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Top 5 indigenous groundcovers for alkaline soil

These 5 groundcovers will happily grow and flower in an alkaline soil.

Crassula multicava

(Fairy Crassula)

This is an evergreen groundcover which is water wise and will happily grow in sun, shade or semi-shade. The pink flowers open in spring and attract insect eating birds and butterflies. It is lovely mass planted under trees as it doesn’t require much soil or water and won’t compete with the tree’s roots. It is ideal for small gardens, planting in containers or hanging baskets. The flowers are long lasting in the vase. It is also a medicinal plant as it is a strong emetic. This is the larval host plant for the Tailed Black-eye butterfly. Named from the Latin 'crassus'= and 'ula'= diminutive referring to the fleshy succulent leaves.

Lampranthus sp

(Vygies)

A valuable addition to any garden as their iridescent flowers are seen in spring and summer. Their striking colours are a highlight after the drab winter garden when only the Aloes are in flower. They are all drought resistant and creep along the ground creating a carpet of striking colour. They attract butterflies and are useful in rockeries, along a path or in a hanging basket. They are frost resistant and fast growing. The leaves vary from dull ,dusty green to a bright, light green. The name is derived from the Greek lampros = bright, shining; anthos = flower; referring to the light reflecting off the glossy petals.

Plectranthus neochilus

(Lobster Flower)

An evergreen perennial, aromatic, succulent herb, which grows to 500 mm high and 600 mm wide. The deep blue and purple flowers are borne from September to April. This Plectranthus has succulent, grey-green leaves, which form an attractive ground cover even when the plant is not in flower. They are used to scare away snakes from human dwellings (perhaps because of their unpleasant aromatic smell) and other documented reports indicate that these plants can be used effectively as an air purifier. Plants perform exceptionally well as ground covers in light shade and full sun. Stems root easily and the plant spreads, forming a tidy clump. The plant is often used in the landscaping of difficult sites. It may look a little stressed in very dry conditions, but bounces back when it receives some water. It is drought resistant. The plant prefers loam to sandy soil with good drainage and has relatively low water requirements. It is an ideal plant for containers and rockeries. This is the larval host plant for Bush Bronze, Garden Inspector, Mocker Blue, Eyed Pansy, the March Commodor and the African Leaf Commodor butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek plektron = a spur; anthos= a flower. These plants have conspicuously spurred flowers. Neochilus means new lipped which refers to the shape of the flower.

Gazania rigens

(Trailing Gazania)

One of those very adaptable, drought resistant plants which is probably why it is a popular garden plant in Europe. I’ve seen it growing on the sand dunes in the salt spray from the sea to manicured, fertilized, irrigated gardens. It is fast growing and flowers all year. It is the larval host plant for the Painted Lady butterflies. Impressive if mass planted or in a container with other succulents. Great for small gardens and the roots are used as a love charm. You never know when you might need to try that tip! The name is derived from the Greek gaze, gaza=riches, royal treasure; possibly named after Theodorus Gaza. He became professor in 1447 and he translarted Greek and latin for Pope Nicholas 1450-1455. He translated many works and is regarded as one of the greatest classical scholars and humanists of the Renaissance.

Portulacaria afra prostrata

(Elephants Foot)

Dwarf Elephants Foot is another very versatile plant that grows in full sun to deep shade. It produces lavender coloured flowers in summer. It is water wise and has arching, trailing branches with reddish brown stems. It would be ideal in a pot, to scamper over the edge, a hanging basket or even retaining walls. I saw it flourishing in the baking hot sun in the Kruger Park, in a retailing wall at one of the rest camps in very harsh conditions.

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