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Top 5 Indigenous Plants that are Drought Resistant

Aloe arborescens

(Krantz Aloe)

This evergreen shrub is frost resistant and fast growing. It grows happily in the sun, shade or semi-shade. The lovely orange flowers open in winter and they attract birds and butterflies. This aloe makes a good thorny barrier and will thrive in a container. It is a wonderful medicinal plant and I’ve used the leaf sap successfully for an allergic reaction to Ornithogallum leaf sap. I cut the leaves in half, lengthwise and made them into bandages and they certainly did the trick. They are also used to treat Xray burns, burns and sunburn. Leaf decoctions are used during childbirth. It is also used by the Zulu as a sprinkling charm to protect against storms. The leaf sap is used to promote wound healing as it is anti-bacterial, anti-ulcer and anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and hypoglycaemic. The are numerous cancer cures using this leaf sap. Decoctions of the leaves are used in childbirth and to treat sick calves. In the Transkei it is used for stomach ache and given to prevent chickens from getting sick. One of our staff puts slices of the leaves in the birdbaths that our chickens drink from and her granny taught her that when she was little. This is the Aloe that was used in the Orient to treat irradiation burn victims of Hiroshima. The word Aloe comes from the Greek and refers to the bitter leaf gel.

Bulbine frutescens

(Stalked Bulbine)

These occur naturally in the Cape, the Free State and KwaZulu Natal. This hardy, evergreen groundcover is dependable as it is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun. There are both orange or yellow flowering forms and they flower all year. Plant with white Osteospermum for a lovely show. The flowers attract birds and butterflies. It is a medicinal plant as the leaf gel has excellent healing, antiseptic properties and is used for relieving stings, burns, rashes, liver spots, blisters, itchy spots, fever blisters, cracked lips, cold sores, cracked finger nails, mouth ulcers, and cold sores. An infusion of a few leaves in a cup of boiling water , is left to stand and then strained and drunk for coughs, colds and arthritis. It is used magically as an emetic if the patient is going mad after being bewitched. The leaves are eaten as a relish. It will be ideal for small gardens and the flowers are long lasting in a vase. The name comes from the Latin for an onion or a bulb which is ironical as they are not bulbs. Frutescens means 'growing in a shrubby fashion'. Propagate from seed or division.

Dietes bicolor

(Yellow Wild Iris)

This evergreen groundcover is frost resistant, water wise and will happily grow in the sun. The yellow flowers open in spring and attract birds - insect eaters as well as butterflies. It is a clump-forming, graceful plant which prefers a well-watered position. It is ideal for small gardens. The name is derived from the Greek 'dis'=two and 'etes'=an associate referring to the flower spike that lasts 2 years. An associate as the flowers are similar to Morea and Iris families.

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.

Tecoma capensis

(Cape Honeysuckle)

Fast growing, evergreen shrub that copes well with drought conditions and wind. It can grow to 2m and responds well to pruning. There are many colours available now from yellow, orange, salmon, pink and red and they flower from spring through summer. It also attracts the sunbirds, bees, butterflies like the Zebra Blue, insect eating birds and is used for nesting. I’ve seen it pruned into a formal hedge. You may need to cut it back slightly in spring if the frost has caught the tips during the winter. It also has medicinal uses and the bark infusions are used for fever, pain, insomnia, chest problems, dysentery, bleeding gums and pneumonia . Powdered bark is rubbed around the teeth to heal bleeding gums. The nursing mothers wear a necklace of pieces of stem. The leaves are browsed by stock as well as kudu, nyala, bushbuck, klipspringer and duiker. It is ideal for coastal gardens. Cattle and sheep graze the plant and the flowers and seed pods are used for pot pourri. Eve Palmer said in A Gardener's Year "...it doesn't care a button for heat, cold or drought, and is beautiful and fast". The name is derived from the Mexican term fro plants with tubular flowers.

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