All you need to know about growing fynbos, from the best position to pruning and feeding
AT A GLANCE
FORM: Evergreen shrubs, small trees and groundcovers.
POSITION: Full sun. Many cope with coastal winds, but dislike humid conditions.
PLANTING TIME: Autumn and early winter in winter-rainfall areas; spring through summer in summer-rainfall areas.
FLOWERING SEASON: Cone bushes flower in spring, but develop bract colour and cones in autumn and winter. Pincushions flower in spring and early summer.
SIZE: Shrubby types vary from 1–3m tall.
FROST TOLERANCE: Most tolerate light frost. Cone bushes are more tolerant.
A lack of water can kill cone bushes and pincushions when they’re first planted, so water them regularly three times a week, especially if you have sandy soil, and more frequently during hot, dry spells. Reduce watering gradually when they’re well established.
After about two years they’ll survive with minimal watering, but in the Western Cape they’ll perform better if watered during the dry summer months. In summer-rainfall areas, water them in the dry months and if necessary during the summer rainfall period to ensure that the roots stay moist, especially during the first 18 months.
They need little feeding.
Twice a year, in spring and autumn, apply light applications of organic products like Talborne Organics Vita- Green (5:1:5). Don’t add phosphates or bonemeal and avoid rich composts.
Train your plants from the start to create and maintain a better shape and prevent them becoming too large and leggy. To do so, nip out the growing tip of young, single stemmed plants to encourage them to produce side shoots.
When these side shoots are 150–200mm long, trim them back again.
For well-formed, bushy plants just cut off flowers for the vase (or after these have faded), leaving four or five leaf nodes on each stem, which should be about 100–150mm long.
Neaten your plants just after the flowers have faded and before they start putting out new growth. Never cut back into old wood or where there are no healthy green leaves.
If weeds are a problem, avoid disturbing the soil around the plants; cut weeds off just below the surface rather than pulling them out.
Yellowing leaves are symptomatic of a lack of iron especially in sandy soils with a high pH.
Apply iron chelate as a spray or drench every two weeks until the symptoms disappear. For fungal problems, use Dithane WP or Bravo 720.
Put up with damage from caterpillars, as long as they are not annihilating your plant.