Must love lilies this March

Written by: Life Green Group and BotSoc

The March lilies (Amaryllis belladonna) have come into flower in Cape Town so Life Green Group has decided to explore the world of South African ‘lilies’.
But there are no true lilies (Lilium) in South Africa!

The genus Lilium is part of the bulb family that occur in the Northern Hemisphere. In South Africa the Saint Joseph lily (Lilium candidum) has naturalised in the Dullstroom area as it is well-suited to the cold climate and can be seen growing along the roadside.
Botanist may argue that this is the major flaw with common names that do not comply with classification systems of Latin. Even the Afrikaans names of plants are more accurate.
The Life Landscapes horticulturist has hatched a guess that these gorgeous indigenous flowers were christened with the English name ‘lily’ because lilium genus is known for their exquisite flowers. Most of the South African ‘lilies’ are also water-loving, like real water lilies. True Liliums are known to be herbaceous bulbs that occur in woodlands and grasslands.

Here are 14 beautiful South African bulbs that are not true lilies but are still truly beautiful and are indigenous garden must-haves:

African lily (Agapanthus africanus)

The Agapanthus genus is endemic to the fynbos kingdom and has subsequently become a popular garden specimen across South Africa and the world. There are multiple varieties both natural and hybridised.

Arum lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica )


The flower of the arum is not actually a true flower biologically speaking it is an extension of the leaf called a spathe. The arum is popular wetland plant in South Africa and worthy garden subject and a must have in a moon garden. When it comes to “naturescaping” it is an important plant for the arum lily frog.

Bush lily (Clivia miniata)
Bush Lily ©Ismail Ebrahim (iSpot)

The bush lily is endemic to the forest floors of South Africa, naturally occurring in colonies. Since the 19th century it has been a popular garden plant because of colour hybrids that occur- flowers can vary from: salmon, apricot, deep orange, red and yellow.

Candelabra lily (Brunsvigia josephinae)
Brunsvigia josephinae ©sanbi

Despite what one might think, this is a bushveld specimen growing in the wilds of west coast in winter rainfall areas. Brunsvigia josephine is a deciduous plant which does grow in water. This lovely hot pink plant is an eye-catcher and flowers in autumn when the bushveld is brown and dry.

Fire lily (Cyrtanthus ventricosus)


This scarlet number is a completely useless garden specimen as it is totally dependent on Cape fires – like a phoenix rising from the ashes, it is the first sign of life after a fynbos fire. Each flower lasts five days and the entire flowering period last about two weeks. The fire lily has a wildness that can’t be tamed; it’s rich in colour and rare in appearances.

Forest lily (Veltheimia bracteata)

Veltheimia bracteata ©sanbi

This deciduous bulb is a fast growing flower that attracts sunbirds making it ideal for a sunbird garden. Flowers vary from pink to orange to green. It is also flowers from winter to spring adding colour to the winter. It grows well in shade or semi-shade.

Ground lily (Ammocharis coranica)
Ammocharis coranica © J.H Vlok/A.L Shutte-Vlok

Unlike some of the other South African ‘lilies’ the ground lily likes to be treated as succulent in well-drained soil. It can also live to 50 years old and gets very sweetly scented, glossy pink flowers. A worthy and sturdy garden subject and makes for great addition to a cottage garden.

Winter impala lily (Adenium multiflorum)
Adenium multiflorum ©Tony Rebelo

This bushveld shrub is in pink condition in winter – sprouting its folly pink flowers in May making it a popular tourist attraction of the Kruger Park and it is a highly protected species. It is a deciduous succulent shrub that is known  to be used as fish and arrow poison. As for the garden it does not survive in frost zones but rather prefers sandy soils.

Kudu lily (Pachypodium Saundersii)

This plant has a bonsai-effect and is in fact not related to the lilium genus but to the same family as the frangipani. It is a rupestrine species growing in dry areas among the rocks or in the rock crevices. Unlike the other South African ‘lilies’ it is not a bulb and hates water.

