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Pentas lanceolata

(Egyptian Starcluster)

Pentas lanceolata is an excellent small shrub for a colourful garden. It grows to around 1m in height, with summer and autumn flowers like neat round bouquets of tiny stars, in colours of red, white, lavender, purple, cerise and various shades of pink. It is one of the best butterflies attracting plants. It blooms all summer long, even during the hottest weather. It seems happiest in semi shade. Lanceolata refers to the lance shaped leaves.

Plectranthus ecklonii

(Large Spurflower Bush)

Evergreen shrub which is drought resistant and fast growing. It thrives in the shade or semi-shade. There are white, mauve or pink flowering plants that produce masses of flowers in autumn. They attract birds, the insect eaters. This is the larval host plant for Bush Bronze, Mocker Blue, Eyed Pansy, the March Commodor and the African Leaf Commodor butterflies. It’s great for containers or mass planted at the back of a bed. It is used in traditional medicine. It is ideal for a townhouse garden. The name is derived from the Greek plektron = a spur; anthos= a flower. These plants have conspicuously spurred flowers.

Plectranthus fruticosus

(Forest Spurflower)

An evergreen shrub that grows about 1m x 1m and is very fast growing with large softly textured heart shaped leaves. It produces masses of attractive pyramidal spikes of pink or bluish-mauve flowers in summer. Cut back after flowering to encourage new growth. It is drought resistant and does well in deep or dappled shade. Rub the stems on a windowsill to repel flies. This is the larval host plant for Bush Bronze, Mocker Blue, Eyed Pansy, 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.

Plectranthus fruticosus-james

(Pink Fly Bush)

This is a particularly attractive form of Plectranthus fruticosus, a shade-loving species with flowers mostly in shades of mauve but also in blue and pink. Plectranthus fruticosus 'James' has smaller, more succulent leaves and pink flowers. It is a robust, fast-growing, upright, drought resistant shrub that will reach a height of up to 2m. The leaves are very decorative, rich green in colour, softly hairy to the touch with margins that are attractively toothed and crinkled. Each little flower is pale pink speckled with purple. To add to the colour, the stem of the inflorescence is also stained purple. Flowering season begins in late summer and peaks in autumn. It is an ideal plant for containers and should cut back after flowering. It attracts birds.This is the larval host plant for Bush Bronze, Mocker Blue, Eyed Pansy, 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.

Plectranthus mona lavender

This evergreen, fast growing shrub grows to 0.75 m in height. It has a lovely, rounded shape with dark glossy green leaves with purple undersides. The flowers are sprays of lavender flowers dashed with purple markings. It flowers very unpredictably, but does well in autumn and flowering can be extended right into early summer with regular dead heading. It does very well in either shaded or partly sunny positions. When it receives sun it tends to stay smaller and more compact and the leaves exhibit a much more intense colouring. It doesn't tolerate very cold conditions, although it does survive light frosts. If you live in an area prone to winter frosts then plant it in spring and it will flower in the autumn before the winter frosts take their toll.It attracts birds. This is the larval host plant for Bush Bronze, Mocker Blue, Eyed Pansy, 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.

Plectranthus zuluensis

(Zulu Spurflower)

An evergreen groundcover that grows to about 1,5m x 1,5m. It grows very fast and produce spikes of pale blue-mauve flowers throughout the year. This soft wooded shrub is suitable for containers and shady spots in the garden. It prefers very light well drained soil that contains plenty of compost. Water well in summer while it is actively growing and less in winter. This is the larval host plant for Bush Bronze, Mocker Blue, Eyed Pansy, the March Commodor and the African Leaf Commodor butterflies.

Plumbago auriculata

(Cape Leadwort)

An old faithful favourite amongst gardeners and landscapers. It is dependable, evergreen, drought hardy and fast growing. Plant it in the sun or semi shade and look out for the blue flowers in summer. These will attract butterflies and birds, which also use the bush as nesting sites. The flowers are edible and look pretty in a fruit salad or floating in a cooldrink. It responds well to pruning and if left to its own devices, it will scamper up to the tree tops. The roots and the leaves are used medicinally for headaches and the root bark is used as a bathing lotion to heal matrimonial discord. It is also magical and is said to heal fractures, and confuse enemies. Bundles of twigs are tied up into the roof rafters to ward off evil and prevent lightning. Root infusions dispel bad dreams and malaria and powdered root is put on warts and used as a snuff for headaches and fractures. A fire is made from the plant and the cattle and sheep are led through the smoke as this keeps them together and protects and defends them. This is the larval host plant to the Common Blue and the Short-toothed Blue butterflies. The name is derived from the Latin plumbum=lead; ago=resemblance, connection. The roots contain a fatty, lead coloured dye.

Plumbago auriculata alba

(Plumbago)

This medium size evergreen shrub has a tendency to scramble. It has small delicate, pale green leaves and produces masses of white phlox-like flowers throughout summer. This fast growing, fairly drought resistant shrub may also be planted against a fence to form a screen or in an informal border where it can be kept neatly pruned. This attractive plant does particularly well in frost free areas but if damaged by frost it will recover rapidly in spring. The roots are used as traditional remedies to relieve headaches, treat fractures, wounds and remove warts. It is also said to confuse enemies, ward off evil and prevent lightning.It is an ideal plant for containers. Butterflies and sunbirds are constant visitors.

