Water wise Winners!

With more and more gardeners wanting to be more sustainable these days (as water is getting more scarce, a greater need for wildlife in your own outdoor space, and water bills rising...just to name a few), it has become the norm to think twice before planting anything in the garden.

There's a definite shift towards the inclusion of more drought tolerant indigenous plants in our gardens these days, as well as other water wise plants - such as those from the Mediterranean regions and those from the succulent and cacti category.

Gardeners realize that by incorporating plants that are better adapted to cope with warmer and drier conditions (as the climate continues to change), we can do our bit to be more environmentally sustainable.

Cape Garden recommends:

.....15 Water Wise Winners!

Vachellia (Acacia) xanthophloea (Fever tree / Koorsboom) The fever tree is an attractive, semi-deciduous tree approximately 15 to 25 meters tall and has an open, rounded to spreading or flattish crown which is sparsely foliated. Indigenous to SA. The characteristic, almost luminous, lime green to greenish-yellow bark is smooth and slightly flaking. The long straight white thorns are arranged in pairs and although they are very significant on young trees they often become barely noticeable on mature specimens. This tree is popular amongst birds for nest building as the thorns add extra protection against predators. Insects such as bees are attracted by the yellow colour and sweet scent of the flowers and perform a pollination role. The fever tree is an exceptionally attractive tree and is often used to decorate gardens and urban landscapes. Its contrasting bark, feathery foliage, and architectural attributes make it an eye-catcher and thus suitable as a focal point in a landscape. A fast growth rate of approximately 1.5 m per year under ideal conditions make this plant a good candidate for gardeners and landscapers who want quick results. The dappled shade underneath the canopy is ideal for smaller plants which require protection from the full brunt of the suns rays but still require sufficient light. Roots: Due to its mature dimensions it is recommended not to plant it close to buildings. Can be controlled (pruned) to keep to a certain size and height (especially recommended when planted relatively close to buildings, paving etc.). *info via http://pza.sanbi.org/

*photo shared from houseandleisure.co.za

Echeveria 'Perle von Nurnberg'

Echeveria are some of the most colourful and spectacular succulent plants.

They have thick succulent leaves in a rosette form and are originally from Mexico and Central America.

'Perle von Nurnberg’ is a beautiful evergreen gray succulent that turns pink and purple under full sun.

It has pink flowers with yellow interiors.

Looks amazing in containers or in mass plantings!

*Photo: Cape Garden

Euryops pectinatus (grey leaf)

(golden daisy bush / wolharpuisbos)

This colourful, easy to grow shrub is indigenous to SA and grows to about 1 - 1.5m tall in the garden.

Its bright yellow daisy flowers are borne nearly all year round, with the main display in Spring.

This Euryops is fast growing and flowers freely, provided it is planted in a full sun position.

More regular watering is required until it's established.

It is completely frost hardy and as such is ideal for the Highveld garden.

It makes an excellent shrub border or mixed perennial backdrop.

*Photo shared from Random Harvest Nursery

Lavandula stoechas (eg. 'Anouk')

(spanish / crowned lavender)

To truly appreciate aromatic plants in your scented garden, don’t limit your selection to flowers alone. ...plant some Lavender!

What’s not to love about Lavender? It is low maintenance and drought tolerant once established. It attracts bees and butterflies and can be used in cosmetics, medicine and cuisine!

And its beloved fragrance is refreshing, clean and very soothing.

Lavandula stoechas has grey-green aromatic leaves with toothed edges. The species is distinguished by a crown of petals rising above the cone-shaped flower, hence one of the common names: Crowned lavender.

Lavender grows in most climates, except for humid subtropical areas.

*Photo shared from americanmeadows.com

Portulacaria afra

(Spekboom / pork bush)

These days this humble shrub/tree is being re-planted hectares at a time because of its ability to capture carbon, restore natural ecosystems and alleviate poverty.

But what's its value in the urban garden?

Portulacaria afra is an evergreen shrub or small tree that can reach 1.5 – 2m in height when planted in the garden.

It can be quite ornamental when in flower – it bears tiny star-shaped, pink flowers in late winter to spring.

Grow it in full sun to semi-shade as a hedging plant, in your rock gardens, as a screen or a windbreak, in containers, on banks and slopes or even as a hardy bonsai – the options are endless!

The Spekboom can be planted almost anywhere as long as the soil is well-drained.

It has no special needs, but a little compost and fertiliser in the planting hole will encourage quicker growth and greener leaves.

It takes well to pruning. It’s also a useful medicinal plant and can even be used in a salad or a tomato stew.

With water scarcity and extreme summer heat in mind, strongly consider the hardy, easy to grow Spekboom when wanting to purchase a plant for the garden - by planting one (or more!) you will also do your part in removing more carbon from the atmosphere in a personal effort to reduce climate change.

*Photo: Cape Garden


This well known, very showy climber for warm areas, bring a brilliant splash of colour to walls, pergolas, banks and fences.

Although generally fast growing, DID YOU KNOW: many new varieties are more compact and less rampant than older types.

Although best known as climbing plants, Bougainvilleas can also be grown as a specimen shrub or standard.

SUPER TIP: Bougainvillea’s roots are especially intolerant of disturbance. When planting out from a container to the ground, cut the container from the roots instead of pulling the plant from the pot.

If you’re looking for a tough, water-wise plant that’ll give you loads of summer colour, you can’t go wrong with these beauties!

*Photo: Cape Garden

Rhagodia hastata

(salt bush / soutbos)

This hardy coastal plant is also known as the Salt Bush.

If left to grow, it can reach up to 2m in height and spread prolifically.

Rhagodia is fire retardant and an excellent weed suppressor for those wilder areas of your garden.

