Pink'

Renoster Arctotis, Renostergousblom (Arctotis)

Arctotis is an African genus, occurring from the southernmost tip of South Africa to Angola, with most species occurring in the Western and Eastern Cape, and Namaqualand. They make excellent evergreen perennials, producing a dazzling display of flowers, mainly from late winter and spring to early summer (July to November.) Newer hybrids can bloom for most of the year in mild climates, and their brightly coloured daisy-like flowers now come in all shades of orange, butter-yellow, creamy-yellow, red, plum and pink, showing up brilliantly against their silvery-grey leaves. These spreading plants are excellent to control soil erosion. They also make an effective ground cover, and look wonderful spilling over walls or a dry bank.

Arctotis thrive in full sun and are semi-hardy to moderate frost and drought. In cold regions of South Africa they are often planted as a summer annuals, growing quickly to +-20 to 30cm tall, with an equal spread. In cold regions seed is sown in spring after all danger of frost has passed, and in the winter rainfall regions seed is sown is autumn, and the seedlings are planted out just before the rainy season starts.

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Hypoestes 'Purple Haze'Hypoestes 'Purple Haze'

Ribbon Bush, Lintbos, uhlonyane (Hypoestes aristata)

This easy-to-grow perennial shrub needs little attention and will reward you with abundant spikes of purple flowers with dark purple spots from May to early spring. Flowers are also available in shades of pink, white and light purple. The ribbon bush is a rounded little evergreen with soft, hairy, dark green leaves. It grows quickly to +-1.5m tall and 1m wide and is a great pioneer plant for new gardens, especially at the coast. It is wonderful in borders and competes well with tree roots, making it very useful for those shady areas of the garden where very little else will grow. It is also a versatile plant for out of the way plantings, which receive little or no water, and for mass planting in harsh conditions such as road verges and traffic islands.

The ribbon bush is well known and cultivated all around the country. It is tolerant of coastal conditions, and semi-hardy to moderate frost, but can be damaged by black frost or severe cold associated with dry, icy winds. Plants do best in full sun to semi-shade at the coast, and in semi-shade in hot inland gardens.

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River DaisyRiver Daisy

River Daisy, Australies Madeliefie (Brachyscome multifida)

This sprawling groundcover produces masses of small daisy-like flowers amongst a dense mat of feathery foliage, predominantly in spring and summer, but also sporadically throughout the year. It comes in a range of colours such as pink, mauve, pale and deep blue, as well as white, and many have striking yellow centres. They spread +-30 to 50cm and grow only 20 to 30cm tall, dependent on the variety. Breading has produced many  cultivars and many improvements in flower size, and colour range. This water-wise plant is a beautiful addition to any garden and is especially effective in mass plantings, producing a very effective and eye-catching ground cover. It is also stunning draping over retaining walls and in pots and hanging baskets. It is quite at home in cottage and rose gardens, a wonderful border plant, and excellent in rockeries.

River daisies can be grown in much the same way as other daisies and like all daisies they love full sun but will tolerate semi-shade They also tolerate a wide range of growing conditions, but do not perform well in areas with very hot, humid summers. Despite their delicate appearance, they are surprisingly hardy to moderate frost, and also grow well at the coast, tolerating quite arid conditions.

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Rock Rose 'Brilliancy'Rock Rose 'Brilliancy'

Rock Rose (Cistus)

No other flowering shrubs will tolerate such tough dry conditions yet continue to produce blossoms for so long, and with such impact than rock roses. The flowers resemble old-fashioned single roses and the delicate flowers appear in profusion in spring and summer, and are available in white and pale pink to bright pink, reddish-purple and mauve. Some are attractively blotched and all have bright yellow stamens. These water wise plants thrive in dry climates and vary in height and spread, from 50cm to 2m tall. They are ideal to secure soil on dry, rocky slopes because they grow quickly, and soon make a spreading, ground-covering bush. Rock Roses looks fantastic if mixed with silver-leaved plants and other sun loving Mediterranean natives such as lavender and rosemary. Use them as low windbreaks, or in the mixed shrub or flower border.

These evergreen plants love to grow in full sun and do well in coastal regions that are not humid. They are perfectly adapted for the winter rainfall regions of the country, where they are wind resistant, and heat and drought tolerant, once established. Many varieties are hardy to frost but their tolerance to cold varies from species to species, so check with your local nursery for the best varieties for your region.

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Polygala fruticosa 'Petite Butterfly'Polygala fruticosa 'Petite Butterfly'

September Bush, Augustusbossie, ulopesi (Polygala)

Polygalas bloom for a long time in the garden, and are pretty tough and obliging, growing inland and at the coast. All Polygala species have upright-growing stems and gracefully slender branches, densely covered with glossy, myrtle-like leaves, which can be green or slightly grey. Flowers come in shades of mauve or purple, but can also be pink, scarlet, or white; and although they can appear sporadically throughout the year, flowering peaks in late winter, spring, and early summer. Because polygalas come in tall and dwarf forms, grow very quickly, and do not have invasive roots, they are perfect for gardens large and small – even a small balcony garden could support one.

These fast growing evergreens are low maintenance, water-wise plants, which can be grown in full sun or semi-shade. There are species available for all climates, some forms are very frost hardy, and all are suitable for windy, coastal gardens.

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SpiderwortSpiderwort

Spiderwort (Tradescantia)

Spiderwort is an evergreen perennial with long arching leaves, and throughout spring and summer produces terminal buds which open a few at a time, each for only one day. Varieties can be violet-blue, purple-blue, azure-blue, carmine-red, rose-pink and white. Spiderwort grows +-20 to 50cm tall, with a slightly larger spread. It combines well with other perennial plants and grasses in dappled shade, and forms a pretty border if planted alongside the partly sunny edges of garden paths or woodlands.

