Kniphofia – The Torch in my garden

Kniphofia – The Torch in my garden

Common name: Red Hot Poker, Torch Lily, African Flame flower, Devil’s poker

Kniphofia is herbaceous perennials that are freely grown in gardens, and the beautiful, showstopping flowers picked are excellent for putting in a vase. They are easy to grow plants and prefer full sun for the best blooms. Being virtually disease-free and drought tolerant, Kniphofia’s provide attractive vertical accents in any garden. In addition, they have a wide range of flowering times as there are winter flowering (Kniphofia praecox) and summer flowering (Kniphofia uvaria) species, adding eye-catching colour to any garden throughout the year. 

Kniphofia – A sugarbird lover!

Kniphofias prefer well-draining soil enriched with compost. They are generally tough perennials, but poor drainage is one of the few things that will kill them. Water well after planting but once established, Kniphofia have modest water needs. Once a year, after flowering mulch with compost to promote blooms for the next flowering season.

Kniphofias are primarily used in mixed borders, water edges, mass planting or indigenous gardens. Their drought tolerance makes them suitable for use in rock gardens. They also tolerate wind well. They attract butterflies and bees and are a favourite of sunbirds and sugarbirds. Snails love to make a nest in the bases of the leaves, especially in wintertime.

Not a fan of the extreme cold!

The arching, tapering leaves are long and narrow. Rootstock is fibrous and forms a dense mat below the ground. Kniphofia plants should not be divided or transplanted more often than necessary because they take up to one year to settle down after being separated. Also, Kniphofias will not tolerate extreme cold.


The most beautiful flower for the garden

Kniphofias have tubular flowers arranged in a tapering spike near the top of a firm, erect stalk. The flowers commence opening at the spike base while the buds are still closed at the top. Remove spent flowers to encourage more blooms. Kniphofia praecox, which starts flowering in May into June and July, flower buds are scarlet, opening into yellow flowers. The leaves are yellowish-green and with smooth edges. Kniphofia uvaria flowers buds are orange and open into vivid yellow flowers on longer flower stalks than Kniphofia praecox. The dark green foliage has sharply serrated edges.

If you are looking for a stunning evergreen plant to add an accent to your sunny garden, you must definitely consider the indigenous Kniphofia.

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What are your plants trying to tell you?

What are your plants trying to tell you?

Although healthy plants are easy to maintain in suitable soil and climate, they occasionally need protection against pests.  Like people, if feeling poorly, a plant has a way of letting you know what is wrong.  Leaves may droop, holes may appear, or growth may stop. A quick, accurate diagnosis is half the battle in controlling the problem before it gets out of hand.

Please continue to read to discover the most common pest in our gardens and easy remedies for beautiful plants.

Mealy Bugs

White woolly spots appear on stems, at junctions of stems and leaves, generally in any area hidden from bright light. Mealy bugs are insects covered with white powdery wax and suck plant juices from the plants. They excrete honeydew on which a sooty black fungus may form.

Easy remedy: when there are only a few, dip a cotton wool earbud in alcohol or methylated spirits and rub them off. For heavier infestation, spray the plants with soapy (Sunlight Liquid) water.

Red Spider Mite and your plants

Leaves show pale yellow speckles, then slowly turning yellow, and in time the plants become stunted and die. These eight-legged pests are a particular nuisance during dry, hot periods. They are small and red, hardly visible, and live under the leaves spinning delicate white webs. They feed by sucking the sap from the plants.

Control by a direct spray with water from a garden hose pipe.


These tiny plant lice are about 3 mm long and can be green, brown or black, and assemble on soft young tips or leaves’ underside. They are usually wingless and suck the plant’s sap. They cause leaves and buds to wither and stunt the growth of the plants. Leaves and stems become shiny and sticky to the touch. Aphids are generally active when days are hot and nights are cool. 

Control aphids by picking them off or knocking them off with a strong water stream of a garden hose pipe.


When your plant becomes stunted and stems and leaves are often sticky to the touch, look on leaves’ underside and plant stems. Your plants are probably infested with scale. Their yellowish (when young) or brown colour makes them hard to see until the infestation is severe. They look like small oval shells and assemble in dense colonies where they sap the plant’s strength by sucking its juices. Scale also excretes a mould forming honeydew.

Control by gently scrub the scale off the leaves and stems using a cotton wool earbud dipped in alcohol or methylated spirits.


Caterpillars are the larvae of butterflies and moths and often show up in our gardens in late summer and early autumn. They can ravage plant leaves but they’ll usually stick to one kind of plant. They are a very hungry and mostly unwelcome guest in the garden, especially on plants like arum lilies, Clivias and Agapanthus. They will eat holes in your leaves, typically overnight. They do have plenty of natural predators like wasps and birds.

