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A list of drought tolerant or xerophytic plants for xeriscaping in South Africa

Xeriscaping – South Africa Indigenous Plants

Landscaping with plants that can tolerate drought conditions or do not require additional watering is called xeriscaping. Typically one will choose xerophytes for this. Xerophytes are plants that have adapted to survive with little water. The list of plants below is xerophytes that are indigenous to South Africa. There are of course many more to choose from especially in the Aloe species.

Most plants will be available from any nursery and a few will only be available from specialist indigenous nurseries. Some of the plants in this list is better suited for the Western Cape region as suppose to Gauteng.

With the exception of Aloe species, most plants will require that you water them every week for the first season after planting them. This will allow the plant to establish themselves and develop strong roots so that they can survive with only seasonal rains to support them. When digging the hole for planting, mix in to the soil a good organic fertiliser to give them a boost and also to help them recover from the transplanting shock. Mulching is well recommended. Not only will it suppress weeds but also help the soil retain its precious moisture for longer.  

Some of the Aloe species. Companion plant with silver or gray foliage plants for an interesting effect. 

Aloe ferox. Aloe barberiae – Aloe barberiae is not suited for small gardens as their stems become very large and can damage boundry walls. Aloe africana. Aloe speciosa is single or multi stemmed always with the rosette tilted to where it receives the most sunlight, Aloe striata or Coral Aloe, is a stemless aloe with no spines on the leaves. Aloe aristata. Aloe marlothii. Aloe chabaudii. Aloe ellenbeckii. Aloe dorotheae. Aloe arborescens or Krantz Aloe is a multistemmed shrub that reaches 3m and is often planted as a living fence.

Aloe chabaudiiAloe dorotheaeAloe ellenbeckii
Albuca nelsoniiEuphorbia tirucalliElegia tectorum

Albuca nelsonii, can be planted in full sun, partial shade or full shade. Euphorbia tirucalli, plant in full sun. Elegia tectorum, Dekriet plant in full sun. Arctotis stoechadifolia, Silver Arctotis is a evergreen perennial groundcover that is suited for coastal gardens. It will attract butterflies and other insects. Barleria obtuse, Bush violet will tolerate drought conditions and is suited for summer rainfall regions. Artemesia afra, is a pioneer plant and should be pruned back in winter for new foliage growth in summer. It is used medicinally and will attract bees and other insects. It does great as a filler plant. Companion plant with Leonotus leonurus. It is fragrant and untidy but does respond well to pruning. 

Arctotis stoechadifoliaBarleria obtusaArtemesia afra
Aptenia cordifoliaDymondia margaretaeDrosanthemum micans

Aptenia cordifolia, is a succulent creeping ground cover. Dymondia margaretae, is evergreen, fast growing, frost resistant creeping groundcover with compact form and attracts insects. Drosanthemum micans, Robertson vygie is succulent perennial shrub. Leonotis leonurus, Lions Ear is a shrub that can reach two to three meters. Kalanchoe thyrsiflora or Geelplakkie as it is called in Afrikaans, reaches 60cm and can take 3 to 4 years before flowering. Plectranthus neochilus, this plant deters snakes. If left unchecked it can become invasive in the garden.

Leonotis leonurusKalanchoe thyrsifloraPlectranthus neochilus

Cotyledon orbiculata, Pigs ear can grow to 1.3m in height. Bulbine frutescens. Bulbine abyssinica. 

Tulbaghia violacea, Wild garlic repels snakes and moles. Dietes bicolour. Strelitzia juncea, can survive with little water but requires well composted and well draining soil. S. juncea will only flower after 3 or 4 year and needs full sun. 

Hypoxis hemerocallidea, Star flower is a deciduous ground cover that is fire-tolerant and grows from a rhizome. 

Carpobrotus edulis, has edible fruit that is a low growing succulent groundcover. 

Chrysanthemoides monilifera, Bushtick Berry is evergreen, wind, sand and salt spray tolerant and will attract birds and insects. Companion plant with Metalasia muricata and Aloe arborescens.

