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Top 5 indigenous groundcovers that are waterwise and drought resistant

We all need to be aware that water is a very valuable resource. By planting carefully, one should still be able to have a show of colour while using minimal water.

Clivia miniata

(Bush Lily)

An evergreen groundcover which is water wise and grows in shade or semi-shade. The orange or yellow flowers occur in spring and are a favourite garden subject. The flowers attract birds and are long lasting in the vase. They do well in containers and are suitable for a shady corner in a townhouse garden. The roots are used medicinally for snake bite, fevers, childbirth, pregnancy and as a charm against evil. It is considered a good indicator of wealth, health and rains if one is growing near the homestead. They are an international collector’s item as they are hybridized to produce variegated leaves and a host of colours. The seed takes almost a year to ripen on the plant. A yellow Clivia seed is yellow when ripe, whereas the orange turn almost red. Clean the fleshy covering from the seed and this is said to strengthen ones fingernails. Rub the seeds with bleach to prevent disease and rot. Place the seed on the surface of a seed tray and cover with leaf litter. Don't over water as they they may rot otherwise they are easy to germinate. It was named for Lady Charlotte Florentina Clive in 1828. William Burchell first discovered them in the Eastern Cape in 1820. Miniata means the colour of red lead.

Agapanthus praecox

(Common Agapanthus)

A well-loved, well used, dependable groundcover which is endemic to South Africa. It is frost hardy, drought resistant and looks spectacular when mass planted. It was first described in 1679 in Europe and first planted there in 1692 where it is now a popular hothouse plant. There the common name is "African Hyacinth". Linnaeus called it an "African Lily". The name is derived from the Greek Agape so this is the love flower. Praecox means 'early' which refers to it's early flowering. Pregnant women wear pieces of the root made into necklace to ensure a healthy baby and ensure fertility. They also take a decoction of the root to ensure an easy birth and the newborn is wahed in the same brew . The medicinal uses are as a result of the anti-inflammatory properties of the leaves that are uses are bandages. The Zulu use it ti treat heart diseases, paralysis and flu. They also wrap the leaves around their tired feet. It is also magical as it is used as a sprinkling charm against lightening. It’s a most useful plant which is undemanding and will grow in sun or shade and is water wise. It is also useful to stabilize a bank. The flowers are long lasting in a vase and they dry well for pot-pourri as they retain their colour.

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.

Tulbaghia violacea

(Wild Garlic)

This is a popular evergreen groundcover which is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun. This is a perfect choice for small gardens. The mauve flowers open in summer and attract birds and butterflies. It is traditionally used as a snake repellent and there are many traditional medicinal uses. It is antibacterial, antifungal and is used to treat TB and intestinal worms. An infusion of the tuber is used as a love charm and the leaves are rubbed onto the forehead to treat a sinus headache. It is also magical as it is planted after the birth of a child to protect from evil. The leaves are delicious chopped into a salad or omelet and the flowers are also edible and look lovely in a salad. The rhizome can be added to stews and soup. The early colonists like Jan van Riebeeck ate both the leaves and the rhizomes, in fact he called it a leek. It is grown abroad and is known as "Society Garlic".There is a recipe for Wild Garlic Mashed Potato which is delicious with fish. Fry onions and chopped wild garlic leaves and add this to mashed potato. This family was named by Linnaeus after Ryk Tulbach who was Governor in the Cape from 1751-1771. He was born in Holland and worked for the Dutch East India Company. He moved to the Cape when he was 16 and started work. He collected bulbs, birds and plants. The town of Tulbagh is named after him.

Asystasia gangetica

(Creeping Foxglove)

This reliable, evergreen groundcover is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun, shade or semi-shade. It has white flowers in summer which attract birds and butterflies. It is the larval host plant for the Clouded Mother-of-Pearl butterflies as well the Blue Pansy, Brown Pansy, Yellow Pansy and the Common Diadem. The Mother of Pearl is a beautiful green to mauve colour and is spectacular in flight but when settled on a plant it disappears as it looks like a leaf. It is suitable for containers, hanging baskets and small gardens. It spreads rapidly and is good for mass planting. The leaves are used for spinach and I’ve used the flowers in a vase as they are long lasting .

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