March lily (Amaryllis belladonna)
Amaryllis belladonna ©Tony Rebelo
Amaryllis belladonna

This beautiful lady, it is the inspiration behind this blog, and begins sprouting its gorgeous pink flowers in March hence the name March lily. There are only two bulbs that fall under the Amaryllis genus both occur in South Africa.

Orange River lily (Crinum bulbispermum)
Crinum bulbispermum ©sanbi

Add a pizazz of colour to a wetland or shallow pond with this water-loving bulb. In the warmer months this stunning bulb can be up to a metre high with elegant arching leaves.

Paintbrush lily (Scadoxus puniceus)


What would an orange planting palette be without the burning orange flowers of the paintbrush lily? This is one of the most striking tropical plants as it produces a large paintbrush-like blossom in spring! It does well when it is planted in the ground or in containers.  It’s perfect for any tropical Durban garden.

Pineapple lily (Eucomis autumnalis)


This funky and fresh bulb has unusual flowers that can reach 10cm in diameter. The pineapple lily is a must have for any veld garden in SA, it’s very easy going gives some tropical vibes to a green palette garden. Although it has a toxic bulb, it is used for medicinal purposes in South Africa.

Scarlet River lily (Hesperantha coccinea)
Hesperantha coccinea

This perennial loves water just as much as real water lilies do! The scarlet river lily gets stunning scarlet red flowers and grows well in full sun. It is very readily propagated and a must have for a garden with lots of natural water or a red palette garden. It grows well in the sun in soil that is compost rich and prefers to be grown close to a wet area or pond edge.


Well there you have it, Must love lilies this March

Have a lovely Month of March!



Valentines Day Special

By BotSoc

Colour of Love. . .

It’s the month of Love, and what better way to celebrate it by sharing some beautiful red indigenous flowers. A good idea for this month of love is building your own ID guide and seeing how many red plants you can identify. These are a few to have a lookout for . . . some of them are harder to find than others.

1. The Red Disa (Disa uniflora)

This magnificent flower is one of South Africa’s most well- known flowers. It is the Western Province Rugby Club’s emblem. It forms part of South Africa’s fynbos group and part of the Orchidaceae family. It can be found near riverbanks, or along waterfalls on Table Mountain as well as other Mountainous areas within the Western Cape.

2. The New Year Lily (Gladiolus cardinalis)

Gladiolus cardinalis ©Tony Rebelo

It gets its name due to its bright red flower. It forms part of the Iridaceae family. It enjoys mostly sunny conditions. Similar to the Disa, the New Year lily, is most likely to be found in habitats where there are wet cliffs and waterfalls. This flower is definitely a beauty to look at.

3. Gladiolus insolens

This beautiful plant is named after the radiating light that its flowers give off. It is found in southern African within the winter-rainfall zone, specifically found in Piketberg in the Western Cape. This species is listed as vulnerable, therefore needs to be conserved in order for it to survive.

4. Channel-leaved haemanthus, paintbrush lily (Haemanthus canaliculatus)

Channel-leaved haemanthus, Paintbrush lily ©Ismail Ebrahim

This red flower forms part of the Amaryllidaceae family. It flowers in late summer or early autumn, and can be seen after a fire has occurred. It can be found in Betty’s Bay and Hangklip, Western Cape. The genus, Haemanthus, is derived from Greek which translates to blood flower and the species name, canaliculatus, means channels. This genus and species name descibes this plant perfectly.

5. Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)

This daisy is a popular plant that is a favourite to grow in gardens throughout the world. It is also used to create the Gerbera hybrid  that are found in bouquets and many florists. It flowers in spring until early summer, as well as autumn. Gerbera jamesonii can be found in grassland in sandy, well-drained soils in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo Provinces.

6. Fire Erica/ Fire Heath (Erica cerinthoides)


This forms part of South Africa’s famous fynbos family: Ericaceae. This plant has tubular like red flowers. Erica cerinthoides flowers at any time of the year due to fires that vitalize it. This Erica is widely distributed compared to other heaths within southern Africa. It grows in different habitats, such as mountain tops as well as coastal plains. It can be found from the Cedarberg Moutains in the Western Cape, all the way to the Eastern Cape, up to Natal Drakensberg and into Mpumalanga, Lesotho and Swaziland and it also stretches up north to Soutpansberg in the Northern Cape.

