Indigenous Colour Planting Palettes
We South Africans really are spoilt for choice when it comes to indigenous ornamentals that look gorgeous in gardens when colour planting. Every shape, size, texture and, of course, colour seems to be available to us. Interestingly, green is the most common flower colour in all the world, but with a few exceptions it’s not really a colour that stands out. Let’s take a closer look at some of our showiest indigenous flowering plants by flower colour to help you with your indigenous colour planting palette for your garden.
Yellow for cheer
There are so many yellow-flowering plants that we might tend to get a bit blasé about the colour, but sunshine-yellow is always a cheerful addition to the garden. Consider these pretty, yellow-flowering plants when colour planting for your garden.
Euryops: There are several euryops species that are grown commercially as ornamentals. Their foliage textures, growth habits and flower size may vary, but what they all have in common is masses of cheerful yellow daisy flowers.
Creeping gazanias: If you’re looking for a carpet of pretty, perennial wildflowers that can take tough conditions, look out for these! Gazania rigens comes in green, variegated, and silver-leafed forms and is a virtually bomb-proof groundcover.
Calpurnia aurea: This small tree produces very showy golden yellow blooms and is very well suited to small gardens.
Pinks range from vibrant magentas to soft, tranquil shades.
Combine it with white, blue or purple and enjoy those pretties!
Barlerias: Barlerias, also known as bush violets, are extremely rewarding. Choose between Barleria obtusa, which flowers profusely in spring, and Barleria repens, which flowers on and off all year but particularly in spring and autumn. Both species are available in blue-purple forms.
Crassula multicava: The fairy crassula is a charming, low maintenance, drought-resistant groundcover that thrives in sun or shade. As if this weren’t enough, it flowers often and generously.
Dais cotinifolia: The pompom tree has to be one of South Africa’s best pink-flowering trees for smaller gardens. However, do ensure that you plant it in well-drained soil.
The wonderful white garden at Sissinghurst in the UK has inspired many gardeners. There is certainly something very elegant about a garden with nothing but white flowers, but white looks good with absolutely any other colour too. Try these worthy white-flowering plants out when colour planting in your garden.
Freylinia tropica: Despite its tropical-sounding name, the white frelynia is remarkably cold tolerant. It develops a tidy growth habit without help but also responds very well to clipping and shaping.
Falkia repens: With a cute common name like ‘oortjies’, you would expect an adorable plant, and falkia doesn’t disappoint. This flat-growing groundcover is a real little charmer.
Dombeya rotundifolia: The dombeya or wild pear drops all its leaves in winter, then bursts into an explosion of spring blooms that will really get you into the spirit of the season.
Fiery reds draw the eye like a magnet, and plants with red flowers attract the nectar-feeding sunbirds too. Add visual excitement with these red-hot garden delights when colour planting.
Tecoma capensis ‘Rocky Horror’: You get red Cape honeysuckles, and then you get ‘Rocky Horror’. This super-vigorous cultivar has bigger and better everything. Recognise it by its extra-big flowers and leaves.
Aptenia cordifolia: A tough and vigorous groundcover, aptenia has red or purple flowers. It will grow in sun or light shade and is great for covering areas you don’t want to fuss over. You’ll get flowers on and off all year.
Schotia brachypetala: Although the coral tree is tempting to mention, the weeping boerboon is a tree worth having in your garden. Grow it as a large shrub or small tree, and expect it to have an ‘interesting’ rather than upright shape.
Blue is a relatively rare flower colour in the plant world, but with our diverse flora it comes as no surprise to find that blue flowering indigenous plants aren’t hard to pinpoint.
Plumbago: Some plants won’t be overlooked on any plant list, and our indigenous blue plumbago is one of these. It’s particularly useful as a hedge or to cover ugly palisade fencing.
Scabiosa: Scabiosas range from low-growing rosette forms to small shrublets, and you get them in blue, white or pink. The flowers are just gorgeous, and they’ll produce several flushes of blooms each year, especially if you deadhead after flowering.
Bolusanthus speciosus: Our indigenous tree wisteria is a sight to behold when it blooms. Unfortunately, this beauty doesn’t seem to do very well in winter-rainfall areas.
Purple and lilac
Royal purples and soft lilacs are tranquil colours. Use them as a foil for contrasting yellows, or blend them in with shades of pink. You have so many options that it’s hard to choose, but here are a few favourites.
Polygala: There are several species and genetic variations. The compact ‘Southern Shores’, also known as ‘Petite Butterfly’, is a tidy little shrub to about 1m high, while the Polygala myrtifolia is a large shrub that can even be used as a very small tree.
Geranium incanum: Soft mounds of fine-textured foliage turn into cushions of blooms as soon as spring arrives. Create your very own flower meadow, or use it as an edging for perennial beds.
Virgilia: The keurboom or blossom tree is a big favourite with South African gardeners thanks to its fast growth and gorgeous flowers. It’s big enough to make a nice shade tree, but also small enough to work well when you don’t have a whole lot of space for a tree.
And all the colours in between: ask and search
No matter what colours you want to bring into your garden, there’ll be indigenous plants for you to consider. Your local nursery will have qualified horticulturists who can advise you as to what’s available and what works well in your area.
The National Biodiversity Institute also has a super website with a huge database of plant info, and if you’d like to do your homework from home before setting out to choose plants, its advanced search feature allows you to search plants by flower colour plus a great many other parameters. Check out pza.sanbi.org for all the best info compiled by experts.