Ribbon Bush, Lintbos, Seeroogblommetjie, uhlonyane, uhlololwane - Hypoestes aristata

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Hypoestes aristata 'Purple Haze' Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaHypoestes aristata 'Purple Haze' Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.za Hypoestes aristata can be found growing in the wild from the Eastern Cape to tropical Africa and is commonly found in thickets, damp areas, forests and forest margins. 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 when very little else is in bloom; flowers are also available in shades of pink, white and light purple. It is a rounded little evergreen which grows quickly to +-1.5m tall and 1m wide, with a rounded shape and soft, hairy, dark green oval leaves.

The ribbon bush will attract butterflies to your garden and is a valuable food source for them when nectar is scarce. Bees, flies and other small insects also visit the flowers in search of nectar or pollen; the insects will in turn attract insectivorous birds, like Puffback (Dryoscopus cubla), Southern Boubou (Laniarius ferrugineus), barbets, robins and thrushes. Cape Dwarf chameleons also seem to be attracted by the dense foliage cover they provide and the bees and insects they attract. Ribbon bush leaves are eaten like spinach in some areas; traditionally the crushed leaves are used as a poultice for sore eyes; and the delightful little flowers lasts long in a vase.

This versatile plant is essential in all wildlife gardens and is a great pioneer plant for new gardens, especially at the coast. It is great in borders and very useful for those shady areas of the garden where very little else will grow; competing well with tree roots. 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 looks brilliant if planted with other autumn and winter flowering plants like Aloes and Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender' that produce yellow, orange, red or lavender flowers in winter; add some winter annuals like calendula, snapdragons, violas or pansies for a stunning contrast.  During the summer months when it is not in bloom the bush has a neat and compact appearance, making it a wonderful filler plant between variegated shade groundcovers such as Plectranthus madagascariensis or Lamium 'Beacon silver'.  The delicate flowers also contrast well with the large leaves of Arum lilies or the dark green strap-like leaves of Clivias.
Hypoestes aristata. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaHypoestes aristata. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaThe 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. They will adapt to most well-drained garden soils and will benefit from well-composted soil and good mulch. Water well in summer but less in winter; plants are drought tolerant once established. Cut back quite hard after flowering to prevent the plants from becoming lanky, and feed occasionally with organic 3:1:5 fertilisers.

The ribbon bush tends to seed itself in the garden and is easily propagated from both seeds and cuttings. Seed should be sowed on germination medium in spring and covered very lightly; germination should take about 3 weeks. Semi-hardwood or soft tip cuttings can be taken in the late winter or early spring. Hormone rooting powder will speed up the process but is not essential because the cuttings root so readily. Plant out into washed river sand and keep in a well-lit place but out of strong sunlight until the plants are established.

(Hypoestes aristata 'Purple Haze') is a great new form which is even better than H. aristata, with a shorter, more compact growth habit and much darker pinkish-mauve flowers in profusion. It grows beautifully in a pot.

(Hypoestes aristata 'White Butterfly') is a stunning white form.

Additional Info

  • Common Name: Ribbon Bush, Lintbos, Seeroogblommetjie, uhlonyane, uhlololwane
  • Latin Name: Hypoestes aristata
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