So there you have it, some inspirational red flowers to keep a look out for.

Have a splendid Valentine’s day everyone!



Grewia-licious – the indigenous edible shrubs you should have in your garden:

by Life Green Group and BotSoc

These six Grewia species of South Africa are not only a must have for a bird garden; attracting hordes of fruit-eating birds, the fruits they produce are also edible for humans. In traditional cultures the fruit of certain Grewia species are used to brew alcohol and eaten as a sweet treat.

All of the Grewia species are incredibly resilient and easy-going and a must have for any South African garden.The Grewia species was named after English physician Nehemiah Grew and form part of the Malvaceae family.

Life Landscapes, the landscaping division of Life Green Group uses them as screen plants and they make for attractive shrubbery with their yellow or pink flowers.

Mauve flowering Grewia species

Cross-berry (Grewia occidentalis)

The cross-berry has an incredible wide range across South Africa. The cross-berry is the tallest Grewia reaching six metres and 10 metres in ideal conditions. It does need some shear work to stay neat and tree-like. It is a rewarding shrub that flowers pinky-mauve blossoms all year round.

The fruits are consumed ravenously by bulbuls, barbets, mousebirds and other fruit loving birds. Humans can use the fruit to ferment beer and when dried and added to milk it makes for an excellent milk sweetener. In Zulu culture the wood of the cross-berry is used to make Assegai spears.

Read more about indigenous purple flowering trees by clicking here.

Karoo crossberry (Grewia robusta)
Grewia robusta

Like the cross-berry the karoo crossberry also has wonderful bright pink blossoms that flower from August to December. The Grewia robusta is frost resistance and adaptable to all soil types, it does prefer a desert-like setting. It is best to grow them in moist clay and loamy soils and partially shady areas.

It makes for a good screen plants and a super addition to a bird garden. Its plum-like fruits have an acid tinge to them and are pleasant to eat, both cooked and raw.

Yellow flowering Grewia species

Brandybush (Grewia flava)
Grewia flava ©Bernard Dupont

The brandybush gets its name because its fruit can be distilled into a type of brandy or beer. This is the smallest of the South African Grewia species. It does not have an aggressive root system making it a good garden specimen. In the North West, Northern Cape and Limpopo wild animals rely on it for food. It has grey leaves that contrast its bright yellow flowers and spreads readily.

White raisin (Grewia bicolor)

The white raisin is a frost-hardy shrub that gets to nine metres. It can grow in most soils and is a water-wise choice. Its gets the second part of its Latin name from its bicolour leaves which are lighter on the bottom and darker on the top. The canary yellow flowers of the white raisin are smaller than the rest of the Grewia species and bloom from October to March.

Time to give the more tropical, less frost hardy, Grewias some yellow press:

Sandpaper raisin (Grewia flavescens)

Grewia flavescens

The sandpaper raisin, like the brandybush, also has a sunny disposition with its sweetly perfumed, bumblebee yellow flowers.  It is tough and adaptable relies on wild animals for germination.  It can handle all types of soil and prefers a more temperate environment like the giant raisin. It is multi-stemmed and makes for a wonderful screen plant.

In Namibia the fruit is soaked in water to make a refreshing drink. It is also an essential bird garden plant for attracting frugivorous birds.  For more on how to attract fruit eating birds to the garden click here.

Giant raisin (Grewia hexamita) 

The giant raisin occurs on the Natal coast it has the largest flowers of the South African Grewia family and grows to about five metres high. This shrub is one of the most attractive Grewia species because of its large bright yellow flowers, rounded bushy crown and dark glossy leaves. Like all of the Grewia species the fruits can be fermented into moonshine. Birds and butterflies are attracted to its large scented flowers. It flowers ad-hoc all year round, especially in Summer. The giant raisin grows best and is more suited to a tropical environment with good rainfall like Natal. It is not easy to predict germination of seeds for this particular species, but once the seeds germinate, its growth is about 1 m high and produces fruits about 3 years later.

Go ahead and plant your own Grewia species.

Happy Gardening to all out readers!