How to colour up your garden this winter Choose the species that flower best and look for some of the hybrids that are making a statement in many South African gardens.

Home and Garden

In Africa, early winter brings its own mix of flowering plants which create colour over the next four months.

We were blessed with exceptional rains in summer, with many plants flowering earlier than normal. 

We have some of the most magnificent indigenous plants to choose from that flower throughout the year. 

Most of the winter flowering aloes are pushing flower spikes which will provide flowers from now through August. Aloes are one of South Africa’s most iconic plants and are planted and enjoyed all over the world. 

Choose the species that flower best and look for some of the hybrids that are making a statement in many South African gardens.

Choosing the right plants is the first step to success. Ask for advice if you do not know what to choose, because if you get it wrong from the beginning it can take a long time to repair mistakes. I always keep my eye out for interesting landscapes that have been created by Mother Nature, because we come up with designs by seeing how these plants grow in nature which we then try to mimic.

Below is a list of plants you should put in your garden which will give you lots of interest and colour over May/June:


Plumbago auriculata (plumbago). Large shrub that produces light to dark blue flowers. Perfect for difficult areas you would like to hide. Attracts butterflies that feed on the plant and enjoy the nectar.

Tecoma capensis (Cape honeysuckle). Colour ranges from red and orange to yellow. It is quick growing, flowers best from autumn to spring and attracts nectar feeding birds. Prune back hard once a year to keep the shrub in shape and to the size of your garden.

Dombeya burgessiae (pink dombeya). Multi-stemmed shrub to 5m. Flowers deep or pale pink to white. Very fragrant at night. Drooping heads of flowers from April-August.

Plectranthus saccatus (stoep jacaranda). Soft, erect perennial up to 1.2m. Grows best in semi-shade. Flowers mauve to white from November–May.

Polygala myrtifolia (September bush). Flowers best from May–August. Large shrub 3m with mauve to purple pea-shaped flowers on terminal clusters. Bumblebees love the flowers.

Plectranthus zuluensis (Zulu spur-flower). Soft erect shrub up to 2m. Grows best in shade with pale blue to mauvish white flowers. Requires water to remain lush.

Leonotis leonurus (wild dagga). Robust shrub that grows in grasslands up to 2m. Flowers in clusters of 3–11, bright orange or creamy white. Attracts nectar birds, bees, and butterflies. Cut back after flowering.

Strelitzia reginae (bird of paradise flower or crane flower). Bright orange to yellow flowers that resemble a bird. Flowers best from April–July. Beautiful specimen plant.

Other flowering shrubs: Euryops pectinatus (woolly resin bush); polygala virgata (bumblebee); hibiscus pedunculatus (forest pink hibiscus); dissotis canescens (pink wild tibouchina).

Ground covers

Crassula multicava (fairy crassula). Succulent ground cover that produces red flowers in May–June. Easily grown from tip cuttings. Requires very little attention once planted. Will cover bare areas very quickly.

Plectranthus ciliatus (speckled spur flower). Attractive succulent leaves that are maroon, purple beneath. Flower white with purple dots. Grows best in deep shade, filling gaps very quickly.

Bulbine natalensis (broad-leaved bulbine). Succulent leaves that produce sprays of yellow flowers. Does best in semi-shade. Used as a feature ground cover in a garden design. Leaves will dry out and burn in full sun.

Aloe chabaudii (Chabaud’s aloe). Multi-stemmed aloe that forms a lovely large ground cover. Planted in mass, it creates a beautiful show in winter with the flower spike standing high above the leaves.

Kniphofia praecox (red-hot poker). Winter always showcases one of South Africa’s iconic plants. Planted in mass or in large clumps, it leaves a lasting memory.

Becium obovatum (cat’s whiskers). Easy to grow from cuttings or plugs, this ground cover will grow quickly and fill retaining walls and loffelstein blocks. Flowers are white to pale mauve.

Chlorophytum bowkeri (hen and chicken). Produces flower spike with white flowers that stand high above the leaves. Grows well in deep shade.

Cotyledon orbiculata (pig’s ears). Succulent grows in shade and full sun to about 1m in height. Flowers are orange to pinkish red with stems that stand up above the leaves and the flowers hanging down. Plant in mass.

Things to do this season

As we head into the dry season, it’s time to preserve as much water as possible. Mulching flower beds reduces water loss from the soil and keeps root systems warm. It also prevents weeds from growing.

Reduce your lawn cuts to every two weeks. This protects the lawn from damage plus allows the grass to grow and improve the root system of the grass.

Do not spray caterpillars. This is the season for butterflies to lay eggs on many indigenous shrubs, ground covers and trees. One tree that is full of caterpillars is the African dog rose (xylotheca kraussiana), which attracts the red acraea butterfly. –

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