Arctotis bloom abundantly under harsh climatic conditions

Arctotis - Picture courtesy Gunera - see flickr linkArctotis - Picture courtesy Gunera - see flickr linkGarden centres around South Africa sell a beautiful selection of hybrid Arctotis in a lovely range of colours and growth habits, to brighten up any sunny space. They cope with a variety of harsh climatic conditions, are great water-wise coastal plants, and also do well inland. Learn how to grow and propagate Arctotis in your region.

Arctotis stoechadifolia' Silver Arctotis' Picture courtesy K M - see flickr linkArctotis stoechadifolia' Silver Arctotis' Picture courtesy K M - see flickr linkMany arctotis species make excellent garden plants and they are becoming more and more popular all over the world for their ease of growth and abundance of flowers through late winter, spring or summer, depending on the species chosen. Every year there are also more beautiful hybrids and selections available to gardeners. There are also a variety of forms, from clumping to spreading or trailing, and a gorgeous range of colours to suit every gardener’s palette.

Arctotis is an African genus of the daisy family (Asteraceae), with about 63 species occurring from the southernmost tip of South Africa to Angola. Most of the species occur in the Western and Eastern Cape, and Namaqualand, but Arctotis species are also represented in all the other provinces.  The various growth forms include tufted annuals, perennial ground covers, small sprawling shrublets, and semi-woody shrubs. The flowers only open fully in bright sunlight, remaining closed in cold or rainy weather. They are visited by a variety of beetles and bees, any one of which could do the job of pollination. The seeds are light in weight and have a pappus of papery scales, which indicate that they are dispersed by wind.

Renoster Arctotis, Renoster Marigold, Renostergousblom, Tonteldoekblom (Arctotis acaulis)

The renoster arctotis is an easy to grow perennial, but is often best grown as a fast maturing annual. It grows +- 20 to 30cm tall with a basal tuft of hairy leaves which are a beautiful silver-grey. A dazzling display of flowers appear from late winter and spring to early summer (July to November), peaking in spring (August to October). In mild climates it can bloom for most of the year. It can be found growing in clay, limestone and granite soil in the renosterveld, fynbos, succulent karoo, and nama karoo biomes, from Calvinia in the western Karoo and the Bokkeveld Plateau to the Peninsula, and westward to Swellendam and the Langeberg Mountains.

Click here to see pictures of the wild Arctotis acaulis at PlantZAfrica.com - my ‘go-to’ website for information on indigenous plants.

Fabulous hybrids are available at garden centres, and the large, brightly coloured daisy flowers all have dark centres to show off the bright petals, which come in all shades of orange, yellow and red, as well as plum, pink and cream. There is also often an attractive black spot, or a black or bright yellow band at the base of the florets.

The renoster arctotis is excellent to control soil erosion at the coast and makes a most effective ground cover. It also looks wonderful spilling over low walls or a dry bank.

At Kirstenbosch seeds are sown in April to May to start flowering in late winter to spring and early summer (July to November), peaking in spring. In cold climates which experience frost, the seeds are sown in early spring for a summer display. Seed can be sown directly into prepared beds in full sun. Cover them lightly with soil and take care not to let the newly germinated seedlings dry out.  Thin them out to space the seedlings +-20 to 25cm apart and water regularly. The plant can also be propagated by dividing the rootstock, which is used to preserve a particular type or colour form. Feed during the growing season with a balanced fertiliser and mulch the roots annually with well-rotted compost.

Botterblom, putswa-pududu, ubushwa (Arctotis arctotoides)

The botterblom is a fast growing groundcover which can spread up to 60cm wide and has long, light green leaves with wavy edges, and lovely felted, white undersides. The single butter-yellow flowers are borne on 20cm long stems almost all year round, peaking in winter (June to August), and complementing the many aloes which bloom at the same time. It is widespread throughout the summer rainfall areas of South Africa and Lesotho, where it favours disturbed areas like the verges of roads.

