South Africa boasts a magnificent variety of indigenous trees and homeowners are tending to plant more and more South African plants in their gardens as a result of drought and a desire to create more biodiversity in their spaces.

Not all local trees are suitable for small urban gardens, but we are lucky that there is such a wide selection of species that are wonderful for small to medium gardens and will attract loads of pollinators and other wildlife.

These are a few absolute must-haves:

Dais cotinifolia – Pompom Tree

The pompom tree is one of the most well-loved South African trees. It is tough enough to be used as a street tree and yet small enough to fit into a small garden. Its tiny pink flowers attract bees and butterflies and last a long time on the tree. Dais cotinifolia is fast-growing, tough, drought-resistant, and frost-hardy, making it a top pick for a suburban garden.

Kiggelaria africana – Wild Peach

This magnificent semi-deciduous tree grows to between 8-10 meters tall so is more suitable for a medium-sized garden. Its beautiful light grey-green foliage ensures that it does not make your garden too dark. Highly attractive to hosts of bird species in the fruiting season.

Harpephyllum caffrum – Wild Plum

The wild plum is a wonderful evergreen tree that will guarantee you loads of fruit-eating birds in your garden as it bears small, edible, plum-like fruits, which ripen in autumn. It is taller than the wild peach, normally reaching 12-15 meters. It is also a fabulous shade tree and very easy to maintain once established.

Searsia iancea – ‘Karee’

This is a tremendously popular garden tree throughout South Africa as it is fast-growing, does not grow too tall (a maximum height of 7 m), and does not have an invasive root system therefore is safe to plant close to paving and walls. Karee is also a useful shade tree for small to medium-sized gardens



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A version of this article was originally published in the Garden&Home December 2022 printed magazine.

Feature image: Unsplash