Shady characters you’ll want to know (Part 2): meet six more indigenous shade-loving plants

Written by Catherine Browne

The other day you may have read the precursor to this blog, however, if you missed it, you can find it here.

Today we share with you about a few other shady characters you may or may not know, and may wish to get to know a little bit better. With no further ado here they are:

Indigenous plants for dry shade:

  • Clivia miniata (Bush lily) This relatively common beauty will bring a splash of colour to shaded corners and is sure to brighten the garden, as well as your mood while you enjoy it’s flowering period. Easily cultivated and very rewarding. The world seems to be in love with South African clivias and so are we. Endemic to southern Africa, these gorgeous plants do not naturally occur elsewhere. Often grown in large colonies in dappled shade. Sadly in many areas these plants are being destroyed by harvesting for traditional medicine and also by plant collectors. So look after your treasured gem.
Clivia miniata Paul Odendaal
© Paul Oudendaal
  • Dietes grandiflora (Large wild iris) A well-known and much loved indigenous large wild iris common to many a garden. This stunner, with elegant flower and lush green leaves is generally easy to grow under most conditions. It attracts bees and other pollinators. There are six species of dietes, five of which occur in South Africa- and one in the Tasman Sea (between Australia and New Zealand). Previously thought to be a Moraea (a closely related group) but separated as Dietes, as it has rhizomes rather than true corms as Moraeas do.
Dietes grandiflora 22-08-2007 534
© Alice Aubrey
  • Pelargonium zonale (Horse shoe pelargonium) A good old favourite. Many hybrids of the species are now also available. Drought tolerant and best suited to light shade that is dry to moist. There are roughly 220 species in the Pelargonium genus, with 80% of them limited to South Africa and approximately 80% of these restricted to the south-western corner of the country. Great fragrant additions to any garden.
Pelargonium zonale Matthews Rockery KBG Monique Mcquillan
© Monique Mcquillan
  • Scadoxus multiflorus var. katherinae (Catherine wheel/ Blood flower/ Fireball lily) Deciduous bulbous species, with stunning bright orange inflorescence. Seen in picture with other plants suitable for shade, Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’ and Asparagus densiflorus. An evergreen perennial that requires semi shade but will flourish in deep shade too. It likes dry shade. Lovely potted on a shady stoep, a great candidate as an indoor plant, and looks particularly lovely in large stands under trees. Please note however that this plant is poisonous, so best to avoid planting in your garden if you have pets or kids that like to taste the plants from time to time.
Scadoxus multiflorus var. Katherinae (1) Monique Mcquillan
© Monique Mcquillan

Indigenous plants for wet shade:

  • Alberta magna (Natal flame bush) A slow growing tree to large shrub with striking deep orange flowers. It likes wet shade with rich soils. Treasured not only for its beauty but because it is a protected tree in the Rubiaceae family. Glossy leaves and stunning flowers and fruits make this a lovely addition, but nevertheless a fussy tenant. Young shrubs sometimes die back after a while, and for no apparent reason.
Alberta magna (4) Monique Mcquillan
© Monique Mcquillan
  • Plectranthus A versatile genus happy to grow in wet or dry areas and in any type of shade. Butterflies love them.  Plectranthus is the largest mint family genus. Colour selections range from shades of pinks, purples and white. The perfect filler.
Plectranthus fruticosus 'Ellaphie' Cycad Gdn Sl Turner Autumn 2000
© S Turner

Information sources:


SANBI Kirstenbosch horticulture unit

And there you have it, a few more familiarities with the not so ‘shady’ shade-loving plants out there. Happy gardening and enjoy our precious biodiversity.

If you enjoyed what you’ve read, which we hope you have, please consider following our blog so that you always receive our latest posts. Find out more about the BotSoc, what we’re all about, what we’re up to, and how you can join, us on our website.


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The Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) are an NGO conserving and educating about biodiversity for over 100 years.

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