10 Incredible types of South African Plants

How Many Types of Plants Are Found in South Africa?

South Africa hosts 10% of the total plants on earth, which makes 20,000 plant species. 158,000 of these species are particularly endemic to the state. South Africa is the only country worldwide that flaunts six complete floral kingdoms within its boundaries. 

Forests in South Africa occupy 1% of the entire territory, and approximately 8000 plant species are found in a small region in the western cape. Most of the forests cover the humid areas of Indian ocean coastal plains and adjacent cliffs. Fields of grasslands occupy the largest part of the country.  

What Plants Are Popular in South Africa?

South Africa is home to many popular plants growing in many parts of the world. While some are wild plants, gardeners also have many flowering plants to spruce their landscapes. The following are some fantastic popular plants in South Africa. 

  • Bush lily (clivia)

It is an easy-to-grow exotic-looking tropical perennial that produces clusters of large yellow, cream, orange, or pink blooms. It is an indoor plant native to South Africa, but it can grow excellently as an outdoor landscape plant in USDA zones 10 and 11. It is highly poisonous, and it blooms in winter.

  • Protea (Protea spp.)
Types of south african flowers
A Protea flower

The protea genus includes more than 100 plant species native to South Africa. Depending on the variety, it is a flowering evergreen that can grow as a tree or a shrub. It bears enormous clusters of goblet-shaped blossoms with spiky and bright bracts surrounding a fluffy center. The pink, white, or cream flowers appear late winter and spring. It is toxic to pets and humans. 

  • Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum tectorum)

It is a low-growing evergreen succulent that resembles rubbery roses. They have pointed leaves with some varieties having purple tips. They bear star-shaped flowers on an odd-looking flower stalk that grows about 8 to 12 inches before bearing flowers. The red, pink, and purple blooms appear in summer. 

  • African Blood Lily (Haemanthus multiflorus)

Haemanthus multiflorus is a uniquely South African native perennial that bears giant, spherical bloom heads that resemble red fireballs or fireworks. The star-shaped florets are red with yellow tips on the stamens. It blooms in summer and fall, and it is toxic to pets.

  • Red hot pokers (Kniphofia)
Red Hot Poker 

It is an herbaceous perennial famous for its tall, incredible bloom stalks in shades of red, yellow, orange, etc. It blooms in spring and summer.

Indigenous South African Plants

The following are some fantastic indigenous plants in South Africa. 

Common name Scientific name Bloom time 
Lily of the Nile AgapanthusIt displays blue or white flowers between late spring and late summer.
Cape aloe Aloe feroxIt bears big candelabra-like flower heads that produce yellow or orange to red blossoms. It displays flowers from late winter to early spring. 
Transvaal daisy GerberaIt displays gorgeous red, white, yellow, pink, or orange blooms in summer and fall. 
Natal plum Carissa macrocarpaThey bloom for months and produce a round-shaped, crimson plum in summer and fall. 
African wormwoodArtemesia afraIt bears yellow, butter-colored blooms from January to June. 
10 Incredible South African Plants
Indigenous South African Plants

10 Types of incredible South African plants

1. Agapanthus 

Types of South African flowers
Agapanthus in bloom

African lily (Agapanthus) is an easy-to-grow south African perennial with upright, stiff stalks that bear showy, rounded clusters of brilliant flowers. It can be hardy or half-hardy with some deciduous and evergreen varieties; the evergreen ones are tender. The plant’s upright clumps grow from a fleshy rhizome with tuberous roots.

  • A mature plant reaches about 1 to 4 feet tall 
  • It requires low maintenance and moderate watering
  • It is suitable for hardiness zones 7 to 11
  • It appreciates moist, well-drained soil with a neutral, acidic, or alkaline pH
  • It can flourish in full sun or partial shade
  • It displays bright flowers in summer and fall
  • It is tolerant to rabbits, drought, deer, and salty conditions and attracts butterflies, birds, and hummingbirds

2. African wormwood (Artemesia afra)

South African flowers
African wormwood (Artemesia afra) and flower example

The genus artemisia comprises over 500 species of herbaceous plants and shrubs. Artemesia afra species, commonly known as the African wormwood, is native to South Africa. It is a fast-growing evergreen shrub with hairy stems, and it attains a mature height of up to two meters. It bears tiny cream flowers at the tips of the branches. 

  • Propagation from cuttings is best done in spring and summer, but seeds are better sown in spring
  • They love well-draining soil; they tolerate sandy, stony, or poor soil
  • They flourish in full sun exposure and warm temperatures
  • They need pruning in winter for better appearance and more robust growth
  • Their flowers appear from late summer to early fall

3. Baobab (Adansonia)

South African trees
Baobab Trees

It is a low-maintenance tree that qualifies as the world’s largest succulent. Some varieties are suitable for growing in pots, but baobab bonsai is the most common among beginner growers. 