Spiderwort thrives in dappled semi-shade to sun, and grows well throughout the country, except for those regions that experience severe frost. It is not really suited to extremely dry areas, unless it can be watered throughout the year, and in the winter rainfall regions it needs regular watering in summer. In regions with moderate frost it may become semi-deciduous or totally dormant in winter, shooting again in spring

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St. John’s WortSt. John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum Hidcote)

St. John’s Wort will just flourish and delight with its profusion of large, bright yellow flowers, starting in spring, continuing throughout summer, and into autumn. It’s  beautiful in rockeries and the mixed shrub border, and is most effective if massed as a ground cover in large areas, and under trees. It also makes a great informal low hedge,

This undemanding evergreen grows well in all regions of the country, except for those humid regions. It will grow quickly in semi-shade or sun to a height of +-1.2m, with an equal spread. In cold regions it will lose its leaves in winter, or be cut right back to the ground by frost, but will quickly sprout again in spring. In dry summer regions the plant must be watered regularly.

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Sweet VioletSweet Violet

Sweet Violet (Viola odorata)

This wonderful old fashioned plant is still a popular perennial, producing sweetly scented purple or white flowers that appear amongst beautiful heart-shaped leaves in late winter and early spring and summer. The more you pick the flowers the more they will bloom. Sweet Violets will grow quickly to +-30cm tall with an equal spread, and are wonderful as edging plants in woodland gardens, and as a groundcover underneath trees.

The Sweet Violet is evergreen and grows throughout the country, provided it can be well watered and is protected from scorching winds. The plants are very cold-hardy and will tolerate temperatures down to about -20°C. Plant them in semi-shade and in good garden soil. They will also grow in sunny positions as long as the soil does not dry out.

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Armeria 'Ballerina' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaArmeria 'Ballerina' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.za

Thrift, Sea Pink (Armeria maritime)

Thrifts can be found growing wild on maritime cliffs and meadows, salt marshes and mountain rocks all over Britain and Northern Europe. This delightful little evergreen perennial produces compact tufts of grass-like leaves, and the papery pink or white flowers are borne on long stems. They are excellent ground covers or border plants, and do well in water wise rock or pebble gardens. They can even be used in pots, together with other water-wise perennials, where they add unusual interest.

Thrifts grow well throughout the country and are frost and drought resistant. Although they will tolerate salty winds at the coast and saline soils, they are not suited to very humid regions. They slowly spread, growing +-15 to 30cm tall, spread 30 to 40cm, and love full sun. They cannot grow in the shade. If you remove the dead blooms consistently, the plants will continue to flower into autumn.

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Euryops 'Sunshine Classic'Euryops 'Sunshine Classic'

Wild Daisy Bush, Harpuisbos (Euryops)

Euryops species are widespread in southern Africa, and cherished for their starry-yellow blooms throughout the seasons, depending on the variety. Many species bloom from late winter and into spring, and their hardiness, ease of growth, and long flowering season has made them popular garden plants around the world. They vary greatly in size, and are excellent pioneer species and one of the first plants to re-establish themselves after a fire. In the winter rainfall regions they make great water-wise plants and are lovely planted in fynbos gardens. Plant them in groups of three for best effect and use them as filler plants.

Euryops are evergreen and grow quickly and easily both inland and at the coast, as long as they can be planted in full sun. They are hardy to frost (about -1°C) and some will even tolerate severe frost. In the summer rainfall regions they will require regular watering in winter and spring.

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Dietes irridoides Dietes irridoides

Wild Iris, Wilde-Iris, Isiqungasehlati (Dietes)

Wild Irises are easy to grow evergreen perennials which form large clumps +-1.5m wide. The 1m long sword-shaped leaves are dark green, and the large iris-like flowers are borne in profusion. They can be white or yellow, and are held on the ends of long flower stalks. Blooms can appear anytime in spring and summer - often after good rains. They are low maintenance and water-wise, and because of their long flowering season, are perfect to plant as a groundcover in large garden beds or under trees. Although the wild iris does not flower well in very shady conditions, it is nevertheless one of the few plants that can satisfactorily grow under trees in spite of tree root competition. Because they are fast growers, they are ideal to use in areas that need to be established quickly, and are perfect to stabilise the soil on slopes.

These versatile plants will flourish in full sun or semi-shade and can be grown in moist, boggy soils, as well as dry, well-drained ones. In very hot inland gardens they will appreciate some light shade, especially during the hottest part of the day. Wild Irises can withstand moderate frost as long as it is not for an extended period of time. Frost damaged plants can be cut right back in early spring and should shoot again.

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Wild RhubarbWild Rhubarb

Wild Rhubarb, Bear's Breeches (Acanthus mollis)

This ornamental perennial grows into a large clump. Its large dark green leaves are thought to have been the inspiration for the designs depicted in classical Greek artwork and Corinthian columns, and its dramatically tall spires of ivory-white flowers are clasped by showy purple or slightly pink bracts. The flower spikes stand proudly above the leaves, creating an eye-catching focal point. Flowers appear in late spring and early summer, and again in late summer. The plant grows +-1.2m tall, but when in bloom the flower spikes can reach heights of 1.5m. Because of the sculptural nature of this plant, it will impose an air of formality to classical and formal gardens, but it can be just as effective if used as a feature plant in informal and tropical gardens. It is excellent to plant in dry shade and is a long-lasting cut flower that also dries well.

Wild Rhubarb grows best in moist temperate regions where it is evergreen. It is hardy to frost, but in very cold regions will go totally dormant winter. It will grow quickly but can take a couple of years to reach its full stature. Acanthus will grow in semi-shade or full sun, in cool regions it is often planted in full sun, but in very hot and dry regions it will perform best in semi-shade.

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