In the garden it grows and flowers best in full sun, and tolerates most soil types, from sand to clay, and well-drained as well as marshy areas.

Although this groundcover can look a bit ‘weedy’, it is such a tough plant with such an abundance of flowers that it definitely deserves a place in the garden. It is invaluable in aloe gardens as it blooms at the same time, and is great in informal plantings, along the edges of paths, and even in rockeries. Because it will also grow in marshy areas, use it around dams or water features in full sun. The plants grow very fast and tend to get untidy after 3 to 4 years, when it is best to replace them. In summer, Arctotis arctotoides makes a very pretty combination if it is mixed with the beautiful blue Cape-forget me-not (Anchusa capensis). Click here to see pictures at PlantZAfrica

Click here to see pictures of Arctotis arctotoides at PlantZAfrica.com - my ‘go-to’ website for information on indigenous plants.

Trailing Arctotis, Silver Arctotis, Witgousblom, Coast Arctotis, Kusgousblom, Bittergousblom (Arctotis stoechadifolia)

Arctotis stoechadifolia is a very vigorous sprawling perennial which hugs the ground closely and roots continuously as it spreads. The white felted leaves are long and narrow with slightly toothed or serrated edges, providing a striking silver-grey carpet. The masses of showy flowers appear from spring to summer (September to December), standing on upright shoots about 35cm tall. They are a creamy light to bright yellow, marked with maroon underneath, and the centre of the flower is black. The stems and leaves are slightly sticky with a very strong bitter-sweet smell when touched.

The trailing arctotis occurs naturally only on the dunes and sandy flats along the coast from Langebaan to the Cape Peninsula. In its range it is quite common and very vigorous, with beautiful spring displays along the coastal strip between Bloubergstrand and Melkbosstrand. It is very adaptable and manages to thrive in harsh, sandy, coastal conditions, with hot dry summers, strong winds, salt spray, and low winter rainfall (500mm or less in this area).

In coastal gardens this is one of the best groundcovers to retain the sand cover, and is very striking if allowed to cascade down a stone wall.

Click here to see pictures of Arctotis Stoechadifolia at PlantZAfrica.com - my ‘go-to’ website for information on indigenous plants.

Arctotis stoechadifolia became a problem plant in California and Southern Australia, where it was used as a coastal sand-stabilizing plant but quickly became a weed, escaping cultivation and invading indigenous areas. Bear this in mind if you plant it in warm, moist regions of South Africa.

The trailing arctotis performs well in almost any soil with good drainage, is resistant to salt-laden wind, and water-wise. It must be planted in full sun and is adapted to the Mediterranean climate of the Cape, where it can survive with very little water in summer. Inland, the plants need to be watered in winter and in cold regions they will need protection from frost, but should re-sprout in spring after frost damage, if the roots are thickly mulched in winter.

In the winter rainfall regions seeds should be sown in seedling trays during autumn and planted into small pots to be grown on. Plant out as soon as they are big enough to handle. In cold gardens, sow in spring after all danger of frost is over, or earlier into trays if you have a greenhouse. The plant can also be propagated by cuttings or by dividing the rootstock, which is used to preserve a particular type or colour form.

Namaqualand Arctotis, Namaqua Marigold, Double Namaqualand Daisy, Namakwagousblom, Bittergousblom (Arctotis fastuosa)

The Namaqualand arctotis is a frost hardy annual species from the dry Namaqualand region where the seeds lie dormant during the scorching hot summers, and opportunistically respond to good rains at any time of the year, but especially in late winter and spring (July to October). The green leaves are covered in white hairs and the flowers are born on long stalks, in various shades of orange, yellow and cream. The size of the plant will depend on rainfall but if it is watered moderately in the garden it can grow up to 60cm tall.

Click here to see pictures of wild Arctotis fastuosa at PlantZAfrica.com - my ‘go-to’ website for information on indigenous plants.

