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Popular easy-to-grow indigenous plants

Indigenous plants can contribute to a robust and colourful garden.

Indigenous plants can contribute to a robust and colourful garden.

There is such a wide variety of in­digenous species available to home gardeners that most should be able to grow at least one South African plant — and probably more.

Indigenous plants vary in size from small, prostrate plants of delicate beauty, to giant trees, in the same way as exotic or introduced plants, and can fulfil many uses in both small and large gardens of varying design.

Gardeners who have never grown indigenous plants may find it difficult to decide what to grow because of the wide choice. The following plants are among the most popular indigenous plants suitable for growing in home gardens, and should be readily available from garden centres or specialist nurseries.

Some are particularly useful for planting in positions with specific prob­lems, such as where the soil is very damp or where the garden is exposed to salt‑laden winds — which could cause havoc with many exotics.

Full details of cultivation for various plants will follow in plant profiles that will be added to this Indigenous Gardens section of Gardening Made Easy — we will constantly be adding new plant profiles, indigenous garden ideas, and information on where to source good plant material. For photos and cultivation information on hundreds of Southern African indigenous plants, you can also visit .


Ground covers

These are all low­ growing or prostrate plants which are a useful substitute for, or alternative, to, lawn grasses. Arctotis (Trailing arctotis) is a quick­ growing and highly effective ground cover with trailing stems. From late winter to mid‑spring it produces large daisy‑like flowers in an exciting range of colours. Another quick‑growing plant is Osteospermum (Trailing daisy), an evergreen perennial characterised by large mauve or white flowers (pro­duced in spring). Other attractive in­digenous perennials which give a carpet effect are Gazania, Lampranthus (Vygie), Drosanthemum (Dew flower) and Carpobrotus (Sour fig).

Small plants

Ericas are probably the most popular of the smaller indigenous shrubs suitable for the home gardener. There is a wide variety to choose from, and if grown correctly, Ericas will flourish in many different parts of the country.  Other small plants and shrubs which can be grown easily include Felicia (Blue daisy), Geranium incanum (Crane’s bill), Gerbera (Barberton daisy), Sutera (Wild phlox), Anchusa capensis (Cape forget‑me‑not) and Plec­tranthus (Spur flower).


There are a number of at­tractive indigenous climbers, but prob­ably the most popular and easy to grow are Clematis braciata (Traveller’s joy), Senecio tamoides (Canary creeper) and Tecomaria capensis (Cape honeysuckle).


The various members of the protea family, including the Leucaden­drons and the Leucospermums (Pin cushions) are among the best known of the indigenous shrubs.

Although proteas are generally at their best in the winter rainfall regions of the Cape, they can also be grown successfully in other parts of the coun­try provided that they are planted in a well‑drained, sunny position and watered well during the winter.

Apart from the proteas, there are hundreds of different shrubs indigenous to various parts of South Africa, and many of these make ideal garden sub­jects. Among the most popular and easy to grow are Barleria (Violet bush), Bauhinia galpinii (Pride of de Kaap), Buddleia salvifolia, Burchellia (Wild pomegranate), Catissa (Natal plum), Coleonema (Confetti bush), Euryops, Gardenia thunbergii, Ochna (Carnival bush) and Podalyria (Sweet pea bush).

Average‑sized trees

These trees, which generally have a mature height of under 10 M, are useful specimens for the average suburban garden. Dais cotonifolia (Pom‑pom tree), Dombeya and Virgilia are all attractive, small flowering trees. Some indigenous trees, such as Ekebergia capensis (Dog plum), Trichelia (Natal mahogany) and Ficus capensis (Cape fig), are suitable only for the larger garden.