One aspect of plant care that often causes a few headaches is pruning. How and when it should be done varies from plant to plant, and if done improperly can harm your plants or delay your flowering or fruiting time.

Here are a few basic tips so you can enjoy your flowers, fruit and even your pruning:

First things first …


 I am a tool fanatic, and proper pruning is impossible without the right tools.


They are used for the young and thinner branches and always should be sharp to avoid tearing and splitting twigs and branches.

Lopper or long-handled secateurs

They give you more strength to cut thicker branches, and also give you added leverage to reach way into bushy shrubs or up into a tree.

Pruning saw

For the thick branches or trees or older shrubs.

Hedging shears

For the pruning and shaping of formal hedges and topiaries, or general trimming of shrubs.

All these tools should be kept sharp so that they will cut cleanly and easily. It is also good practice to wash all these tools after use with soapy water and to sterilise them by wiping it with ethanol. This prevents the spread of pests and diseases in your garden. Always dry thoroughly after cleaning to prevent rust and grease all the moving parts.

Pruning tips for al shrubs, roses and fruit trees

1. Remove all dead, diseased or broken twigs and branches;

2. Remove water sprouts, suckers and crossing branches;

3. Remove all crowded and crossing growth that doesn’t allow air circulation (especially when in full foliage);

There is one basic rule for shrubs, climbers or groundcover and succulents that only flower once a year: they need to be pruned or trimmed immediately after flowering has stopped.

In autumn and winter, you should prune back the following shrubs after flowering:

Plumbago, Barleria spp., Lavender bushes, Leonotis, Senecio spp., Thrachelospermum jasminoides, and Hydrangeas.

Hydrangeas need to be pruned mid-July, and you need to prune one- third of the plant back.

Roses and fruit trees (deciduous fruit trees) also needs pruning in their dormant season. With roses half to two- thirds of the branches needs to be pruned back. Always cut above an outward-facing node.

Bonsai and formal hedges need regular pruning or trimming to keep their shape.

Pruning encourages new growth, helps manage the size of plants, promotes better blooms and fruit, and also healthier plants. After pruning, remember to give your plants a good mulch which will help your plants with that extra “vooma” when new growth starts.

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Euryops is an indigenous plant group from the Cape for the Cape. Winters in the Cape can be wet, windy and cold but with Euryops in your garden, your day will be filled with warmth and colour.

Euryops is a group of evergreen, hardy and bushy shrubs that grow fast, and are wind and frost resistant. They need a sunny position and will tolerate some semi-shade but will flower less. Plant them in well-drained loamy soil that contains plenty of compost. They are good landscaping plants where colour is needed, and because they are fast-growing, they quickly fill a gap in any sunny position. They are great plants for mixed borders, mass planting and rockeries. Euryops are low maintenance and only need pruning after flowering in spring to keep its shape. Also, every 2 to 3 years prune back hard to keep plants from becoming woody. In spring, give a good layer of compost, especially in coastal gardens.

Euryops are free-flowering shrubs that attract birds, bees and butterflies to any garden with the flowers also lasting some time in a vase.

Euryops pectinatus:

Common name: Golden Daisy Bush or Harpuisbos (afrikaans)

It is the shorter more compact growing Euryops with attractive, soft grey-green foliage and bigger, yellow, daisy-like flowers throughout the year but more in winter and spring. The flowers stand above the foliage, making it a striking eye-catcher specimen in any garden. Deadheading will help to prolong the flowering season.

Euryops virgineus:

Common name: Honey Daisy

The common name says it all of this Euryops. When flowering, it smells like a pot of honey and hundreds of bees will hover around the bush. Euryops virgineus’ foliage is a fine, dark green, fern-like foliage and at the end of winter hundreds of small yellow flowers will cover the plants for weeks. 

If you need an indigenous plant with little fuss and a lot of joy, then Euryops is the plant for you.

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Pruning and winter go hand in hand and play an essential part of a plant’s care whether it is a tree, shrub or groundcover. July in the Cape is rainy, windy and cold outside but this is the time to do pruning to encourage healthy growth, flowers and fruit for summer.

Why do we need to prune?

1.  Your first objective is to maintain the health of your plants by keeping your plants free from dead or diseased branches, and encourage new growth and healthy-looking plants;

2.  Prune to shape your plant as it grows, especially when it is young to make it bushier or more compact when using plants as a hedge;

3.  To prevent a plant getting too large for the space it was originally planted in, or when blocking a beautiful view;

4.  Plants can become old and leggy, but you can rejuvenate them by pruning them back, especially fast-growing plants needs regular pruning;

5.  Prune to correct some defect like eliminating branches that rub against other branches, or so that more light or water can reach the inner branches or improve air circulation. Pruning branches to correct the balance between the crown and roots promotes healthy plants;

6.  If your plant is a flowering or fruiting type, you need to prune to encourage the best conditions for prolific flowering and fruiting. Additionally, this allows air and sun to reach fruit in the centre;

7.  To achieve sculptural shapes, known as topiaries, the two-dimensional pattern achieved by pruning and tying fruit trees or shrubs to a frame (known as espalier). The deliberate dwarfing of certain trees or shrubs that mimic the shape of fully-grown trees in a small container (known as bonsai). These are all fashion novelties, and these differently trained or shaped plants are used as an architectural elaboration of your house.

Pruning is more than simply cutting of branches of a tree or a shrub to keep it from overgrowing. Pruning is the key to controlling the size or shape of your plants, their flowers and fruit. It also promotes new life in your garden as well as healthier and better-looking plants.