Although it can be a prolific grower, it also lends itself to more formal applications.

It can be shaped into balls and makes an excellent hedging plant, tall or clipped short.

The silver grey foliage makes a statement from afar, not to be overlooked when planning a drought resistant garden.

*Photo shared from unohanas.exblog.jp

Agave geminiflora

(twin flower agave)

With an increasing awareness of the need to conserve water, gardeners have started to appreciate tough plants, like the Agave, that require very little water.

Agave prefers hot, dry summers and moderate winters.

Plant it in a sandy soil that drains well.

It's also very suitable as a low maintenance container plant, and gives a modern, minimalistic effect.

*Photo: Cape Garden

Crassula 'Campfire'

The 'Campfire' Crassula is a hardy, evergreen, branching succulent - ideal to use as a ground cover (of about 20cm tall) in garden beds.

The flesh, propeller-shaped leaves are a lime-green colour with red tips.

If you plant it in full sun and limit watering, the leaves turn bright red.

Spikes of insignificant white, star-shaped flowers are borne in summer and attract bees, butterflies and other tiny insects to your garden ecosystem.

Also plant 'Campfire' in water wise hanging baskets or pots - to cascade over the edges.

Plant in full sun or partial shade in well-drained soil. Prune after flowering.

*Photo: Cape Garden

Brachylaena discolor

(Coast silver oak /Kusvaalbos)

This fast growing evergreen tree/shrub is indigenous to South Africa, and has a silvery-blue appearance from a distance so that it stands out amongst other vegetation.

Movement of wind through the tree exposes the lovely silver undersides of the leaves.

In the garden, it will reach a height of +-4 - 8 m and has a non-invasive root system.

The coast silver oak tolerates pruning and coastal conditions and makes an excellent hedge or windbreak and is often used to stabilize dunes.

It is drought- and frost resistant and will grow well in shade or full sun. It grows best in sandy to loamy soils.

*Photo shared from cjmgrowers.co.za

Raphiolepis x delacourii (Indian hawthorn)

This beautiful, rounded shrub (growing to about 2m tall and wide) has dense, shiny, dark green, leathery foliage and pretty pink flowers. New spring foliage has a lovely red colour. Flowers are followed by blue-black berries.


The Indian hawthorn is drought resistant once established, and able to withstand both wind and heat.

Planting: It prefers fertile soil (add enough compost to the planting hole).

Watering and feeding: Needs little attention. Once established, water during dry weather and keep well mulched to achieve a faster growth rate. Feed in spring with general fertiliser.

Uses in landscape design: One of the best shrubs for coastal gardens in the Cape! It makes a lovely informal hedge or screen.

Flowering branches are good material for the vase.

*Photo: Cape Garden

Dodonaea viscosa

(sand olive / sandolien)

The sand olive is tough and reliable!

This well known, drought and wind resistant, indigenous plant can grow into a shrub when it's multi-stemmed, or a small tree when the lower branches are pruned.

It generally grows to a height of +- 3 to 4m tall.

It is ideal for water wise gardens and is effective for the purpose of stabilizing slopes and to control erosion, as the roots have soil-binding properties.

Perfect as a windbreak, or planted in a row to create a beautiful hedge.

*Photo shared from www.cnseed.org

Agave (variegated)

With an increasing awareness of the need to conserve water, gardeners have started to appreciate tough plants, like the Agave, that require very little water.

Agaves prefer hot, dry summers and moderate winters.

Plant it in a sandy soil that drains well.

It's also very suitable as a low maintenance plant (even in large containers), and gives a modern, minimalistic effect.

*Photo: Cape Garden

Dovyalis caffra


The fruit of the kei-apple is a great source of vitamin C and amino acids and has a very significant antioxidant capacity – giving them a widespread demand among health-conscious consumers.

It is a lovely evergreen small tree, usually 3-5 m in height, has a moderate growth rate and is often cultivated as a border to form an impenetrable hedge around a garden.

The edible fruits of this plant are yellowish orange in colour, are up to 60 mm in diameter and are often eaten fresh, or sprinkled with sugar to complement their natural acidity. The fruit can also be made into jam, used in desserts, drinks and fruit salads, or even pickled.

But it’s also interesting to know that the Kei-apple’s forgiving growing conditions make it ideal for regions not suited for water-intensive forms of agriculture, as it performs best in dry, sandy soils.

*Photo shared from lista.mercadolivre.com.br

Olea specie (Olive tree) - either wild olive (Olea europaea) - or edible olive (such as 'Kalamata', 'Mission', and 'Frantoio') Olives are tough trees! They are wind-, frost- and drought tolerant once established. It's a neatly shaped evergreen tree with a dense crown of glossy grey-green foliage. Sprays of tiny, white to greenish flowers are followed by fleshy fruits which ripen purple-black. The wild olive's fruits are popular with people, monkeys, baboons, mongooses, bushpigs, warthogs and birds (e.g. redwinged and pied starlings, Rameron pigeons, African green pigeons, Cape parrots and louries). Leaves are browsed by game and stock. This tree is an asset on farms and game farms, especially in very dry areas because it is extremely hardy and is an excellent fodder tree. Whereas the edible olive tree's fruit are specifically cultivated in the garden to be enjoyed either as tables olives or for making oil. The relatively slow-growing olive tree makes a good shade or screen plant in the garden. It is popular for street planting and for use at schools, office complexes, and in parks. It is perfect for the water conscious gardener who want to focus on water wise plants in his garden. Don't plant your olive tree too close to walls, patios or swimming pools, the root system can sometimes be aggressive (especially fully grown wild olive trees).

*Photo shared from Helena du Toi Organic gardens

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