South Africa is blessed with indigenous shrubs and trees that create a glorious show in spring. These are a few of our favourite indigenous spring bloomers:
Related to indigenous spring bloomers: Colourful spring flowers
1. River bell (Mackaya bella)
If you have a deeply shaded area in your garden, this is the right plant for it. Its glossy, evergreen leaves keep it attractive throughout the year, but in spring it comes into its own. From September, sprays of white blooms streaked with purple emerge, brightening up even the dullest areas. Plant it in rich soil and water it through dry periods. M. bella is frost tender, so in cold regions, plant it in a protected area. If it’s damaged by frost, cut it right back. Pruning also ensures a neat shape and encourages blooming. It’s a good subject for containers and small gardens.
2. Erica sparrmanii
Although it only grows to around 50cm high, its unusual, almost luminous green blooms which emerge from September are very eye-catching. E. sparrmanii grows well in gardens, preferring a sunny spot and well-drained soil, particularly if it is slightly acidic and on the sandy side. Like most ericas, it also makes an excellent pot plant and tolerates moderate frost. Keep it well watered while it’s settling in, but once established, it’s very low maintenance, handling dry spells well. For a neat appearance, give it a light trim after flowering.
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3. Tree wisteria (Bolusanthus speciosus)
In spring, bunches of mauve-blue, fragrant blooms make the tree wisteria spectacular. It has a graceful, slender habit and a non-invasive root system, making it ideal for small gardens. If you plant it in a hot sunny position for the first few years, water it when dry and protect it in winter; it should be able to withstand moderate frost and periods of drought. It’s relatively easy to propagate from seed, but be prepared to wait a while for it to reach flowering size.
4. Cape chestnut (Calodendrum capense)
The Cape chestnut has a dense rounded crown covered in lightly scented, pink flowers in spring and early summer. It can grow to about 10m high so is best in larger gardens, but can be grown in a large pot. Give it a warm, sunny position with fertile, well-composted soil and plenty of water during spring and summer and it’ll produce up to 1m of new growth a year. If you live near the coast with strong winds, provide it with some shelter. Young plants also need protection from frost, but once established, temperatures as low as -7°C shouldn’t be a problem.
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5. Weeping sage (Buddleja auriculata)
Beautiful scented cream, pinkish or orange flowers offset by glossy, deep-green leaves appear in late winter and continue into spring. Prepare the ground well before planting, adding plenty of compost and some fertiliser; keep the plant well watered. It doesn’t have an aggressive root system so can be planted near walls, but bear in mind that it can grow up to 4m wide. Keep it pruned to maintain a neat shape.
Read more: Pruning is a good thing
6. Common wild pear (Dombeya rotundifolia)
At first glance, you’d never imagine that this shapely little tree, festooned with sweetly scented white blooms, is extremely tough. Frost hardy, drought and fire resistant, there’s not much that will kill the wild pear once it’s established. It’s also very fast growing – up to 1,5m per year, usually reaching a mature height of 3–6m. The flowers bloom in late winter and spring, before the leaves appear. It attracts birds, insects and butterflies and its non-aggressive root system makes it ideal for small gardens.
For more information on these and other indigenous plants, visit PlantZAfrica.com pza.sanbi.org