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Polygala virgata

Polygala virgata
Purple Broom

Polygala virgata is an erect shrub with a willowy branched crown that grows from a single slender main stem and reaches a height of 2,5 metres. It makes an outstanding but as yet much underutilized garden plant. Its natural distribution traverses both the winter and summer rainfall parts of South Africa, from the southern Cape to Limpopo, and extends to tropical East and West Africa. It is laden with erect or drooping sprays of purplish-magenta or pink flowers for at least six weeks in spring, plus it often flowers intermittently throughout the year. Cut stems of blooms have a good vase-life.

This versatile shrub is water-wise once established, but it will also grow in perennially moist spots. It prefers full sun and thrives in acid, sandy soils but also does well in alkaline clay. It is best planted in groups of three to five, where the individual specimens support each other during strong winds. The plant loses most of its leaves just prior to flowering. The lower branches tend to become leggy after a few years but heavy pruning after flowering can prevent this.

P. virgata is an excellent subject for fynbos gardens and it also forms a striking display when inter-planted with the bright yellow-flowered, grey-leaved Euryops pectinatus. Forms of this species that originate in the Drakensberg area are frost hardy.

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