Psychotria capensis

(Black Birdberry)

This is an evergreen shrub or small tree, 3-8 m, with a slender stem, horizontal branches and pale brown bark. The leaves are shiny, light to dark green above and paler below which are smooth and leathery. They are fairly large, 70-150 x 15-60 mm and often drooping. This very decorative shrub is a must for all frost-free gardens. It is not suitable for a Highveld garden.Not only is it a year-round attraction, either in fruit or flower and it is also easy to grow. Growing equally well in sun or shade, it is perfect for those difficult, summer-shade winter-sun spots under large trees. Plant in groups or repeat plant throughout the bed. Given a thick layer of mulch it will grow in any soil and only requires additional watering in summer and in dry conditions. It is also successfully grown in containers on balconies and patios. Golden yellow flowers are borne in flattish, terminal branched heads up to 80 mm in diameter from spring to midsummer (August to January). They are visited by bees and butterflies. The flowers are followed in late summer to winter (January to July) by large, flat clusters of pea-sized, shiny yellow fruits ripening to red or black. Birds such as the bulbuls, starlings, robins, mousebirds, white-eyes and barbets find the berries irresistible. It is used medicinally as a root infusion is given for gastric complaints. The wood is hard and fine grained. The name is derived from the Greek psychotria = vilifying, referring to the healing properties of this plant.

Strelitzia juncea

A very striking plant that makes a great feature plant. It has long cylindrical leaves that end in a sharp point and they grow to about 1 to 2 meters tall. Their flowers are the same as the Strelitzia reginea and they open in spring and summer. They are very slow growing and take about 10 years to flower. Plant in the sun to get better flowering. Their growth rate can be increased with fertilizing in spring and winter. They occur naturally in the Eastern Cape so they are drought resistant and will cope with light frost. The sunbirds and sugarbirds are attracted to the nectar and the seeds are eaten by birds, mice and squirrels. Their status is listed as vulnerable because of unscrupulous collectors, alien invader encroachment and quarries. They are long lasting in a vase. Named for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818) who married King George 111 of England in 1761 after being selected unseen from a list of German princesses. The marriage was a great success and King George was devoted to her. She cared for him during his long slide into insanity though terrified by his occasional outbursts of violence. She was an amateur botanist who helped expand Kew Gardens. She died in 1818 and was buried in St George's Chapel in Windsor. Juncea means 'like a reed or a rush'.

Strelitzia reginae

(Crane Flower)

This evergreen shrub is water wise and is Kwazulu Natal's floral emblem. It will thrive in the sun or semi-shade. The striking orange and blue flowers open on and off all year. They attract birds - insect and nectar eaters as well as butterflies. It is a statement plant suitable for containers. It is ideal for small gardens and is long lasting in a vase. This plant is one of South Africa's most successful exports! It was sent to the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew in 1733 and was named by Sir Joseph Banks. It was named in honour of Queen Charlotte, the wife of George 111. George decided to send a gift to Catherine the Great of Russia. He sent 300 Strelitzia which weighed 3 tons by cargo ship, escorted by a frigate, to St Petersberg. They were then loaded into 15 coaches to be driven to their new home at Pavlovsk. When I lived in San Francisco I noticed that it was planted everywhere in parks, pavements and gardens. One would have thought that it was their national flower. This plant, like so many of our South African plants is used medicinally as decoctions from the flower is used as an enema for inflamed glands fro VD. Named for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818) who married King George 111 of England in 1761 after being selected unseen from a list of German princesses. The marriage was a great success and King George was devoted to her. She cared for him during his long slide into insanity though terrified by his occasional outbursts of violence. She was an amateur botanist who helped expand Kew Gardens. She died in 1818 and was buried in St George's Chapel in Windsor.

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.

Thunbergia alata

(Black-Eyed Susan)

Cheerful, evergreen shrub which is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The orange flowers occur all year and they attract birds - insect eaters. It is useful for containers and is ideal for small gardens where is can be grown on a trellis to act as a screen. I’ve used it floating in a globlet as a table arrangement. This is the larval host plant for the Eyed Pansy butterfly. It is popular throughout the world. Named for Carl Pehr Thunberg (1743-1828) a Swedish botanist, physician, Professor of botany and medicine. He visited the Cape to study Dutch and the flora of the Cape (1772-1775) . He collected 3100 specimens in the Cape.and published Flora Capensis. He then went to Japan, Jarva and Sri Lanka for 15 months. He wrote about his travels and Flora Japonica. He presented his herbarium of 23,510 specimens and 25,000 insects to the University. He was made a knight of the Royal Order and received many honours.

Watsonia pillansii

(Watsonia)

This is an evergreen Watsonia which flowers with Orange red flowers from late summer into autumn. They stand 50 cm tall and attract butterflies and birds. They prefer full sun and are water wise. They are very pretty if mass planted or even if one plants clumps of them in a sunny spot. Named for William Watson (1715-1787) and English physician, apothecary, botanist and naturalist and Neville Stuart Pillans ( 1808-1904)

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