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Indoor Succulents: An easy way to decorate your house

Indoor Succulents: An easy way to decorate your house

My favourite houseplants aren’t actually that unusual or exotic. The plants that make me happy are, and you have guessed right, yes, it is succulents! I love to use them in my house, not only as houseplants but also in informal flower and plant arrangements. Succulents remind me that beauty can be found in the ordinary and that not everything has to be structured in life.

The surprising variety of sizes, shapes and colours makes them stunning decorative houseplants. Miniature varieties such as Haworthia will fit on the narrowest windowsill, and trailing types such as Senecio (Curio), provide striking displays in hanging baskets. They are among the easiest of plants to grow indoors and are every bit as beautiful as they are rewarding. Anyone interested in foliage house plants should consider growing succulents indoor.

Growing Succulents Indoors requires 3 basic rules

Start with the right soil and container

If you are planting your own succulents, buy and use a fast-draining cactus mix. If you can’t get hold of a cactus mix, make your own by using 4 parts potting soil and 1 part  either coarse sand or perlite. Also, ensure that your pots have enough drainage holes as good drainage is vital. Because succulents grow slowly, they seldom need repotting.

Watering your indoor succulents

Killing your succulents by overwatering them is far more common than underwatering them. Succulents like it when the soil dries out between watering. You must know that indoor succulent plants require a certain amount of neglect. They need little watering since they have the ability to store their own water supplies within their fleshy leaves, stems and roots. If you water small pots once a week and large pots about every second week, it will be sufficient, but always check and feel first if the soil is dry. Remember they need less watering in winter than in summer.

PS. If you were lucky to receive a succulent houseplant in a container without drainage holes, you have to water even less.

PPS. In addition to watering, fertilize every spring with a liquid fertilizer.


The trend of modern architecture towards larger windows and open interior spaces, as well as the use of air-conditioning for heating and cooling, provide excellent growing conditions for indoor succulents. They grow best in bright light, and even a few hours of direct sunlight will help to develop their best foliage colours. Just imagine how Sempervivum tectorum, Euphorbia triculli and the Euphorbia milii will flower in bright light. NB: please remember Euphorbia species are poisonous and caution should be taken when using indoors. Portulacaria afra, Senecio ficiodes, Cotyledon orbiculata and flanaganii, Crassula ovata and muscosa, Aeonium arboreum, and Echeveria elegans will get leggy if not in bright light. East, south or west windows that get a few hours of direct sunlight, is the best position for succulents. Sansevieria trifasciata and Aloe vera are the exceptions and they will tolerate fairly low light levels.

Succulents, given the proper conditions and a minimum of basic care, will provide pleasure for years.

Please send us some photos of your indoor (or outdoor) succulents.  We will love to see them!

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Succulents are surging in popularity for several simple reasons. They are:

  • water wise
  • nearly indestructible
  • beautiful
  • adds colour and texture to your garden
  • easy to grow
  • easy to find especially those indigenous to South Africa. 

They also include some well-known medicinal plants. Even if you’re not a huge enthusiast when it comes to natural remedies, chances are you’ve heard of some of the health benefits of Bulbine frutescens and Carpobrotus edulis.

Bulbine frutescens

Common names: Cats tail, Burn jelly plant, Balsem kopieva

Bulbine frutescens occurs widespread throughout Western Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Free State and Kwazulu Natal. It has great value in the home garden where it is a useful first-aid remedy for children’s everyday knocks and scrapes. Fresh leaves produce a jelly-like juice, squeezed and frequently applied, is amazingly effective to take care of a wide range of skin conditions and wounds. The list is endless:  acne, burns, blisters, cold sore (even in your mouth), cracked lips, nails and heels, insect bites, mouth ulcers and sunburn. Also, very effective for treating wounds, sores and rashes on both human and on animals.

The healing effect is likely due to glycoprotein, which is also present in the leaf gel of the Aloe species. In Limpopo Province, plantations of Bulbine frutescens have been established where innovative commerce skincare products are being produced. Some commercial shampoos include it as a moisturizer.

This easy to grow succulent for full sun and beautiful orange or yellow flowers in spring and summer is really one of nature’s finest medicinal plants. Used externally, Bulbine species are reasonably safe – just be sure to check for allergic reactions. Use with caution internally.


Carpobrotus spp.

Common names: Sour fig, Suurvy, Vyerank

Carpobrotus spp. are a superb water-wise plant, indigenous and frequently used as a sand binder, dune and embankment stabilizer, and also as a fire-resistant barrier. The yellow or pinkish flowers in spring are followed by edible fruit and is a very powerful remedy for constipation. The fruit can also be used for cooking jam.

Leaf juice is astringent and mildly antiseptic and if mixed with water and swallowed, it can treat diarrhoea and stomach cramps. It also can be used as a gargle to treat laryngitis, sore throat and mouth infections. Simply by chewing a leaf tip and swallowing the juice will help to ease a sore throat.

A crushed leave is a famous soothing cure for blue-bottle stings and, being a good coastal groundcover, it is often on hand when needed. The leaf juice is also used as a soothing lotion for burns, bruises, scrapes, cuts, grazes and even sunburn. It can be applied to cracked lips and to cold sores on and around the mouth.

Bulbine frutescens and Carpobrotus spp. are both useful plants to have in the garden, not only for its remarkable medicinal values but also for its ability to survive almost anywhere with minimum attention.  With very little water and care, these plants are a must for every garden.

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