Of all beautiful annuals of Namaqualand, this is one of the easiest and most colourful for cultivation in gardens, and is the parent of a number of delightful hybrids that are popular for bedding displays, gravel gardens and containers. The flowers of these modern cultivars tend to stay open longer than the natural species, which only open on sunny days and close by mid-afternoon.

For a spring show sow the seeds in autumn, and for a summer display, sow the seeds in late September or early October, germination is within a week. Seeds can be sown in seedling trays or directly into well-prepared garden beds. Plant the seedlings about 10cm apart and weed regularly until they have filled out and covered the ground. Full sun is essential, as is well-drained soil. Watering regularly is important for success with the seedlings and plants in the garden. They also respond well to feeding with an organic fertiliser.

Arctotis acaulis' Purple'  Picture courtesy K M  - see flickr linkArctotis acaulis' Purple' Picture courtesy K M - see flickr linkUses:

The rural people of Eastern Cape are known to use Arctotis arctotoides for the treatment of epilepsy, indigestion and catarrh of the stomach, and the leaf juice or a paste of the leaf is applied topically to treat wounds. Studies have shown that an extract of the leaf does have anti-bacterial properties.

In earlier times, the grey felt on the undersides of the leaves of many species in the daisy family, including Arctotis acaulis, was scraped off and used as tinder (tontel). When scraped off this felt resembles a miniature cloth (doek), which is where this species gets its Afrikaans common name, “tonteldoekblom”.

In the Garden:

Garden centres around South Africa sell a variety of arctotis with a great selection of colours and growth habits to brighten any space. The flowers come in shades of white, bright and light yellow, orange, red, pink, or mauve, so pay them a visit when they are in full bloom to make your selection.

They are perfect for difficult seaside gardens and a great choice for water-wise landscapes and rock gardens. In large areas they make a glorious massed display or groundcover, and are often planted in pavement beds and traffic islands. Arctotis will quickly stabilise the soil on steep banks, and is stunning spilling over low retaining walls or down the sides of steps, and if planted into pots and window boxes will brighten up sunny courtyards and patios.

Arctotis 'Flamingo' AArctotis 'Flamingo' ACultivation/Propagation:

Refer to the species descriptions above for more detailed info on each one, but in a nutshell arctotis cope with a variety of harsh climatic conditions, as long as the soil drains well. They are perfect in coastal gardens, and in humid climates they require good air movement around the foliage. Arctotis do not thrive in mist-belt areas during the rainy months. They grow well inland if they can be protected from heavy frost, and in very cold regions they are often planted as summer annuals.

All arcotis love and thrive in full sun and in soil which has perfect drainage, be it acid or alkaline, granitic, sandy or clay soil. Although water-wise, in very hot and dry regions they will look at their best if they can be watered moderately.

In very impoverished soils, add compost when planting and mulch the soil to help retain moisture. Feed during the growing season with 2:3:2 for best results. Regular deadheading will dramatically extend the blooming period. To encourage the formation of new shoots, prune the trailing varieties back hard directly after flowering.

Established plants are available from your garden centre and seeds can also be sown. In the winter rainfall regions seed is sown in autumn and the seedlings are planted out just before the rainy season starts.

In frosty gardens seed is sown in spring after all danger of frost is over. Sow into trays, or directly into garden beds. Cover the seeds lightly, keep them moist and they should start to germinate within a week.

Arctotis 'Pumpkin Pie' Arctotis 'Pumpkin Pie' Problems, Pests & Diseases:

Black, hairy worms attack plants in the garden and nursery, but it is not necessary to spray as they seldom do serious damage and the tough plants re-sprout again vigorously.

Warning:

Although Arctotis is listed as safe, if you suspect that a child or pet has eaten quantities of any of these plants, or if you notice symptoms such as illness or dermatitis after handling these plants, call your doctor or veterinarian for advice.