LOTS of South African Garden Plants

There are more plants from South Africa growing in your neighborhood than you realize. Sure, the namesakes of cape honeysuckle and natal plum might make their origins obvious, but what about the elegant calla lily, the graceful gladiolus or the cosmopolitan geranium? Even these seemingly commonplace plants hail from the warm temperate and subtropical climes of South Africa. Your garden plants are more exotic than you realized!

Wouldn't it be fun to start a South African theme garden? It would have all the sophistication of a world class botanical garden, but with plants that are readily available from your garden center! I hope to plant a portion of my yard with these flowers of the veld someday, since many of these make exceptional groundcovers and lawn alternatives. Go ahead and have a look! Most of these are drought tolerant, and all of them are beautiful. Don't worry, I'm not going on a Sexy Brazilian Girls ramble like I did earlier in the month...

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Society Garlic, or Tulbaghia Violacea

Carrion Flower, or Stapelia

Aloe, like this Aloe Saponaria

Blood Lily, or Scadoxa Multiflorus

Pineapple Lily, or Eucomis

Lily of the Nile, or Agapanthus

African Iris, or Dietes Iridioides

Abyssinian Banana or Ensete Ventricosum

Clivia Miniata

Palm Grass or Setaria

Orange Bird of Paradise, or Strelitzia Reginae

White Bird of Paradise, or Strelitzia Nicolai

Black Eyed Susan Vine, or Thunbergia Alata (This is the white version)

And here are many, many more.

Geraniums or Pelargornium
Red Hot Poker, or Kniphofia uvaria
Madagascar Palm or Pachypodiums
Cape Honeysuckle, or Tecoma Capensis
Natal Plum, or Carissa
Calla Lily, or Zantedeschia
Safari Sunset, or Leucadendron
Pincushion Flower, or Scabiosa Incisa 
Gazania Daisy
Karoo Cycad or Encephelartos
Gerbera Daisy
Gladiolus (Really!)
Cape Plumbago or Plumbago Auriculata
Mona Lavender or Plectranthus
Coral Trees (many of them) Erythrina
Glory Lily, or Gloriosa Superba
Butterfly Bush or Buddleya

Living Stones or Lithops
Flapjack plant, or Kalanchoe Thyrsiflora
Burn Jelly Plant, or Bulbine Frutescens

If that didn't get you excited about the possibilities of a South African themed planting scheme, here are some neat links to visit. First is a great little residential garden, and next up is The South African Cape Province Garden at the San Francisco Botanical Garden, brought to you by The Garden Geek.


  1. don't forget crocosmia! They are so common here in the Pacific Northwest but I don't care, I love them.

    Though they are not exclusive to South Africa, many people may not know about the exotic heathers that grow there. They are the flamboyant cousins to the hardy heathers found in so many gardens.

    There were a ton in your list that I had no idea where from South Africa, thanks so much for this post.

  2. Thank you Steve for this great post. I'd love to add a lot of these to my gardens, so will be on the look out for seeds and cuttings.

    I'm ordering a book of embroidered flowers of South Africa and can hardly wait to get it and start stitching.

    Have a great weekend ~ FlowerLady

  3. I knew that some of my plants were South African in origin, but not so many! You can grow so many down there where you are - outside, anyway. I do have an agapanthus that's hardy to my zone 5. I absolutely LOVE it. It's one of my very favorites in my garden.

  4. Great post! As a Christmas Stocking gift my husband purchased an old used video (yes...and actual VHS tape!) of a BBC garden program visit to South Africa...so many gorgeous plants! Thank you for the list.

  5. I triple dog dare you to grow Carrion Flower! :-p

  6. I had no idea that those were S. African plants. I counted six I grow. Very interesting post. You always have such good ideas for theme gardens.

  7. Wow! I knew I had a few "exotics" from South Africa, bought at rare plant sales. But, I never realized just how many of my "year end, year out" plants originated there. Thanks for this list...providing a little more respect for these plants.

  8. Wow, I'm quite surprised. Thanks for enlightening me. I've noticed more and more plants from Australia in the garden center lately, too.

  9. Mr. Subjunctive:
    Loved the list, and thanks for sharing. I forgot about sanseveria, which always rots here in my home... not as easy as they say it is.

  10. Ryan:
    Forgot about crocosmia, and I just left out the heathers since I've never seen them for sale. Have you seen them offered anywhere?

  11. Flowerlady:
    Embroidered flowers from South Africa sound amazing! I'll be looking for some of these too... especially some of the more unusual agapanthus varieties.

  12. Kylee:
    I had no idea that an agapanthus could grow in zone 5! I always thought that the bulbs had to be dug up.

  13. Danger Garden:
    Where can I find that tape? That sounds like such a great video... I could be entertained for weeks.

  14. Fern:
    I DO grow carrion flower and it didn't smell bad unless you put your nose right up to it. Its a very tough plant for a container and hardly needs any water at all. :)

  15. NanaK:
    Thanks! I do LOVE me some theme gardens!

    I forgot that a few of these were South African too! I guess it was colonized when plant collecting was en vogue, so many of the old favorites today are thanks to introductions from the British and Dutch.

    I'll be looking for more at the garden center too... I'm considering putting a bunch together in a bulb garden.


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