Control caterpillars by picking them off your plants and looking for their eggs on the leaves’ underside, and removing them with a strong flush of water.

If all else fails

If flushing with water or swapping pest with a cotton wool earbud does not help, contact your nursery for an organic spray. Heavy infestations sometimes need harsher intervention but always avoid insecticides that might kill beneficial insects and pollinators like bees. We need them for a healthy earth.

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Autumn in your Garden

Autumn in your Garden

Autumn in your garden is like a spring in your step!

Autumn colours are one of nature’s marvels.  Yellow and orange are the colours of sunshine and life, full of vibrance, highlighting the beginning of a new season. And red, well red is eye-catching and courageous, making Autumn brilliant, exciting and cheerful.

With this colourful time in your garden come days that are cooling down, softer sunlight and unpredictable weather.

It is important to remember that your gardening should not stop in the autumn months. Autumn is the time to prepare your garden for winter and prepping it for the following spring.

Start a compost heap this Autumn

Compost is organic gold, and with all the colourful leaves, grass clippings, dead flowers and plants, there will be enough organic matter to start with. (Remember not to throw weeds or diseased plants on your compost heap).

Divide perennials

Autumn is the best time to divide overgrown, summer-flowering perennials like wild garlic, Agapanthus, Dietes and daylilies so new roots can get a chance to establish themselves before the winter really starts. Remember to prepare soil in advance with compost and put some bone meal (good root starter) in each hole, and water well.


By giving a layer of compost in the Autumn, you ensure that plants have all the nutrients they need for winter. Compost will also help to aerate the soil; it will improve drainage and encourage earthworms and micro-organisms in your garden.

Pruning and Watering

Cut back all summer flowering perennials like Salvia, lavender bushes, Fuchsias and daisy bushes. Cut back all dead growth, twigs and branches.

Remember to set irrigation in your garden on less watering and reduce the amount of water you give to your house plants.

Lawn care

Keep lawn weed-free and feed with a phosphorous rich fertilizer to promote a healthy root system before the winter weather arrives. Remove fallen leaves from your lawn regularly as they deprive the lawn of light, causing it to die off and create brown patches.

Planting for spring

Seedlings and bulbs can be planted in early Autumn. Some bulbs like Watsonia’s and Chasmanthe can be planted as early as March. If it is still too hot in your area to plant spring bulbs, buy them while they are available and keep them in a cool, dry place.  New plantings will establish good root growth before slowing down in winter.

Check for the unwelcome guest in your garden

Watch out for weeds that will germinate after the first winter rains and with the cooler weather. Snails, caterpillars and aphids love the cooler nights and warm days. Keep a lookout for them, spray them off your plants with water, or ask at your local nursery for a recommended organic spray.

The best part is that next spring, your efforts will be rewarded with a garden that comes alive and will look better than ever!

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Eriocephalus africanus – The Cape Snow Bush

Eriocephalus africanus – The Cape Snow Bush

Common names: Wild Rosemary or kapokbossie

Eriocephalus africanus, common name ‘kapokbossie’, is derived from the white flowers along our roadsides and on the mountains.

The Cape Snow Bush

They look like snow when they flower in the winter and spring and this indigenous shrub is widely distributed in the Eastern, Western and Northern Cape.

Eriocephalus africanus is a hardy, attractive shrub with a small to medium height up to 1 metre. The leaves are needle-like in shape, soft in texture and are intensely aromatic. The flowers are not showy on their own, but the bushes are quite pretty when they bear their clusters of tiny white daisy flowers, at branch tips (in winter when we need colour and spring). The small white flowers are roughly scalloped petals with reddish-brown centres and are quickly followed by fluffy white seed-heads that look like cotton wool. These fluffy seed-heads are used by birds for nest lining, and the plant is also essential to many insects as a source of nectar and pollen, and they attract bees to your garden.

Eriocephalus africanus

Evergreen and Hardy

Eriocephalus africanus is evergreen and hardy shrub, which is fast-growing and needs regular pruning to keep it in shape. It is drought-hardy and can be planted in rockeries, retaining walls, slopes and in grasslands. They are also great for coastal planting and only need a mulch of good organic matter in spring. The Cape Snow Bush can also be pruned into an informal hedge, and it only requires well-drained soil and a sunny position. Remember to water well until your plant is established.

Potpourri and Relaxant Friend

This special plant can be used as a fragrant addition to potpourri and as filler-in for fynbos flower arrangements. Medicinal uses include antibacterial, relaxant, treatment for coughs and colds and as a foot bath for swollen feet. Eriocephalus africanus is also used in cooking and essential oils. The oils are derived from the leaves and used as an ingredient in medicinal and perfume industries.

Eriocephalus africanus is a true South African plant with many uses in and around the house, and even when it doesn’t flower, the foliage adds a different colour and texture to your garden.

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