Carissa macrocarpa, planted as a ornamental shrub it can be shaped in to a hedge and the fruit is edible and will attract birds and insects. It is frost tender and if left without a pruning they will grow in to a small tree reaching 4m. 

Crassula capitellaSutherlandia frutescensColeonema pulchellum
Plumbago auricuataTecoma capensisErica glandulosa

Euphorbia ingens. Plumbago auriculata, is a scrambling shrub that attracts butterflies and other insects. Companion plant with Tecoma capensis. Tecoma capensis, Cape Honeysuckle is a scrambling shrub that attracts nectar feeding birds and butterflies. Sutherlandia frutescens, Cancer bush / Balloon pea is a small shrub that attracts sunbirds. 

Salvia chamelaeagnea, Rough Blue Sage or Bloublomsalie in Afrikaans is a dens shrub reaching 2 meters. 

Erica glandulosa subsp. glandulosa, Erica’s are very hardy and attractive plants and requires watering until established. Coleonema pulchellum, Confetti bush is a dense evergreen shrub that is also scented. Anisodontea julii, African mallow is a tall shrub reaching 2 meters. Crassula ovate, Jade plant makes for good container specimens. The Jade plant is an evergreen succulent. Portucaria afra, Porkbush is an evergreen succulent shrub with edible leaves high in Vit C. 

Pelargonium peltatum, Ivy-leaved pelargonium is a climbing succulent perennial. Lampranthus aureus, Vygie is a small succulent shrub. Delosperma carolinense, Klipvygie is an evergreen ground cover succulent.  More than 300mm of rain is required for this species to serive. Crassula muscosa, Princess Pine is a small evergreen succulent. 

Gazania rigens, Trailing Gazania is a creeping perennial. Polygala fruticosa, The Butterfly Bush will tolerate short periods of drought. Suitable for a water wise garden. Felicia aethiopica, Wild aster is a straggling shrub reaching  1 meter. Wild aster does well in a water wise garden. Frequent dead heading and pruning is required. 

Felicia aethiopicaDelosperma carolinensePelargonium peltatum
Polygala fruticosaLampranthus aureusGazania rigens

Watsonia borbonica, Pink watsonia is a deciduous perennial growing during autum, winter and spring. The bulbs need to stay dry during summer months when they are dormant. 

Metalasia muricata, White Bristle Bush is a fragrant shrub that will tolerate drought conditions. It orinates from coastal regions. Leucadendron salignum, is fynbos specie from the Western Cape region. 

Euryops pectinatus, is an evergreen shrub that requires full sun in good draining soil. Can be used for hedge planting and will attract butterflies and other insects. 

Asparagus densiflorus mazeppa, Low growing and mat forming this is an excellent choice shady spot or for containers.

Crassula capitella, Camphire plant can be planted in light shade or full sun. Attracts butterflies and other insects. An ideal container plant or around edges, as filler plant or around borders. Requires water to establish itself the first growing season and is frost tender.

Crassula multicava, evergreen, succulent groundcover that will grow in full sun, semi shade or under trees. It is an evergreen groundcover that grows to 30cm and can be pruned.

Water wise gardening is deferent to xeriscaping. Below is a list of plants that are water wise, in other words they require additional water in long periods of dry hot weather. Water early in the morning and remember mulching will help soil keeps its moisture for longer. 

Freylinia tropica, suitable for hedge planting. Attracts butterflies and other insects. Additional water required once a month during the dry season and after hot dry conditions. Euryops virgineus, The River Resin Bush is suited for borders or hedges. It requires moderate watering until established. After the plant is established it will tolerate short periods of drought. Barleria repens, Small Bush Violet is a creeping or spreading evergreen shrub that requires pruning after flowering. Water until established. Suitable for a water wise garden. Aloe tenuior, a sprawling shrub that reaches 3m. They can survive drought conditions but do their best when watered. Agapanthus inapertus, drought tolerance is moderate.

Watsonia borbonicaStrelitzia junceaMetalasia muricata
Euryops virgineusEuryops pectinatusSalvia chamelaeagnea

More resources

Tips to a more water wise garden.

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  1. Pingback: Tips To A More Water Wise Garden. | Hecker Nursery

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