  • It is best suitable in USDA zones 10 to 12, and in other zones, it grows in pots with care during winter
  • It grows up to 30 meters tall
  • It is drought-resistant and grows well in poor soils
  • It requires at least 6 hours of direct sun a day. Less sunlight exposure slows down its growth, and leaves turn yellow
  • Its thick succulent trunk helps it retain water for longer periods
  • It produces white blooms during the south African rainy season, mainly between October and January

4. Cape aloe (Aloe ferox)

South African plants
Cape Aloe plants

Aloe ferox is a large evergreen succulent with a massive rosette of blue-green, lance-like leaves, mostly flushed with rose. The leaves have dark-brown spikes on the edges and the lower surface. A single-stem plant produces tube-like bright red-orange blooms and a stamen that protrudes from the center.

  • It can grow about 6 to 9 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide
  • It thrives in well-drained acidic, neutral, or alkaline loamy or sandy soils
  • It requires full sun for the best performance
  • It is a long bloomer displaying flowers in spring, summer, winter, and fall
  • It is tolerant to deer and drought and attracts birds and hummingbirds

5. Natal lily (Clivia)  

Indigenous South African plants
Natal Lily (Clivia)

Clivia minata is an incredible rhizomatous perennial famous for its clusters of large funnel-shaped red-orange blossoms with contrasting yellow necks. It has thick, erect stems from the massive foliage of dark green strap-shaped 2-feet-long leaves. 

  • It needs low maintenance and average water 
  • Clivia thrives in well-drained acidic, neutral, or alkaline soil
  • It appreciates partial sun; filtered bright sunlight, and shading from the hot afternoon sun
  • Its mature size is one to two feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide
  • It blossoms in spring, summer, fall, and winter

6. Jade (Crassula)

top 10 types of jade plants
Beautiful Crassula ovata Jade Plant

Crassula ovata, one of the most common succulents, is an evergreen shrub with glossy and fleshy dark green leaves. The rounded leaves have red edges, and the coloration increases with an increase in sunlight intensity. It displays showy clusters of tiny star-shaped flowers, making it one of the prettiest subshrubs. 

  • It grows about 2 to 9 feet tall and 2 to 5 feet wide
  • It prefers well-drained acidic, neutral, or alkaline soil and full to partial sun exposure
  • It requires little water and low maintenance
  • Its white or pale pink blooms appear in spring, summer, fall, and winter

7. Protea

It is an evergreen shrub with sparse branches, and it is South Africa’s national flower. It is famous for its vast bowl-shaped bloom head about 6 to 12 inches across. The flowers can be funnel-shaped or resemble a wide dinner plate. A vigorous protea plant produces 6-10 flower heads in one season. 

  • It appreciates well-drained acidic or neutral soil 
  • It grows 3 to 4 feet in height and width
  • It blooms best in full sun
  • It produces greenish-white, silvery pink, or red blooms in spring, summer, fall, and winter
  • It is deer and drought-resistant

8. Red hot poker (kniphofia)

Kniphofia, a type of South African plant

It is a brilliant perennial called Torch lilies with brilliant dense spikes resembling torches or glowing pokers. Their flower colors vary with red, orange, cream, or yellow varieties. 

  • It has a mature height of 1 to 6 feet
  • It requires low maintenance and moderate watering
  • It prefers moist, well-drained acidic or neutral soil
  • It needs full sun exposure to bloom in spring, summer, and fall
  • It tolerates rabbits, deer, and drought and attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, and birds

9. Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum)

Types of South African plants
Hens and Chicks Sempervivum

It is a mat-forming succulent with evergreen rosettes of fleshy leaves. The leaves can be rounded, pointed, or matte; some are waxy, while others are hairy on the downside, depending on the variety. The colors vary in type, and they range from green to brown, purple, and pink, either on the whole plant or the tips of the leaves.

  • They prefer well-drained acidic, neutral, or alkaline soil 
  • They grow 10 to 15 cm tall and 15 to 60 cm wide
  • They require full sun to bloom from spring to winter
  • They tolerate dry soil, deer, drought, and rabbits

10. Transvaal daisy (Gerbera)

South African plants

It is an upright evergreen perennial that grows as annual in many regions, and it makes a rosette of tongue-like, dark green leaves. It flaunts semi-double daisy-like blooms 4 to 5 inches across. The flowers appear in various colors, from yellow, red, white, and orange, to pastel shades. 

  • It grows 1 to 2 feet in height and width 
  • It does best in well-drained acidic, neutral, or alkaline soil and full to partial sun exposure
  • It blooms from spring to winter.

Other resources related to South African plants:

South Africa’s best plants – The Garden Clinic

8 South African Flowers for American Gardens – Gardenista

South African Plants – Annie’s Annuals

Clarisse Walters