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Top 5 plants for a vertical garden in the shade

hen constructing a vertical garden one needs to use a variety of leaf colours as well as leaf shapes. Contrast is important and adds interest. 

Chlorophytum comosum vittatum

(Variegated Hen And Chickens)

The variegated, grass-like, leaves brighten up a shady area. These plants will survive some drought, but only really look attractive if watered regularly. They have fleshy, tuberous roots about 5 to 10 cm long. When in flower, the plant produces long, thin stems which carry white flowers, as well as plantlets at the tip of the flower stem. It flowers all year round. A single plant with a few of these stems will soon become a mother plant surrounded by a flock of "babies" - hence the name 'hen and chickens'. Frost will kill the leaves, but mild frost will not damage the roots. It an ideal plant for containers and hanging baskets. It is also a medicinal/ magical plant as the Plant is placed in the room of an expectant mother as protection and the roots are soaked in water which is then taken daily to ensure the birth of a healthy child. This water is also given to the new born child as a purgative. The name is derived from the Greek 'chloros' meaning yellow green and 'phyton' meaning plant, referring to the green leaves and greenish flowers. Comosum means tufted.

Crassula expansa

(Fragile Crassula)

This is a sturdy, branched, compact, rounded, evergreen succulent shrub growing from 1 - 3 m tall. It has glossy, dark to grey-green oval leaves on short, stubby branches and a robust stem or trunk. The leaves are often edged with red, more so if the plant is in full sun. The flowers are pink and the flowering time varies according to the climate. The stems soon become gnarled and stout, suggesting great age. It is grown all over the world, most often as a pot plant. It is magical and believed to bring financial good luck. The khoi eat the roots. It attracts butterflies. Some of our landscapers call it 'sprinkle spread' as it's ideal in areas where nothing else will grow. Give your plant a 'haircut' and sprinkle the bits. it will rapidly spread and thrive! 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.

Plectranthus aliciae (was P.madagascariensis)

(Variegated Plectranthus)

Evergreen groundcover with plain green or green-and-white variegated foliage and spikes of small whitish flowers in summer. It is a very fast growing groundcover that grows about 15cm x 45cm and it spreads by means of runners which root as they touch the ground. It thrives when planted in semi-shade and it requires moderate water and is considered drought resistant. Plant this lovely groundcover under large trees to make an effective and attractive groundcover. It is also an ideal plant for indoors and it makes a lovely hanging basket for a patio. Root decoctions are used as a traditional medicine for cold and flu and the leaves are crushed and used as a deodorant and to treat scabies. This is the larval host plant for Bush Bronze, Mocker Blue, Eyed Pansy, Garden Inspectorthe 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.

Stachys aethiopica

(Wild Sage)

This is an evergreen groundcover. It has opposite, ovate, toothed leaves with glandular hairs. Whorls of mauve, white or pink flowers are produced in August and September and some suggest all year round except in midwinter. The scent exuded by this plant is similar to cat urine. The plant straggles in Fynbos, grassland, scrub or forest to a height of 50 cm along the southern and eastern coasts of South Africa and into tropical Africa. It is used for the treatment of internal hemorrhoids, influenza, gynecological problems and liver disorders. It also attract birds, bees and butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek for spike, originally an ear of wheat, and it refers to the flower spike.

Plectranthus ciliatus

(Speckled Spurflower)

An evergreen groundcover which is drought resistant and fast growing in the shade or semi-shade. It has very pretty white flowers with purplish dots which open in late summer. They attract birds. It is useful for containers and ideal for small gardens. It is used to wash sheepskin garments. The roots are used medicinally as they are anti-bacterial and is considered a protection plant. This is the larval host plant for Bush Bronze, Mocker Blue, Eyed Pansy, Garden Inspector, 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.

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