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Top 5 indigenous shrubs for an alkaline soil

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

Barleria obtusa

(Bush Violet)

This evergreen shrub is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun, shade or semi-shade. The pale mauve trumpet shaped flowers occur in summer and autumn. They attract birds, the insect eaters as well as butterflies as it is the larval host plant for the Yellow, Brown and Blue Pansy butterfly. It is great for containers and it’s a low maintenance plant, other than an annual pruning at the end of winter. It is ideal for small gardens, but needs to be kept as a bush as I’ve seen ours scampering up the trees when left to their own devises!

Buddleja salvifolia

(Sagewood)

This small, deciduous tree is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The pink/mauve flowers open in the summer and they attract birds, bees and many butterfly species. It is useful for hedging/screening or containers. It is said to have aggressive roots, but I have not observed that. It is used to stabilize embankments around dams, streams and rivers. It is very useful as a nurse plant to protect other trees in very cold areas, so one would plant 2 trees in the same, large hole. Once the frost tender one has grown, the Buddleja salvifolia can be removed. It is magical and medicinal and the roots are poisonous and are used in withcraft but the flowers are used as a springtime tonic. This tree is an indicator of underground water or streams. It is useful on a game farm where it is browsed. It is used medicinally as the roots are used to treat coughs and colds and eye infections and colic are treated with a leaf infusion, with only 4 leaves in a cup of hot water. A root decoction is used for stomach aches and upsets, colic diarrhea and flatulence. Bark is steeped in hot water over night and is used to treat sores and scratches as well as an eye lotion. The fresh or dried leaves are used to make tea, to be enjoyed black with honey. Established trees are easily transplanted. Flowers can be dried for pot pourri. Named for Adam Buddle 1660-1715 an English amateur botanist, vicar and plant collector. He created Britain's first herbarium.

Elegia tectorum (Chondropetalum tectorum)

(Cape Thatching Reed)

This evergreen shrub is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. It gets a bit “leggie” if there is not enough sun. The dark brown flowers occur in summer. It is useful for wetlands and attractive if planted in a container. It is used for making brooms and for thatching roofs. It is ideal for small gardens but do make sure that you plant it with as little root disturbance as possible. I’ve seen it planted in front of a garden wall and the shadows it casts are quite enchanting.

Euryops pectinatus

(Golden Daisy Bush)

This is an evergreen shrub of 1m x 1m which is very fast growing and free flowering. Its needs to be planted in the sun in well drained soil with plenty of compost. It is frost resistant and drought resistant. It is useful to line pathways and driveways or as a temporary filler until slower growing shrubs have established. It’s lovely flowers attract bees and butterflies. It is a useful, low-maintenance addition to a wildlife garden.

Leonotis leonurus

(Wild Dagga)

Another drought hardy, evergreen shrub that is very dependable. It is common and widespread throughout South Africa and grows amongst rocks in our grasslands. It is fast growing and there are yellow, orange or white flowering forms. The flowers are good for the vase but you do want to leave many on the bushes as they attract the sunbirds and the insect eaters. They are also good for a butterfly garden as they are the larval host for the Bush Bronze butterfly. They flower in autumn and will need cutting back at the end of winter. A must for a bird garden as once you get to recognize the sunbirds chirping, you will be very pleased that you are making them happy. It has been admired since 1652 and was growing in the Chelsea Physic Garden in London in 1712. It is called Wild Dagga as the Khoi smoked the dried leaves and it was said to be narcotic. It is considered to be a miracle plant as it is used medicinally to reduce blood pressure, for arthritis, sores that will not heal, athletes foot and nits. The leaves are used for headaches, coughs, colds, convulsions, weak joints, cataracts, hemorrhoids, a diuretic and for obesity. The roots are used for snake bite and to keep snakes away. The flowers are used for asthma, haemorrhoids, headaches, chest problems, bronchitis, tapeworm, TB, jaundice, skin diseases, muscular cramps, bee and scorpion stings. A wealth of uses. It is now planted in Australia. The name is derived from the Greek leon = lion; ous, otis= ear; alluding to the resemblance of the corolla to a lion's ear.

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