The Cape honeysuckle is water-wise

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Picture courtesy Wilferd Duckitt - Lesser Double-Collard Sunbird in Tecomaria capensis - See his flickr page.Picture courtesy Wilferd Duckitt - Lesser Double-Collard Sunbird in Tecomaria capensis - See his flickr page.The Cape honeysuckle is water-wise and a ‘must-have’ for bird and butterfly gardens.

alt Cape Honeysuckle, Kaapse Kanferfoelie, malangula, umsilingi, lungana, molaka (Tecomaria capensis)

This indigenous shrub remains wildly popular with gardeners in South Africa and around the world.

Its clusters of tubular flowers in brilliant shades of orange, red, yellow, apricot or salmon, thanks to modern garden hybrids. Flowering is sporadic throughout the year in warm regions, and these hybrids have even more blooming power, and the vibrancy of the flower colours is shown off perfectly by the plants dark green, glossy leaves. The flowers are followed by long, narrow seed pods which split open when ripe, to disperse the seeds.

In the wild Tecomaria capensis grows at the edges of evergreen forests, bush and sheltered scrubland as a sprawling, rampant, sometimes vine-like shrub that produces orange-red flowers. It is widely distributed throughout the Eastern Cape coasts, KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland, Mpumalanga, the Northern Province and Mozambique. The flowers are pollinated by nectar-feeding birds, especially sunbirds, but are also visited by honeybees and butterflies.

Tecomaria capensis 'Rocky Horror' Picture courtesy capensis 'Rocky Horror' Picture courtesy the garden it is fast growing and will vary in height and spread depending on how it is pruned. If left to its own devices it can grow anything from 1.5 to 3m tall, with an equal spread, but just a little pruning can keep it compact enough for even the smallest garden.

The bark is used in traditional medicine to treat many ailments: to bring down fevers and relieve pain, and especially stomach pains, diarrhoea and gastro-enteritis. It is also used to treat sleeplessness, to bring down fevers, and to treat chest ailments like bronchitis. Nursing mothers use it to encourage the flow of milk, and the dried and powdered bark is rubbed around the teeth to treat bleeding gums.

Even animals seem to know this plant is good for them, and both game and stock animals love to browse the leaves. For this reason farmers love to plant it along fences as additional grazing.

In the Garden:

Tecomaria capensis 'Apricot' Picture courtesy capensis 'Apricot' Picture courtesy Cape honeysuckle is a useful ornamental, screening or hedging plant and grows easily in pots. It is ideal to plant in seaside gardens, and because it is water-wise, is used for xeriscaping - landscaping and gardening that reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental water from irrigation.

Its tubular flowers will attract nectar-feeding birds to your garden, and are a magnet for butterflies. It can be shaped into an attractive shrub and is commonly used for screening, or trimmed into a formal or informal hedge. In large areas it can be planted as a groundcover, and on rocky slopes it is marvellous to control soil erosion.

To train it as a climber you will need to tie it to a support, or weave it through chain-link or wooden fences and trellises. It can also be espaliered on a wall, or trained to cascade beautifully down a garden wall.

The Cape honeysuckle is a carefree garden plant which does not suffer from any serious peats and diseases, making it perfect for eco-conscious gardeners who do not spray harmful chemicals.

Tecomaria capensis 'Pink Blush' Picture courtesy capensis 'Pink Blush' Picture courtesy

The Cape honeysuckle tolerates salt spray and is adaptable to poor, sandy soil, but it will grow best in well-drained, composted soil. This plant is semi-hardy to moderate frost, in frost-free regions it is evergreen and in colder regions it is semi-deciduous. In very cold regions it may be cut back right down to the ground in winter, but will shoot from the roots again in summer as long as they are mulched to prevent them from freezing, and the plant is grown in a sheltered position in the garden.

Although the Cape honeysuckle flowers best in full sun, it will tolerate some shade. It is moderately drought hardy once established, but responds well if it is watered regularly in the garden, especially in very hot regions. Pruning in late winter or early spring is essential to keep it as a shrub and to control its size, and even ruthless pruning is tolerated. If you feed with a balanced fertiliser after pruning and mulch the roots with compost, your Cape honeysuckle will be good to go for another season.

The Cape honeysuckle is easily propagated from seeds and softwood or semi-hardwood cuttings. This plant also layers itself naturally and any branch that lies on the soil will take root easily. These rooted pieces can be severed from the mother plant and planted out. In warmer climates propagation can be done at any time but in cooler regions propagation is done during spring or summer.

Problems, Pests & Diseases:

The Cape honeysuckle is a carefree garden plant which does not suffer from any serious peats and diseases, making it perfect for eco-conscious gardeners.


We could not find this plant listed in poison databases and currently studies are being done to evaluate the analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antipyretic activity of methanolic Tecomaria capensis leaves extract using different models in rats. Results demonstrated that no mortality was reported even after 14 days, so it seems that consuming this plant is not dangerous for humans either, however, it is always wise to supervise young children in the garden.