Expect a lively concert from the garden wildlife if, perchance, you end up alongside a Tecoma Capensis, or Cape Honeysuckle hedge in full bloom one still autumn morning. The cast is composed of those who come to feast on the nectar, and some who come to feast on them.
The honey bees, the butterflies and the sunbirds busily perform their acrobatic stunts to get at the sweet nectar, while the insectivorous birds noisily chase the winged insects. It is never silent or boring next to a Tecoma Capensis hedge.
Even the neatest gardener, with hedge trimmer ready, will find it hard to prune this indigenous plant too severely as that means removing the lovely flowers too. In gardens where Tecoma Capensis serves as a hedge or screen along a boundary, we often see neatly trimmed, dense green sides holding up an untrimmed top bursting with bright flowers. Perhaps the gardener leaves the top undisturbed out of the goodness of his heart, but perhaps he just can’t reach it – the Cape honeysuckle can grow 2 to 3 m tall!
Aside from its potential as a fast-growing hedge plant, Tecoma Capensis and its different varieties can serve other landscaping purposes too. Use it as a framework plant in the background of large shrubberies or flower beds, with other food plants in gardens planted primarily as pantries for birds and, if there is enough space, in relaxed groups that quickly cover large areas.
When does Tecoma Capensis bloom?
Without a doubt, autumn is the best flowering time, but these plants also provide bright colour during spring.
Most suitable climate for Tecoma Capensis
Tecoma capensis is found growing at the edges of evergreen forests, bush and other sheltered scrubland in the warmer coastal regions of the Western Cape and along the southern and eastern coastlines, all the way to Tanzania. It is wind-resistant and tolerates salty sea breezes and periods of drought, but it does not endure heavy frost or icy weather.
What it needs
Location: full sun ensures the most flowers, but it will also do well in the dappled shade of surrounding shrubs and trees, although in these conditions it will clamber up their branches to get to the sunlight.
Soil: any soil type is suitable, but enrich it with compost when you are planting to ensure lush growth.
Water: Cape honeysuckles can survive for long periods of time without a lot of water. If you give it a regular (once a week) deep watering you will be rewarded with luxuriant growth.
Fertilization and Pruning: plants that have been left to grow informally can quickly outgrow a limited space – control them by pruning between the flower flushes. Formal hedges will need to be trimmed more sharply, for shaping and to promote dense growth. A dose of slow-release 3:1:5 fertilizer, or its organic equivalent, applied after each pruning session during the summer months will encourage lush, green foliage and masses of flowers.
Get more value
Tecoma capensis can be easily propagated from cuttings during spring and summer, but it is quicker to collect rooted suckers (look around under the adult plants) and grow them in pots before transplanting them into your garden.
In a nutshell
- Highly recommended hedging plant.
- Water-wise and easy to propagate.
- Willing bloomer.
- Suitable for large gardens.
- Tecoma capensis ‘Apricot’ has light apricot-coloured flowers. Plant size about 3 x 3 m.
- Tecoma capensis ‘Coccinea’ bears deep orange, almost tomato-red flowers. Plant size about 3 x 3 m.
- Tecoma capensis ‘Lutea’ is a smaller plant that grows to just slightly larger than 1 x 1 m. ‘Lutea’ planted with plumbago is lovely.
- Tecoma capensis ‘Orange’ has dark orange flowers. Plant size about 3 x 3 m. Some nurseries sell ‘Lutea’ and ‘Orange’ as instant hedges – the plants are quite large and have already been trimmed into a hedge shape.
- Tecoma capensis ‘Rocky Horror’ has bright red flowers. Plant size about 5 x 5 m.
- Tecoma capensis ‘Salmon’ has salmon-coloured flowers. Plant size about 3 x 3 m