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Top 5 nectar Groundcovers for butterflies

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 .

Agapanthus praecox

(Common Agapanthus)

A well-loved, well used, dependable groundcover which is endemic to the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu Natal in 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 washed in the same brew . The medicinal uses are as a result of the anti-inflammatory properties of the leaves that are used are bandages. The Zulu use it to 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. Large clumps can be divided after flowering. When replanted the leaves should be cut back.

Geranium incanum

(Lace Leaf Geranium)

An evergreen groundcover that grows about 0.3 x 0.3 .The carpet geranium is an ideal garden plant. It spreads and forms a dense carpet approximately 300mm thick and flowers almost all year round with a peak during the summer months. It has finely divided leaves which give it a soft texture in the garden. The leaves are used to make a tea which is non addictive as it contains no caffeine or tannin. It is used to relieve certain complaints such as bladder infections, colic, dysentery, venereal diseases, back pain, low blood pressure,colic. diarrhea and conditions relating to menstruation. A stronger brew using a quarter of a cup of leaves in 1 cup of boiling water which is then left to steep for a half an hour, can be drunk twice a day for two weeks to expel intestinal worms. The same brew can be used to treat pets for worms by adding it to their food or drinking water. It is an ideal plant for containers. It attracts birds and as it is the larval host plant it attracts the Dickson's Geranium bronze, Common Geranium bronze, Water bronze, Eyed Pansy and the Striped Policeman butterflies. Margaret Roberts crystallized the flowers to place on cakes in the same way as one would do with violets! The edible flowers look pretty in a salad. The name is derived from the Greek geranos=a crane. The seed pod resembles a crane. Incanum means 'with silvery-grey flush on the leaves.'

Lobelia alata

This a very fast growing variable sprawling perennial groundcover with prostrate branches that root at the nodes and it grows about 20cm. Some of the branches become erect and may reach a height of 450 mm or even taller if growing up through other vegetation. The little flowers may be white or varying shades of blue or mauve. It flowers from November to June. The fruit is a capsule containing a number of small seeds. This is a fast growing species especially in warm, damp conditions. Bees have been seen visiting the flowers and are presumably the pollinators of this species. It is a very attractive,lovely looking groundcover for wetland areas and dry condition. Named for Masthias de L'Obel (1538-1616) a Flemish botanist, traveller and plant collector. He studied medicine and was physician to William, Prince of Orange. he left the Netherlands to escape the civil war and went to England to be King James's physician. He wrote describing 1500 plant species.

Arctotheca calendula

(Cape Dandylion)

A sprawling perennial which grows to 25cm tall. The daisy-type flowers are about 6cm across and are a striking yellow. They are mostly pollinated by butterflies. It flowers all year long and is one of the hardy groundcovers that can be used as a substitute for lawn and it also prevents soil erosion. It is able to grow in any garden soil, although it is advisable to add plenty of compost. The Cape Dandelion grows best in full sun and requires a moderate amount of water. It is hardy to moderate frost. The name comes from the Latin kalendae=calendar and ula = little referring to the fact that it flowers all year.

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